Heat players loved Junior NLL lacrosse experience

Penticton Minor Lacrosse Association had six players compete in the Junior National Lacrosse League tournament

Ben Olsen and Freddy Harbinson loved their experience in the fourth annual Junior National Lacrosse League Tournament in Oakville, Ont. Aug. 26 to 28.

The Penticton Minor Lacrosse Association midget Heat players were late additions to the Stealth Lacrosse Academy, which had a shortage of players for the tournament.

“It was an amazing opportunity to be able to go into such a great team with all those guys and compete in one of the biggest tournaments in North America,” said Olsen.

The Junior NLL tournament features clubs representing NLL teams across North America.

“We’re proud to continue our grassroots partnership with the Toronto Rock and building upon the momentum of the Jr. NLL Tournament for the fourth-straight year,” said NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz on the league’s website. “Increasing box lacrosse participation at the grassroots level across North America is one of our five key development strategies to grow the National Lacrosse League.”

The tournament featured more than 400 players participating across peewee, bantam and midget age levels. NLL players, coaches and staff were on-hand all weekend, some serving as coaches.

Olsen put up three goals and four points in six games with the midget Stealth, which also had fellow Heat players Kale Lawrence and Connor Ramage.

“I felt like I played pretty well,” said Olsen, adding that he moved the ball up the floor, scored a few key goals when needed and played hard defence.

Olsen said the pace was very fast, a lot faster than the average club team. Olsen gained the knowledge of how other coaches and players look at the game.

Harbinson, who collected an assist in six games, said it was a “cool” experience being there.

“I’ve never played in anything at that high of a level. It was a good experience for me.”

Harbinson said he took advantage of his opportunity to play his best. The Stealth went 4-1 in round robin play, with their only loss to the Rock. The Stealth were knocked out after losing their quarter-final match.

“All the teams were really good,” he said. “Everyone there was playing a really high-level lacrosse. Obviously the guys from Ontario and Edmonton, those guys are playing lacrosse year round, they had a little bit of an advantage. They were really good.”

Harbinson enjoyed the atmosphere of being at the rink and seeing the teams. Being there also gave him the outlook on what it could be like to have a career in lacrosse.

Lawrence put up two goals and four points for the midget squad, while Ramage won both his games in goal.

The bantam Stealth featured Rhys MacDonald and Devin Cole and went 2-2 in round robin play. After winning their quarter-final match, they lost in the semifinals to place third. Cole finished with a goal and two points, while MacDonald racked up 17 goals with four assists in six games.