It’s the most wonderful time of the year because the 2017 Ales Hrebesky Memorial box lacrosse tournament is just around the corner!
Sure, we’ve got NCAA lacrosse barreling into the latter half of an amazing season, the NLL is full throttle as we head towards the playoffs, and the MLL is set to kick off for what promises to be another awesome season…
All that is neat, but we’re here to talk about one of our collective personal favorites. It’s an unbelievable collection of talent, new programs, and community, known as The Ales Hrebesky Memorial. It’s that special kind of annual event where the good ol’ boys from all over the world come together and put their best foot forward.
Some teams come in hopes of taking home the hardware, some are looking to improve their place from last year, and still others are just looking to get out there and beat somebody they weren’t necessarily expected to.
When I say “expected”, I would like to clarify that what I expect to happen in any game between Team X and Team Y may be different than what Connor might expect to happen. I expect the blue team to beat the red team by 2. Connor sees the red team dominating the blue by ten. Of course maybe the blue team will even win? It’s the kind of event where results are expected, but rarely guaranteed.
That’s one of our favorite parts about this tournament. Because of the amazing venue, tournament organization, and the fact that it happens to take place in the beautiful Czech Republic; we see a lot of the same teams with a lot of the same faces year in and year out. You can expect to see certain guys sitting in certain sections of the bleachers. This will be my fifth trip to Radotin, and I can’t be more excited to see my friends, and I’m looking even more forward to crosschecking the hell out of them.
This will be the 24th edition of the Memorial, an homage to a young Ales Hrebesky, who unfortunately was taken from the world far too young. The tournament lives on in his name, and the ever-rising competition level is an homage to the memory of Ales, and a great opportunity for all who follow in his footsteps.
This year, we’re proud to partner with Maximum Lacrosse to provide our annual coverage, and if you’re reading this post, you probably play or coach box lacrosse. Therefore, you probably need box lacrosse pads (biceps, kidneys, GOALIE!). Well, Maximum Lacrosse has you covered. Seriously. Their gear is the real deal. Connor has been wearing it for a year or two and won’t stop talking about how good it is. Finally I’m getting my hands on some!
Check out Maximum Lacrosse for ALL your box padding needs. You will not regret it, and they even do team orders. Boom.
Connor and I will go over our predictions for the tournament pool by pool, and we’ll be offering some different and possibly conflicting views on what will happen in certain groups, and what implications pool play might have for certain teams as we head into the playoffs.
The teams were broken down into three “pools” – “A”, “B”, and “C”. One team from A was randomly drawn into a pool with one team from B and one team was C. This way no pool had more than one “A” team in it. Pools are based off previous years’ performances.
Connor will only offer up a different Top 3 for a group if he disagrees with my placements for the teams. He’ll add some pretty inane comments for each pool group no matter what.
Pool A: Fight For First
1 Nova Scotia Privateers (CAN)
2 TJ Malesice (CZE)
3 Helan Gar (SWE)
Brian: This isn’t a very interesting pick, and there really isn’t much “fun” in picking a group A team to beat a B team to beat a C team, but this is how I think the group play will go. Malesice has beaten Nova Scotia in my memory… maybe two years ago? So it isn’t inconceivable that the Czechs could take the top spot. Helan Gar can’t necessarily be counted out, as they’ve begun making a massive push in box lacrosse with some serious coaching acquisitions on their way to Turku in July. I can totally see something crazy happening in this group, but I’ll take the easy (boring) prediction as it is, in fact, my prediction.
Connor: I will agree with Brian on the team’s final placements, but I actually have TJ Malesice as the favorite to win this group, and I’m picking Nova Scotia to upset them. Why is this an upset? Sure, Scotia is a “Pool A” team, but TJM finished 6th last year, while Scotia finished 7th. So since TJM TECHNICALLY finished higher, they are now the favorite, and I’m picking Scotia to upset them and win Pool A. Agree to agree/disagree, but I like Scotia to win. I really tried to make that pick interesting. Give me some credit.
