The Rockyview Silvertips' players are walking away from the 2022 Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL) season without a medal around their necks but a strong silver lining nonetheless.
The Cochrane-based Junior B Tier 1 team finished fourth in their quest to clinch the Larry Bishop Memorial Cup in Okotoks July 29 to Aug. 1, after a hard-fought season that saw the ‘Tips earn the top seed and win the central division championship for the first time in franchise history.
“We’re very, very proud of what we were able to accomplish this year and we set some new standards within our organization,” said head coach Tyler Waycott. “The bar has been lifted and that was the message we delivered to our returning players.
“We’ve taken a big step forward and we look forward to continuing to raise that bar. There’s a lot to be excited about for the future.”
The provincial round-robin tournament featured the winning teams from all four RMLL Tier 1 divisions, plus the host Okotoks Marauders.
Rockyview started strong in their opening game, putting nine goals past the Edmonton Warriors by late in the third period. The ‘Tips were leading by three goals over the Warriors, but the capital city team caught up with 30 seconds left in regulation.
“They capitalized on our mistakes late in the game and credit to them for doing that,” said Waycott. “That led them to tighten the game up.”
In overtime, the Silvertips fell to Edmonton 12-10 after sending a ‘Tips player to the penalty box.
“That allowed them to score two big goals on the powerplay and then we just ran out of time to claw back,” said the coach.
Team president Darren Deitz said it would have been a completely different tournament had the team held on for another 30 seconds in the third.
"[Edmonton] went on to win the whole tournament and we were able to take them to overtime," said Deitz. "We had some tough match-ups but we definitely came to compete."
The Silvertips were unable to bounce back the next day against the runner-up Shamrocks in game two, where they lost 23-8.
“That was a game that we took a lot of lessons from … making sure that we’re prepared at all times,” said Waycott.
Some lessons clearly sunk in, because the ‘Tips finally found their groove in their third game of the weekend – though it took a while to get going.
The Cochranites started off down five goals early in the second period against the Manitoba Blizzard, but after a timeout, they never looked back.
“We regrouped and came out with a pretty nice win,” said Waycott. “Full credit to everybody in that game – our team really responded to the message and we just battled our way back.”
At the final buzzer, the scoreboard read 17-11 for the Silvertips, allowing them a shot at bronze against the host Marauders.
It was a close match, with the ‘Tips trailing behind by two going into the third period. Okotoks led the board 10-8.
With just 20 minutes left on the clock in both teams’ 2022 provincial playoff season, the match turned physical. The Marauders racked up 13 penalties to Rockyview's 10.
The powerplay advantages weren’t enough for the ‘Tips to bag bronze, however, and they ended their season with a 13-10 loss.
“We didn’t necessarily get the result we were looking for from the weekend,” admitted Waycott. “However, in saying that, our organization is very proud of this group of guys for making it there and doing so well getting to that point.”
The Silvertips finished the regular season with 13 wins and seven losses, above the central division’s Calgary Chill, Red Deer Rampage and Mountain View Mavericks. The team’s captain, Nolan Oakey of Airdrie, was also the top scorer in the division with 52 goals and 55 assists throughout the regular season – a Silvertips franchise record.
This season marks Oakey’s last with the ‘Tips as a fifth-year player.
“What more can you say about [Oakey]? He’s a leader and an all-around great guy,” Waycott said. “He tried to lead by example every night and it showed. There are a lot of players that looked up to him.”
The Cochrane-based team is also saying goodbye to Josh Halcro, who’s been on the roster since 2018. He was absent from provincials, which Waycott said was a big loss for the team.
“He gave his all to this organization and we’re so appreciative of what he’s been able to bring to our team over the past five years,” he said.
Assistant captains Noah Deitz, Adam Bartolome and Cochrane local Dylan Neis are also hanging up their jerseys, along with recent trade acquisitions Gord Uddin and Noah Simonelli.
“We wish all the best to our graduating fifth-years,” said Waycott. “Once a ‘Tip, always a ‘Tip.”
Roughly two-thirds of the team this year were young players playing their first season of junior (U21) lacrosse, Deitz added.
"The experience they got from this season was invaluable to their development and we'll look to build on that in the next couple of years," he said. "We'll have a great team next year and hopefully an even better team when Cochrane plays host to the Larry Bishop Memorial Cup in 2024."