The Orangeville Northmen’s season ended just short of lacrosse’s top prize, as they lost the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League (OJLL) championship in six games to the Burlington Blaze this past Saturday.
The Northmen, hailing from Orangeville, Ontario, and coached by former National Lacrosse League (NLL) pro Rusty Kruger, were the best team in the OJLL, cruising to a league-best undefeated 20-0 record. Sporting a league-best +157 goal differential, the Northmen were favoured to go far in the OJLL championship tournament.
Defenceman Noah Millsap, who played two years for the Jr. B Northmen and just played his third and final season for the Jr. A Northmen, credits the team’s chemistry and camaraderie for their success.
“I think one of the main things contributing to our success during that time was how much fun it was to come to the rink every night. We have a great group of guys who made it easy to show up and give it your all,” said Millsap, 21.
Leading the way for the Northmen all season long was Kahnawa’kehró:non forward Koleton Marquis, who led the team – and was third in the entire OJLL – with 112 points during the regular season.
He was joined on the roster by Trey Deere.
Entering the playoffs, the Northmen drew the Six Nations Arrows in the first round, out-scoring them 45-15 during the best-of-five series and sweeping them in three games.
In the best-of-seven second round, the Northmen made quick work of the Toronto Beaches, sweeping them 4-0 in the series and setting up an OJLL championship series against the Burlington Blaze, with a berth at the Minto Cup – Canada’s national junior men’s lacrosse tournament – on the line.
After dropping the first game to the Blaze 12-10, the Northmen bounced back to win games two and three with scores of 10-6 and 12-11 respectively, jumping ahead to a 2-1 lead.
Game three, however, would be the last victory of the Northmen’s season, as they dropped the next three games 8-7, 10-8, and 9-6 to lose the series in six games.
Millsap credited the Blaze’s resilience for their winning performance.
“One of our biggest struggles in the series was gaining momentum. We would score a big goal but Burlington was usually able to answer back quickly. In the first two rounds, we were great at scoring, getting the ball back, and scoring again and again – almost suffocating the other team – but Burlington didn’t let us do that. They stuck around and made the series a battle,” said Millsap.
With the end of the Northmen’s season comes the bittersweet farewell to the team’s graduating players who will not be returning next season, including both Marquis and Millsap.
Millsap had some words of reminiscence to share as he reflected on his journey with the organization.
“Coming in (as a Junior B player) at 16 and leaving as a 21-year-old, I learned a lot from the people around me (in the Northmen organization). I learned to always keep fighting and to try your best and that’s how you are going to win in lacrosse and in life,” said Millsap.
Millsap intends to finish his degree at Queen’s University and declare for the NLL draft. As for the Northmen, he has plenty of faith they will bounce back.
“I know the guys who will be back next year will do a great job and hopefully bring the Minto home,” said Millsap.
The Minto Cup begins on August 20, in Edmonton, Alberta.