There is a reason I take a week off from the busiest part of the US field lacrosse season to go to Radotin in the Czech Republic, and it is the Ales Hrebesky Memorial.
The 2014 Ales Hrebesky Memorial was my third straight, and it surpassed all expectations. By all accounts, it was the best Memorial ever, and after last year’s 20th anniversary tournament, that is certainly saying something. The quality of talent and play at the elite levels was higher than ever, and the lower ranked teams were also better than in year’s past. A new champion was crowned, there were upsets and ascensions, and a whole lot of excellent box lacrosse was played. Those in attendance even got to see the game grow right in front of their own eyes.
A New Champion
The Kahnawake Rapids brought over a veteran team, stacked with notable names. Among them were Roger Vyse, Kedoh Hill, Brandon Francis, Ian Crawford, Gewas Schindler, Logan Kane, Mike Thompson, and Isaiah Kicknosway. Kahnawake beat the Ladner Pioneers in a close game in the round robin portion of the tournament, and then defeated Goldstar Tel Aviv by a wider margin. In the playoffs, the Rapids improved, and won both their quarterfinal and semifinal games in relatively dominant fashion. In the finals, the Rapids took on the Green Gaels, who had also been dominant throughout the tourney, especially on defense.
The final was low scoring for most of two periods, but the Rapids scored a bunch of goals to break a 1-1 tie and go up 4-1. The Gaels added another goal but the Rapids fired an insurance goal into an empty net to take a 5-2 win in a very tight game overall. We are working on a video of just the finals, and it should be unlike anything you’ve seen before. Stay tuned for that!
Goals on Goals on Goals
Let’s be serious, you want to see some goals, don’t you? We’ll have big defensive plays, and face offs coming soon, as well as some crazy finals and a day in Prague video. It’s going to be serious.
3rd Place Goes to LC Custodes
The home side took third place after winning the title last year. Interestingly enough, they faced the Boston Megamen, whom they had played in the title game the year before. Unlike 2013, this game was relatively low-scoring, with LCC taking a 5-3 win over an undermanned Boston. The Megamen got banged up throughout the quarters and semis, and could only dress 10 or 11 runners. Boston’s biggest issue was penalty minutes, as they amassed 174 minutes over the course of the tourney. To give you some perspective, the next team had 88 minutes. That’s more than twice as many minutes as the next two teams combined.
The Vienna Monarchs knocked off Nova Scotia (my team) in the round of 16, and went on to finish 6th in the tournament after falling to LCC in the quarters. Vienna’s goalie, Christoph Kunert played an unreal game, and showed great improvement overall in just one year. The Turku Titans finished in 8th place, and got a big win over the Bratislava Bats to finish in the Top 8 bracket. Ireland, Scotland, and England all looked to have improved across the board. Both German teams had clearly taken some steps as well. Basically, brand new teams a couple of years ago now look well established. For future box lacrosse (and possibly even field) growth in Europe, all of this activity bodes well.
The Surprise Team of the Tourney
While Vienna and Turku are continuing to improve, the biggest surprise of the tourney for most people had to be Goldstar Tel Aviv. GTA finished in 10th (forfeiting their 9th place game against Nova Scotia) because they do not play on Saturdays, but their overall fight and play throughout the tourney was a pleasure to watch. The guys on the team bought into what their coach, Brad McArthur, was selling and they consistently improved, always played hard, and were pretty much all smiles… at least when they weren’t clobbering people.
If there is a national box lacrosse program with potential to shock and surprise people in 2015, it’s Israel. There is a lot of work to be done still, but for a first step, it was a big one. There were plenty of “American” players on the Israeli team, but I spoke with a number of the players, and if they weren’t already living in Israel, they were planning on moving there soon. The passion was palpable, and I really enjoyed seeing it in person.
Dominik Pesek (LCC Radotin) took the overall scoring title with 13 goals and 9 assists for 22 points. Ryan Keith (Ladner Pioneers) scored 14 goals to take that prize, and he finished with 21 points in the tourney. Kedoh Hill was the only player in the tourney to have double digit assists with 10. Matched with 9 goals, he finished with 19 points. Hill had 4 goals and 2 assists in the All-Star game as well. Chris Fox had the most lopsided tally sheet with 8 assists and zero goals on Ladner’s man up. He’s a giver. In case you’re wondering, I finished in 151st with 1 goal and 1 assist. Ha!
On the other side of things, Mike Thompson was electric in net for Kahnawake. He stopped 83% of the shots he faced, played in all 6 games, and only gave up 15 goals all tourney, while turning away an insane 73 shots. Both Mike Creagan of Ireland and Neil Roberts matched that 83% save rate and both played all six games for their teams as well. The Rigger and Clydesider goalies faced a lot more shots, and both helped their teams to see a lot of success on the floor.
The All-Star Game
The All-Stars had not beaten the Czech All-Stars in quite a while, but 2014 saw the foreign players put on a clinic, and torch a slightly younger Czech team. Julian Maliszewski was dominant on face offs and Kedoh Hill and Brad Goddard put on an offensive show. This is always an intense game, and it’s a huge honor to play in it. Players are named by their own teams, and for different reasons, but everyone goes at it for pride, and to put on a great show. 2014 was another really good one.
A HUGE Thanks To Gait!
No way I could have gotten over to Prague, played in, and reported on this tournament without the help of Gait Lacrosse. They wanted to support the documentation of an out of this world lacrosse experience, and the 2014 AHM certainly qualified! The remaining content will be just as good, so thanks to those guys for stepping up and making it happen! I also wore their pads all week, and I’m not sore, which is weird for me… so they worked!