Editor’s Note: We’re heading back to Prague! For the first time, LaxAllStars.com will have three of our members on the ground in Radotin for the Ales Hrebesky Memorial to give you the most in-depth coverage and behind the scenes views of the week. Thanks to the support of MaxLax, the world leader in box lacrosse gear for goalies and players, we’ll be showing off the AHM like never before! Make sure you peep the new MaxLax player gloves – super protective, super comfortable, old school inspired beauties!
It’s that time of year where lacrosse is in full-swing and just about everyone is in on the action. The NCAA is barreling through another season of instant-classics and upsets. The NLL is tighter than ever as playoffs approach. High School lacrosse is just getting warmed up in most parts of the country, and outside of the states, we have the rapidly approaching 2018 FIL Men’s World Championships. We love all of these different sectors of the game, but April brings the season we circle on our own personal calendars, year after year… the lead-up to the 2018 Ales Hrebesky Memorial.
The latter is much different from all the aforementioned. For some of you, the event couldn’t be any more foreign, for others, it could be the reason you know about LaxAllStars.com in the first place! Either way, it’s a four day box lacrosse tournament, in the Czech Republic. There isn’t a complete season, there’s no trade deadlines, and no draft. It’s a tournament – but it’s our favorite tournament. Over 25 years, it’s forged a unique family inside the lacrosse community that loves this brilliantly organized and executed event, and we’d love to share a little bit more about this family to the world.
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The Skinny of the 2018 Ales Hrebesky
The AHM has consisted of 21 teams for quite a number of years, with the format being the same every year since hitting the ceiling of 21. With the tournament being box lacrosse, and having only one box in Radotin (the host town), it’s essentially been capped at 21 teams – until now.
Three more teams will be added to the roster, with two of the clubs being brand new and looking to make a splash in their debut.
24 teams will now fill out two ‘groups’ to start the tournament. The top 12 teams from last year will fill out the Gold group, with the Silver group comprised of those who finished on the bottom half last year, as well as the new additions.
Now, follow along as the wording gets tricky, but the concept remains simple.
The Gold group (12 teams) has now been split into four “pots“. The top four teams from 2017 fill out Gold 1, the second four teams fill out Gold 2, and so on. Three pots of four groups, will then be drawn out of a hat on Wednesday March 28th at the LCC Clubhouse.
Pots are essentially groups of fairly evenly matched teams that are drawn from for each pool. It makes sure that there’s an even blend of talent in each pool and to ensure the historically best teams don’t get paired up too early in the event.
One team from Gold 1, one team from Gold 2, and one team from Gold 3 will be chosen, and over again until this is done 4 times for the Gold. Then four times for the Silver, to give us a finished product of eight pools of three teams. The only caveat is that two teams from the same country can not be in the same final Pool group.
Makes Sense, Right?
Follow? It takes a minute, we’ve been up all night trying to make sense of it all and trying to do math as to count how many potential outcomes there are. Answer: a lot.
Now, once these eight pools are set, the teams in each pool will play each other in round-robin play. When the dust settles at the end of round-robin play, winners of Gold groups will move on straight to the Quarterfinals. The second place finishers of Gold groups will have to play-in to the quarterfinals against first place finishers from the Silver groups. Third place Gold finishers will have to fight just to keep their Gold-groupings for 2019.
Silver group second place teams will be fighting to advance to Gold group for 2019, and losers of Silver groups will be relegated straight to the 17th-24th place games, where losers of the top Silver vs. bottom Gold games will join them.
Pretty simple, eh? It makes (enough) sense to us, so let’s look at the field of 24.
24 Teams of the Ales Hrebesky Memorial 2018
In order of how they finished in 2017!
No more math/science. Let’s talk about the boys who will be making it happen on the floor! Below we’ll be giving a brief summary of each of the 24 teams, with anything/everything we know about their 2018 roster.
LCC Radotin Custodes (CZE) – Gold Pot 1
The hosting club earned the honor to keep the trophy in Radotin for the first time since 2013, their 8th total crowning of Ales Hrebesky Memorial champions. Coming out of pool play unscathed, the Custodes didn’t get their first test until the quarterfinals, barely edging past Alberta with a single goal. The Pioneers put up a fight in the semis, but the locals were able to capture an early lead and pull away with a tight, 5-2, win. In the finals, they met pool partner Glasgow for a second time and familiarity between the two led to a high-scoring shootout broadcast on Czech national television. After a 9-0 first period, the cup appeared to be safely already in the Custodes’ hands. The Clyde would storm back, but wouldn’t be able to dig themselves out of the pit, and the final would rest at 15-7, and Radotin were champions once again. With a roster featuring the top two scorers from 2017, Dominik Pesek and Radek Rock (16+3 each), it’s safe to say the Custodes should be well reloaded for April.
