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Jr. Mammoth Claims Gold at Box Lacrosse Nationals

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Mammoth president & general manager Steve Govett, who is the head coach of the Jr. Mammoth Pee Wee team, documents the youth team’s recent trip to the US Box Lacrosse Nationals in southern California.

The Jr. Mammoth Pee Wee team arrived in Orange County, California on Friday and was excited to get the tournament, going early on Saturday morning.

As the teams arrived at the Rinks of Irvine for 8am start times on Saturday morning, it was clear that the outdoor venue was going to prove to be hot, not only under the tin roof but on the floor with some hotly contested games at four different divisions of indoor box lacrosse.  With some verbal sparring at the pool the day before, this was sure to shape up as a great battle of US Box Lacrosse at the newly dubbed Box Lacrosse Nationals 2012.  Six Pee Wee teams would vie for the title of Gold Medal Champions of US Box Lacrosse.

Game 1... Scorpions

The Jr. Mammoth got out to a strong start in game one against a valiant yet inexperienced indoor team in the Scorpions from Northern California.   As the team shook off a little indoor rust, they hit stride pretty quickly as they went out to a strong 12-0 lead and didn't look back.

Game 2... Jr. Stealth

Game 2 saw the Jr. Mammoth struggle early on with the smaller nets of the tournament and a big, solid goaltender with the tournament-favorite Jr. Stealth.  In the first half of the game, the Mammoth-Stealth National Lacrosse League rivalry trickled down to the Pee Wee level while the Stealth streaked out to a quick 4-0 lead.  The Jr. Mammoth didn't score until just over halfway through the game; but when they started, they didn't stop. With a 4-4 tie heading into the final period, the boys rolled through the Jr. Stealth to seal a very hard-fought victory with a final score of 9-4.  Goalie Knox Dent slammed the door closed while the troops rallied ended the game on a nine-goal run.

Game 3... Cali*Lax ALL-STARS Red

Game 3 was an extremely solid effort by the boys as they led wire-to-wire against one of the host Cali*Lax ALL-STARS teams.  The final score was 15-2 Jr. Mammoth.

Game 4... Denver Elite

The Jr. Mammoth ran into a buzz-saw effort by the Denver Elite goaltender that held the maroon and black to just 3 goals for much of the game while the Elite team climbed to a 7-3 lead late in the game.  The match-up of unbeatens (Jr. Mammoth 3-0, Denver Elite 1-0-2) proved to be a preview of the championship game.

These two teams are very familiar with each other, as the Jr. Mammoth faced the Denver Elite Pee Wee squad three times last weekend in Arvada at the Apex Center.  While the Mammoth downed the Denver Elite team a week ago, the DU boys, coached by DU Coach and Burnaby native Matt Brown, along with Mammoth fan-favorite Jamie Shewchuk, came out with a purpose in this round-robin thriller.

As the game progressed it was clear that this would be a goaltending duel.  Denver Elite goaltender Jonah Hirshorn was outstanding in the first 55 minutes of the game, registering great save after great save.  He baffled the Jr. Mammoth shooters time and again as the Jr. Mammoth outshot the Denver Elite team three to one.  The Pee Wee goalie stood strong and kept his team in front for the duration of the game.

The Jr. Mammoth finally rallied late in the game with a three-goal flurry to bring the young Woolies to within one, but the rally would be stopped short with a late-game penalty that gave the Denver Elite team the advantage they would need to close out the Mammoth squad by a score of 8-6 as time ran down.

Game 5... Cali*Lax ALL-STARS White

After a very cool team-outing to Newport Beach to watch some of the best boogie-boarding in the US at the Wedge on the Newport Peninsula, the team was loaded to play Sunday morning at 9am against a vaunted Cali*Lax ALL-STARS White team that was 2-1-1 after Day One.

Loaded with Canadian imports, Cali*Lax ALL-STARS White had used the skills of four towering players to push through the competition.  However, following the heartbreaking loss to the hardworking D-Elite team the night before, the Jr. Mammoth, faced with elimination, was not to be denied.

Jumping out to an early 4-0 lead, the Jr.s were rolling and flying.  The defense and goaltending was outstanding and held the Canadian-laced team to just four goals in a stunning 12-4 rout.  The Jr. Mammoth advanced to the gold-medal game with a tournament-best four wins, while the D-Elite team amassed a three-win, two-time resume.

Game 6 Championship... Denver Elite 9-8

An exciting round-robin tournament had the two top teams in the Pee Wee Division tied with 8 points.

As the two familiar foes from Denver prepared to face each other, the tension rose as a rematch of the two Pee Wee titans warmed up.  Both teams led by NLL veterans, the game would surely prove to be a classic in the early history of the new Box Lacrosse Nationals.

Early in the game, the Jr. Mammoth was determined to solve the stellar goaltending of the D Elite. More determined shooting was paying off early in the game as the Mammoth jumped out to an early 3-1 lead that developed into a 4-2 lead at the end of period 1.  The Mammoth shooting success would continue in the second period as the lead was extended to 7-4 at the end of period 2.

As the lead extended early in the 4th quarter for the Mammoth to 8-4 and seemed to be creeping out of reach, D Elite capitalized on Jr. Mammoth penalties and inopportune turnovers to launch a comeback.  The four-goal Mammoth lead was cut into in the last half of the period as the Mammoth shooters went cold.  D Elite tied the game at 8 with 2:21 left in regulation.

With 1:23 left in the game, D Elite was charged with its only penalty of the game.  With the man-advantage, the Jr. Mammoth called its only time-out to devise the game-winning strategy.  After the time-out, the Mammoth moved the ball for the winning shot on the power-play.  As the shot-clock wound down, the shot was taken and a great save was made.  In an effort to smother the rebound, the D Elite goaltender sprawled to the floor but found himself outside the crease.  Mammoth players swarmed the ball outside the crease. Both teams battled for the ball in a colossal scrum, and the ball squirted loose into the waiting stick of Mammoth creaseman Bobby Baltzer who quickly threw the ball into the empty net.

As the Mammoth regained the lead, 9-8, with 40 seconds left on the clock, the D Elite boys would rally around their coach after the ensuing face-off win and a quick time-out.  Thirty seconds would face the D Elite team and a one-goal deficit, with the goalie pulled the Jr. Mammoth set up in the 6-5 defense.  Jr. Mammoth goaltender Knox Dent would prove he was the man of the hour with two outstanding saves in the final seconds.  His diving, one-arm save with five seconds on the clock was reminiscent of NLL Hall of Famer Dallas Eliuk.

As time expired, the Jr. Mammoth claimed a hard-fought gold-medal victory against a tremendous and familiar opponent.  The game was a fantastic testament to the growth of great indoor lacrosse at the youth level for the Denver area.  For both Denver programs to advance to the Pee Wee gold medal game in the first Box Lacrosse Nationals for 2012 speaks volumes of the tremendous dedication to the indoor game by all involved.

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This is a great event for the growth of our indoor game.  Wonderful venue, fantastic competition, great weather, this is what the game is all about.  I am so proud of our boys for battling through some adversity to edge a great opponent in a game that will long be remembered in youth American box lacrosse.

Big thank yous to the parents and supporters for 2012 US Box Lacrosse National Champion, the Jr. Mammoth.

The Jr. Mammoth hosts the 3rd Annual Jr. Mammoth Invitational this weekend at Pepsi Center, looking to win championships on back-to-back weekends.

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