By ALAN SHACKLETON
The Toronto Beaches Junior A Lacrosse Team begin their run at winning the Canadian championship this week in Brampton.
Toronto Beaches are one of four teams from across the country taking part in the Minto Cup – Canada’s Junior A lacrosse championship tournament.
Also seeking the trophy are the Whitby Warriors, The Edmonton Miners and the Victoria Shamrocks.
The Minto Cup finals are being played at the CAA Centre in Brampton.
First round action in the tournament begins Monday, Aug. 22, with Beaches taking on Victoria at 5 p.m., and Whitby playing Edmonton at 8 p.m.
Toronto Beaches second game is Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 5 p.m. against the Edmonton Miners.
The third game in the opening round for Beaches will be on Wednesday, Aug. 24, against Whitby at 8 p.m.
Once the opening round is finished, the playoff semifinal will take place on Thursday, Aug. 25 at 8 p.m.
The Minto Cup championship will then be determined by a best-of-three series between the top team in the opening round and the winner of the semifinal. The championship series games are set for Saturday, Aug. 27, Sunday, Aug. 28, and Monday, Aug. 29 (if necessary).
This has been an historic season for Toronto Beaches which saw them finish up their best regular season ever in the 11-team Ontario Junio Lacrosse League (OJLL). This is also the first time Toronto Beaches has qualified to play in the Minto Cup championship.
Since the OJLL is hosting the Minto Cup this year, both the Ontario champion and the finalist qualify for the tournament. Whitby are the Ontario champs, beating Beaches in the recent OJLL final series.
However, Beaches finished second overall in the OJLL’s regular season and were one spot ahead of Whitby in the standings heading into the league’s playoffs.
Beaches coach Reilly O’Connor said no one should view their appearance in the Minto Cup as simply being a case of the additional team spot given to the host province.
He said that from the beginning of the season in the spring, the team’s goal was always to be playing for the Minto Cup.
“We had the expectation to be here right from the start,” he told Beach Metro Community News on Sunday, Aug. 21, at Ted Reeve Arena after the team’s final practice before the tournament.
“We put a major emphasis on acquiring quality players this season, players who could win.”
O’Connor said a number of the players on the Beaches roster also play Division One lacrosse at major universities in the United States, so he believes the big crowds and pressure of playing in the high-level Minto Cup will not phase them.
And as the regular season went on, he said, the team grew in confidence. Beaches finished the regular season with a record of 15 wins and five losses which included a pair of lengthy winning streaks.
“There were times in the season where we came to believe we can beat anyone,” said O’Connor. And that’s the attitude the team is taking into the Minto Cup.
Both Toronto and Whitby will be coming off two weeks rest after the conclusion of the OJLL championships, whereas the teams from Alberta and British Columbia finished their final playoff series much more recently.
However, O’Connor said he is not worried about the team being rusty. They have taken time to rest, had some good practices and are now focused directly on their opening game against Victoria.
“Yes we’ve had two weeks off, but we have been practicing hard. The key is for us to take it a game at a time. We’re concentrating on starting out against Victoria now and being ready to roll,” he said.
Being in the national lacrosse spotlight does bring some added pressure to this week’s Minto Cup, but O’Connor said he is confident his team can deal with that challenge.
“I wouldn’t say there are no nerves, but we have some big game players on this team,” he said.
Toronto Beaches captain Matt Acchione agreed that the team does have experienced players who are used to high-pressure situations.
A member of the University of Delaware Blue Hens lacrosse team in the United States, along with his brother Cam who is also on the Beaches team, Acchione said the players are ready for and excited to be competing at the Minto Cup.
“We have a lot of players who play in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and are used to big crowds. The keys are to stick together as a team and stay in the moment as we play each game and each shift.”
From Barrie, the Minto Cup will have deep personal meaning for both Matt and his brother Cam as their father Anthony also played in the tournament and won it two times as a member of the Orangeville Northmen in 1995 and 1996. Anthony died of cancer in 2017, and Matt and Cam will be thinking of their dad as they play in the tournament.
“We’re really excited to be here and it means a lot to us because of my dad,” said Matt.
The Minto Cup was first competed for in 1901 as a Senior lacrosse championship trophy. In 1937 it became the trophy for Canada’s Junior A lacrosse champions and has been competed for as such ever since.
It was last played in 2019 and won by the Orangeville Northmen. It was not played for the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For schedule and ticket information for this week’s Minto Cup, please go to https://www.themintocup.com/
For updates from Toronto Beaches Junior A Lacrosse, please visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BeachesJrA/