The Yorkton Bulldogs of the Prairie Gold Lacrosse League were in control of their own fate heading into their final two regular season games in Bredenbury this past weekend.
Should they earn at least three of four points in their remaining two games they would earn at least fourth place and a home playoff game in round one. Anything less and they’d have to travel to either Saskatoon or Prince Albert for the first round of the post-season.
The Bulldogs got off to a strong start on Saturday against the Regina Riot, outscoring the team from the Queen City 6-4 through two periods of play.
Yorkton would continue to put the ball in the net early on in the third period, taking leads of 7-4, 8-5 and 9-6 before their inexperience got the better of them, allowing the visiting Riot to take control of the game and draw even late in the third period.
Luckily for the Bulldogs the Riot, who dominated the game in the final 10 minutes of the third period, were unable to beat a hobbled Louden Choptuik a tenth time, giving the Bulldogs a much needed 9-9 tie in a game that they should have won if not for the final period. “We didn’t have the third period I wanted to see,” mentioned Yorkton Bulldogs head coach Joey Choptuik following the game. “We started out good and then we let them back in, they tied it, and then for the last eight to ten minutes it was all them.
“The ball was in our end most of the time.”
The reason for the late game collapse was simple. The majority of the Bulldogs roster is extremely inexperienced in the sport of lacrosse, with the majority of them playing the sport for less than three years.
In fact five of the Bulldogs who take regular shifts are in their first lacrosse season. Compare that to the Regina and Saskatoon players who have been playing for the majority of their lives and they are definitely outclassed when it comes to experience.
However the Bulldog players have to start somewhere and a baptism by fire, according to Choptuik, is the quickest way to see progress. “Five of them are first years but they all have to produce throughout the season,” suggested the head coach. “They’re less experienced than the other players in the league, but they still have to play tough. Guys like Brett (Melnychuk) and Dawson (Stefanyshyn) are new and they’ve improved 150% since the start of the season and can probably catch and throw better than some of our guys who have played for three years.”
Sunday against S’toon
Thanks to their tie on Saturday against the Regina Riot, a win against the Saskatoon Steelers on Sunday would guarantee the Bulldogs a home playoff game against the same Steelers.
However a win was not to be had as the Steelers jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it, handing Yorkton a disappointing 8-5 defeat and fifth place for the time being (the Riot can leapfrog Yorkton and finish fifth if they beat Estevan in the final regular season game).
Things got rough late in the game as, with the officials seemingly putting the whistles away, Yorkton’s Mackenzie Shore and Saskatoon’s Joel Chouinard got into each other’s faces resulting in a mad scrum against the boards and five minute majors for both Shore and Chouinard.
Luckily cooler heads prevailed, however Yorkton head coach Joey Choptuik wasn’t happy with how the officials handled the game, suggesting that had either team not had a shot at playoffs, things may have gotten worse. “Both teams go to playoffs now so nobody wants to cause too much of a ruckus and risk suspensions,” offered Choptuik, continuing, “but if the refs don’t call anything that’s what happens.”
As for the playoffs, Choptuik and his Bulldogs (2-8-2) can only play the waiting game. They do know that they’ll either play the Saskatoon Steelers (5-7-0) or Prince Albert Predators (8-4) in the first round.