The Kahnawake Mohawks U15 and U17 lacrosse teams headed down to Massena, New York, for the first annual Hickory Classic last weekend.
Although the both teams lost all the games they played over the three-day tournament, they remained in high spirits.
“We were in every game till the third period. We just got too tired, and that’s where we would lose our games,” said Al Jones, head coach of the U17 team, who played three round-robin games and made the semi-finals.
They were up against the Muskies for their first game, which finished off with a tight 3-2 defeat. In the next game, against Six Nations, the score was close until the third period, but the opposing team fired to the top, scoring and taking the win 5-2. “We just ran out of gas,” Jones said.
With some players gone for March break and others held back from the stormy roads, the team had only about half of its players from Kahnawake. Although Jones found himself scrambling to fill the remaining spots, the connections he’d made with coaches and players through the league over the years eased the task at hand.
Players from Cornwall and Akwesasne, among other places, joined the Kahnawake Mohawks for a roster of 16 players.
“We did very well considering we kind of were thrown together. We haven’t had any practices. And our goalie was outstanding,” Jones said of Moagi Buffalo, whom he’d met at a previous tournament. “Everyone just worked together and stayed positive and kept pushing forward.”
For Jones, the show of sportsmanship among the players from sister communities who joined the Mohawks and played together was a memorable part of the weekend.
“I was trying to teach the players, ‘Don’t be negative towards another team or hate them. Because one day, you never know when they could help you out or you’ll be on their team or will ask you to play.’ It just circles around,” said Jones.
Amy-Leigh Patton, mother of player Wyatt Cross, was among the fans in the crowd at the St. Lawrence Sports Complex cheering on the Mohawks. “It’s such good medicine just to watch the boys play lacrosse, especially after a long winter. It was kind of like we’re getting the season started. It’s refreshing. And although they didn’t win any games, you can see that their heart is in the game,” she said.
Patton made the hour-and-a-half trip with her son back and forth from Kahnawake to Massena for all three days, weathering the snowstorm on Saturday. Seeing the team on the field at the tournament made it all worthwhile.
“The kids were really battling it out and keeping it close. So that’s my highlight, is how much they came together in a short period of time,” Jones said.
Patton shares this sentiment, and recognizes the importance of the sport in Wyatt’s life as more than just a sport. “They get to see each other and touch base and play against each other, and they have this brotherhood,” she said. “So it’s really encouraging a brotherhood for my son.”