The rhythmic sound of the fans beating their drums filled the air as the Six Nations Arrows celebrated the dying seconds of game six of the Minto Cup championships.
And when the final whistle sounded at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday evening, the Arrows’ players spilled off the bench and onto the floor, setting off a jubilant celebration as Six Nations was crowned the junior A lacrosse champions of Canada.
The Arrows defeated the Coquitlam Jr. Adanacs 14-8 to win the best-of-seven championship series four games to two.
“It is hard to explain,” said Arrows captain Johnny Powless, when asked how it felt to win the Minto Cup.
“This means the world to us; it is a dream come true,” he said. “I have a lot of family and cousins on the team; I grew up with all these guys, so that makes it even more special.”
Powless, playing with a broken hand, finished with six goals and 21 assists in the six games series. He earned the most valuable player award.
Coquitlam won games one and two before Six Nations reeled off four straight victories to win their third Minto Cup, and first since 2007.
Eastern teams have now won four straight Minto Cups and eight of the past nine.
In Saturday’s clinching game, Six Nations nursed a 6-5 lead after two period before the Adanacs struck for a pair of power-play goals 46 seconds apart early in the third period to pull ahead.
But the Arrows went on a run, scoring eight of the final nine goals — two of which were scored into an empty net — for the series-clinching victory.
After Coquitlam won the first two games, the Arrows team — as well as all their family and supporters who made the trip west — went to the Squamish First Nations reserve on an off-day prior to game three.
“They put on a dinner for us and made everyone feel real welcome,” said Six Nations coach Marshall Abrams.
In total, about 140 people from the Six Nations contingent were there for the dinner.
Abrams said they were given an inspirational speech by one of their hosts that day.
“We knew what we had to do and the boys have been real determined ever since,” the coach said.
The Arrows also made some adjustments prior to game three.
“Their goalie was really playing well for them in the first two games and that was a real factor,” Abrams said. “We just had to change up our shots a little bit, do a few different things as far as our press goes to slow them down offensively.
“Our changes worked (but) it is all about the boys: they dug in their heels and really made this happen.”
Six Nations was held to a dozen goals combined in games one and two but erupted for 19 in game three’s 19-5 win. They evened the series at two with a 10-7 win in game four and then won the pivotal game five 12-7.
“We knew it was a matter of time before we saw their best games,” said Coquitlam coach Neil Doddridge.
“They seemed to get better in games three and four. They were transitioning to the ball well and that got us in trouble.”
“It was a hard fought series,” said Coquitlam captain Wes Berg.
“Sometimes the score didn’t really show it. We put it all on the line and we played for each other but it sucks not to win it.”
Berg led the Adanacs with six goals and 16 assists.
“They are definitely a great team,” Abrams said about the Adanacs.
“Hats off to them: they are big, they are strong and they are fast.”
“It was a great series with two teams playing the game the right way,” said Doddridge.
“We emptied the tank the last six days (and) you can’t ask for much more from the guys.”
Fans selected the Adanacs’ James Rahe as the recipient of the Cavalier fan favourite award.
Rahe, who is from Aldergrove and played his minor lacrosse with Langley, was acquired by Coquitlam at season’s end from the Langley Junior Thunder.
He finished the tournament with five goals and seven assists.
He was one of two local players on Coquitlam, alongside Jake Taylor.
Rahe has one year of junior eligibility remaining, while Taylor has two seasons.
Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Coquitlam Jr. Adanacs James Rahe battles for position with Six Nations Arrows’ Leo Stourus in front of the Arrows net during game six of the Minto Cup championship at the Langley Events Centre. Rahe won the Cavalier fan favourite award but the Arrows won the big prize, the Minto Cup.
A total of 9,516 fans took in the action at the Langley Events Centre over the six-game series, which breaks down an average of 1,586 per game.
The games were also available via online broadcast, but were not available at The Times’ press deadline.
This was the first year the Minto Cup was held at the LEC.
The east and west representatives take turns hosting the Minto Cup and when it is the west’s turn to host, the LEC will be the venue if it is a Lower Mainland team involved.