Pool B: Home Team, & Escape Artists
1 LCC Radotin (CZE)
2 Glasgow Clydesiders (SCO)
3 Nationals (SVK)
Brian: LCC is LCC. If you’re unfamiliar with the home team, welcome to the party. The Custodes are the real deal, with firepower that will bury the majority of any competition they see. Full disclosure, I’m playing with the Glasgow Clydesiders for my third year, and I can honestly say I can’t wait to square off with the home team under the lights right after opening ceremonies. While the Clyde is coming off an amazing 2-0 pool play performance from last year, I only see one win for the kilts this go around. I see the Slovakian Nationals/Glasgow game being a bitter fight to the finish, but I’ve got the boys escaping pool play after a highly questionable Pool C birth.
Connor: I’m glad you picked your own boys to finish second, that’s good, and I would tend to agree on all counts. At the same time, the Bats (now Nationals) always make me nervous, having lost to them with the Salt Shakerz in my first AHM experience when they were just Bratislava. Now it’s all of Slovakia. Don’t sleep on Slovakia!
Pool C: The Blind Date
1: Bundeswehr (GER)
2: Megamen (USA)
3: Gold Star Tel-Aviv (ISR)
Brian: I’m not sure if it’s me getting bored already with picking down pool lines, or whether I just really want to watch some crazy stuff happen, but I see this as being the shake up group. The Germans had a real issue with attendance last year, and I see them being sized up incorrectly by the remainder of their group. Glasgow was the 2-0 underdog story of the year last year, and I think Bundeswehr can be the Cinderella this year. The Megamen will be bringing some of the biggest and baddest Americans around, and I think they’ll prove too much for Gold Star. That said, the Israeli boys are prepping just as much as any other program getting ready for Turku, and honestly who the hell really knows who they’ll show up with this year. They’ve beaten Bundeswehr in the past, numerous times I believe.
1: Megamen (USA)
2: Gold Star Tel-Aviv (ISR)
3: Bundeswehr (GER)
Connor: I applaud Brian for his gutsy pick here, but I’m going with the Boston Megamen to win this group, and do so with relative ease. These teams won’t be more physical than Boston, and I don’t know if their team play on offense can make up for it. I fully expect the Megamen to contest for the tournament lead in penalty minutes after Istanbul took the award (is that an award?) last year with 51 minutes in 6 games. Gold Star makes me a little more nervous at #2 as it could be a new team, but the Israel guys have a history of buying in to the system, and when they do, they can win games.
Pool D: One REALLY Good Game
1: Istanbul Sultans (TUR)
2: Jizni Mesto (CZE)
3: Polish Eagles (POL)
Brian: This one is going to be tight, but I see talented and experiences Canadian players edging out one of the best teams in the Czech League by 3 or 4 goals. Jizni Mesto has the advantage of playing year round together, while Istanbul’s international smorgasbord doesn’t have that luxury. The Polish Eagles have earned mention as well. While they haven’t seen much success on the scoreboard in years past, these dedicated few guys show up year in, year out, and they’re ALWAYS getting better. With Poland’s attendance in the Euro Box Championships this July, there’s a new push behind the box program so I think we’ll be seeing our best-ever Polish Eagles.
1: Jizni Mesto (CZE)
2: Istanbul Sultans (TUR)
3: Polish Eagles (POL)
Connor: I’m going to go with LCJM over Istanbul for the exact reasons Brian laid out above. This is making me really nervous, because this won’t be either team’s first game of the tourney. Both play on WED against Poland, and then they meet on Noon on Thursday in the second to last group game. Honestly, this makes me think Istanbul will actually win, but WHAT WOULD BE FUN ABOUT US PICKING ALL THE SAME TEAMS? Maybe Istanbul will decide they want the penalty crown again? If so, LCJM could pull it out! Patrick, please try not to kill me, thanks.
Pool E: Opportunity To Dance
1: Green Gaels (CAN)
2: Deutschland Adler (GER)
3: London Knights (ENG)
Brian: I think this tournament draws have given one of the two bottom teams an awesome opportunity to move on into the playoff pool. There really isn’t much to say about first place. The Green Gaels have too much firepower and all the Canadian/Pro box experience in the world. London got a highly suspect group 2 draw after getting trounced by group 3 Glasgow last year I’m biased, and I admit that), and I’m seeing this as the Adler’s opportunity to move on up in the tourney.
I’m good buddies with a lot of the Adler guys, and the Adler was the first team I ever played for at the AHM, and from the group chats and roster pickups, I won’t be surprised at all if we seen the German club team advance. That said, the allure of playing for the national team might have bolstered interest in the box program in Britain, so we’ll have to see what happens.
