Morning Star Staff
An all-star contingent of Okanagan Masters, bolstered by some key coastal pick ups performed well at the Stealth Masters lacrosse tournament at the Langley Events Centre.
The Okanagan entry came up just short in a championship shootout for the overall title. The tournament featured mini games made up of two 15-minute running time periods and was played one day in advance of Saturday’s National Lacrosse League Vancouver Stealth home game with the Colorado Mammoth.
The Okanagan Masters team, led by ageless Pat Nelson, cruised past the North Shore Cowboys 4-1 in their opener of the round robin.
Former Vernon Tiger Kenny Hinds opened the scoring on a quick cross-crease pass. Stu Williamson (Armstrong Shamrocks) scored a nifty deke-and-dunk goal on a partial breakaway while former Team Canada gold medalist and NLL all-star Chris Seller potted two goals for the Okanagan.
Game two featured a familiar rivalry as Shamrock goaltender Chad Pieper played net for the Vancouver Coasters, who were led by Hall of Famer Russ Heard.
The Okanagan squad was backstopped by 11-year NLL veteran goaltender Matt Disher, who was unofficially named the tournament MVP making countless saves while shorthanded.
A sound defensive core anchored by Glenn (Stumpy) Mitchell, Devin Rodger and the Nitchie brothers, Ryan and Kody, played typical lock down Shamrock defence.
Former Shamrock sniper Brett Logan, who was inspired playing on the turf floor, made several cross-crease Superman-style diving shots only to be thwarted by the goalies.
With the score tied 3-3 and with only 7.5 seconds remaining, Seller made some slick moves from the left side and turned his back to Pieper and scored with a Maundrell-esque reverse back- handed submarine winning whip shot.
The Okanagan team lost 4-3 to the Ladner Pioneers in a mean nothing third round-robin game and rested quickly for a back-to-back encounter with the Pioneers for the championship.
The Okanagan Masters fell behind early 1-0 in the final, but stormed back to score three unanswered goals.
Williamson scored on his patented laser shot from the top point to take a 4-2 lead late in the final period but Ladner managed to squeak in a late goal on Disher to tie the game with under a minute to go and send the game to a three-man shoot out with the teams deadlocked at 4-4.
The Pioneers scored on their first attempt while Hinds was stoned on a shoulder save by the Pioneer goaltender. Disher made the initial save on the second shooter but the ball trickled over the line. Team Okanagan’s second shooter missed the net.
“We had a really great team of guys for this tournament and we were all amazed by the play of our goalie Matt Disher, quick reactions, angles and reading shooters was clearly his specialty and he brought his best for this tourney,” said team captain Ryan Nitchie.
“This team has played together for a couple years now and this was our best showing in the tournament to date so I couldn’t be happier with our results. We lost to the Coasters by six or more goals the last time we played them and to finally beat them was an accomplishment – even for Masters.”
The Okanagan Masters will host the B.C. Masters Championships in Armstrong on the Canada Day July long weekend.