This past weekend, seventeen JR Wings participated in the 2022 Junior NLL Tournament in Oakville, Ontario. It was an action-packed weekend full of teamwork, big plays, and the first wins in JR Wings history.
The journey up North began on Thursday as a caravan of cars packed full with families, lacrosse bags, and snacks crossed the Canadian border and arrived in Oakville, Ontario. Staying at the same hotel that the actual Wings use during the season when playing against the Rock, the JR Wings spent their nights hanging out in the lobby playing cards and getting to know each other better.
On Friday morning, the Wings played their first game of the weekend against the Albany JR Firewolves at the Glen Abbey Rec Center. In what was many of the JR Wings players’ first box lacrosse game, there naturally was a bit of a slow start in the first half, but the team battled back with goals from Gavin McHale, James Johnston, and Keegan Luey. In the end the comeback fell short as Albany took the first game of the weekend 12-9, but it was an encouraging sign to see the team competing against opposition comprised largely of experienced box lacrosse players.
After lunch the JR Wings headed to the TRAC (Toronto Rock Athletic Centre) to take on the eventual tournament champions, the Toronto JR Rock. The Rock’s experienced roster and high powered offense dominated most of the game, but the Wings held them scoreless in the last five minutes of regulation.
After the loss to the Rock, the Wings were matched up with the Rochester Knighthawks for the day’s final tilt. After an inspiring locker room speech from Wings General Manager & Head Coach Paul Day, the JR Wings came to play against the JR Knighthawks. Despite trailing at halftime, the Wings emerged victorious 11-10 after a strong second half powered by four goals from Hudson Llord and a stellar performance in goal by netminders Emily Giaquinto and Bryce Kash. This was the first win in JR Wings history, and the excitement on the bench could be felt all throughout the rink.
After a fun night together bonding as a team, the JR Wings were back in action at 10AM on Saturday against the Buffalo Junior Bandits. The Junior Bandits started strong in the first half and led by a large number at halftime, but the never-quit attitude of the JR Wings was on full display as they scored eight goals in the second half.
The JR Wings final game of the weekend was against the Junior Thunderbirds from Halifax. Going into the game, the JR Wings knew they were out of playoff contention, so they left it all on the field against the Thunderbirds. Kash and Giaquinto combined for 12 saves throughout the game, and held the Thunderbirds to just 3 goals as the Wings dominated in an 11-3 win. Wings goals were scored by Hudson Llord (4), James Johnston, Mac Day, Brady Hopstetter, Michael McKeon, Brock Dancho, and Keegan Luey (2).
Overall, the 2022 JR NLL Tournament was a major success for the JR Wings and will serve as a foundational building block for the future growth of the program. As one of the only teams with mostly American players seeing their first competitive box lacrosse action, the JR Wings were competitive and held their own on the floor against some of the best U13 players in the world. Most importantly, the team had fun and forged friendships that they’ll carry with them for a lifetime. We are looking forward to another great season next year!
For more information on the Junior Wings program, 2023 Tryouts, and more check out www.WingsLax.com/community/jr-wings