Connor: I’m somehow lucky enough to be playing for the Green Gaels (I hope they’re prepared to be disappointed in my ability), and I agree with Brian on final placements, but I could see that England-Adler game going down in a lot of different ways. I think both teams will be considerably better than they ever have been before, and that’s really my prediction. London and DALC will be better than anyone thinks, but also I agree on his final picks.
Pool E: THE POOL OF DEATH
1: Turku Titans (FIN)
2: Pioneers (CAN)
3: Dublin Riggers (IRL)
Brian: There’s no two ways about it, this is the POOL OF DEATH *thunder crashes*. I think what I’ve predicted will be wrong, but I can’t rationalize how yet. I think we’re seeing this young Finnish program thrive, and there’s no way they’re going to let off the gas with the Euros coming up so soon. I see their potent offense and brilliant goaltending being a bit much for the Pioneers. The Pioneers had a wild fall from grace last year, and I’m of the opinion they’ll be taking out their last year’s frustrations in a big way, so we might be seeing a re-energized team heading for the finals.
Pioneer revenge and Finnish progress don’t spell good things for the Irish. I love the Riggers. Shared many a pivo on the boat with the Riggers. I want to see a tally in the win column for the Riggers before pool play is over, and their #friendship and awesome goaltending can make that happen, but it’s going to be a fight and I don’t know exactly where that win will come from.
1: Pioneers (CAN)
2: Turku Titans (FIN)
3: Dublin Riggers (IRL)
Connor: Definitely the toughest group in the pool stage, and these should all be primetime, enjoyable games to watch. I’ll go with a rebound Pioneer team in a close one over Turku. Dublin could get a big win in these short games if either of their opponents take them lightly to any degree. Games like this can be brutal to open with, but being battle tested right away is becoming more and more important at the AHM with all the recent upsets.
Pool F: The Consolation Winner
1: Alberta Warriors (CAN)
2: Chocolax (SUI)
3: Vienna Monarchs (AUT)
Brian: This is another no brainer for first… or is it? Alberta not only won the tournament last year, they also won the best imported cheering section award… which is a very prestigious award. I don’t know if they’ll have all their champion players back again this year, but even if they don’t I believe they’ll have the firepower needed to take first. What we have in the battle for second, is what I believe to be the battle for one team to advance, with the loser being the best to be sent to the consolation round. I think that the constant Swiss improvement since the inception of the box program is finally going to come to a head this year with the Euros and a win over Vienna. However, Vienna’s goaltending and the dedication of the few Austrians has proved to be too much for teams like Nova Scotia in the past.
1: Alberta Warriors (CAN)
2: Vienna Monarchs (AUT)
3: Chocolax (SUI)
Connor: I’m going with Vienna to take second place. They have consistently impressed each year, and while the Swiss program has made leaps and bounds of improvement, I’m not sure their overall program has caught up to the best Vienna can put out there. Alberta will roll, one would think. I am one.
Brian: There you have it. My honest opinions that will incite unreasonable amounts of fury in a small percentage of those who will read it. The dirty look from the bleachers, the inebriated “guess you were wrong” from across the clubhouse on Friday night. Can’t wait. If you didn’t like this little prediction piece speculating who will escape pool play in a few weeks, that’s unfortunate. I almost said “I’m sorry”, but I’m not. You’re more that welcome to go out there and win and prove me wrong. Or I guess you can lose and prove me wrong as well.
If you send me angry messages or any message longer than 6 lines on an iPhone, that’ll cost you one Kozel for every additional two lines of text message. Disagreeing respectfully and/or sending me funny messages is totally cool and totally encouraged. I’ll probably end up buying you a Kozel. Failure to read this agreement does not void the fact that it is a binding contract.
Seeing all my friends all over the country/world is a treat that I’m fortunate enough to enjoy on a basis that’s more regular than I ever thought it would be. Seeing German buddies in Vegas. Seeing Czechs in Syracuse. Meeting Hong Kong and Japanese guys in Budapest. I love it.
And while saying goodbye is never fun, the salutation on the way out is one of my favorites. It is as much a question as it is a statement. The suggestion that we’ll meet up a little later on down the road. Making sure that the other guy isn’t planning on doing anything dumb like get married or go back to college or have a kid or something. It’s a promise and a challenge. Traveling around the world to get plastered against the boards by your buddies.
I love it. You love it.
See you in Prague?
Connor: See you in Prague.