Glasgow Clydesiders (SCO) – Gold Pot 1
Glasgow captured their all-time highest finish in the AHM with a climb to runner-up after finishing near the bottom of the barrel for years. Beefing up the roster with talent from around the globe, the boys in purple featured and extremely balanced roster of rag-tag athletes. The Clyde drew unfortunate luck by getting matched with the Custodes in the pool, which they were served an early loss by the home team.
But a great draw when it came to the rest of the bracket gave them a survivable path to the finale. They pulled off tight wins of TJ Malesice, SK Jizni Mesto, and the Turku Titans to meet Radotin once more. Word on the street (aka Brian told us) that the Clyde is nearly identical to the 2017 group and they will rely on the familiarity to make another run at the cup!
*3rd Place Ladner Pioneers have withdrawn from competition for 2018.
Turku Titans (FIN) – Gold Pot 1
The Titans have exploded onto the scene over the past five years. As lacrosse has developed and grown in Finland, a large part of that has been exemplified by the work the Titans have put in on the floor. It’s cold up there and hockey is big business, so you better believe these guys have bound themselves to the box.
Finland hosted the 2017 European Box Lacrosse Championships in Turku this past summer, and a number of Titans were responsible for earning Finland a bronze medal in that tournament. They’re big and strong with stick skills to match. Turku has been nipping at the heels of traditional AHM powerhouses, and we’ll see if 2018 is their year!
Megamen (USA) – Gold Pot 1
The Megamen have been a staple in the Ales Hrebesky Memorial dating back more than a decade. Before his untimely passing, Frank Mencshner was responsible for bringing the first-ever North American team to the AHM, and his legacy lives on with the Megamen. The heavily East Coast-based American squad bruised and battered their way to 5th place in 2017, and these seasoned veterans have their eye on reclaiming the throne for the 25th holding of the tournament. Never, ever, sleep on the Megamen.
Alberta Warriors (CAN) – Gold Pot 2
The Warriors burst onto the scene in 2016 with their fancy cowboy hats and gritty play. Classic Alberta. In their inaugural tournament, the Warriors ran the table straight through the championship and took home the hardware.
Last year saw ‘Berta fall just short, but to count out the hard-nose Canadians would be a mistake. The Cowboy hats and the cheering section that rivals LCC’s will be back in full force looking to reclaim glory. This whole group files next to “beauties” in the dictionary.
Goldstar Tel Aviv (ISR) – Gold Pot 2
Goldstar has been working their way up the ladder since their first appearance in the tournament in 2014. This Gold Group/Pot 2 placement puts them between solid opponents both above and below them, but these boys haven’t stopped getting better – and underestimating these hungry kelevs would be a mistake.
Israel took home the gold in the 2017 EBLC, and fought for the Bronze against the US in the WILC 2015, and a core group of that crew will be on the floor this April for AHM2018. Beware of the beasts from the Middle East.
SK Jizni Mesto (CZE) – Gold Pot 2
Keep an eye on this club, as the south-side boys from Prague have doubled down on efforts to grow as a club from the ground up. They’re growing in numbers and their facilities are world-class. Jizni Mesto is notorious for handing out upset losses to teams traveling to Prague due to the fact that some of these tournament teams barely know each other, versus the years of battling together that Mesto has done. Czech teams are great at box, and Jizni Mesto is no different.
Green Gaels (CAN) – Gold Pot 2
Our own Connor Wilson and the Canadian family of the Green Gaels, which somehow agreed to take him in, return to the AHM after a tough draw in 2017 which led them to an unlikely 9th place finish last year. The difference between hardware and a surprisingly low finish for the Green Gaels was a shootout loss where a couple of bounces went against them.
A one-goal loss in the quarters, and straight out of pool play derailed any hopes for a championship last year, but with this new format, the Gaels are right up there with the heavy hitters, ready to work their way back to Saturday night under the lights. Most of these guys have been playing together for a while, so chemistry shoudn’t be an issue.
Bundeswehr Lacrosse (GER) – Gold Pot 3
Bundeswehr represents some of the very best lacrosse players from the regional powerhouse of Germany. Originally formed as a team of players currently serving in the German military, Bundeswehr has evolved into the developmental squad that can be the proving grounds for national team hopefuls. Led by experience and backed up by size, Bundeswehr will be fighting to reinforce Germany’s status as one of Europe’s leading lacrosse nations. Toughness, stick skills, and stamina help define what the Germans can bring to the box.
Vienna Monarchs (AUS) – Gold Pot 3
The Vienna Monarchs are your bracket busters. For real. They have been upsetting teams since their entry into the tournament back in 2013. The Austrian program has developed and grown by leaps and bounds in the past half-decade, benefitting from constant competition and existing in the vicinity of high level programs with which they can learn from. They’ve got guys of all sizes and skillsets, with experience now leading the way.
Istanbul Sultans (TUR) – Gold Pot 3
The Sultans come off a 12th place finish from last year, making the cut for the Gold grouping. Of course this internationally-heavy club will be looking to use this starting point to make it further into the tournament. The team is comprised of players from all over the world, but centered in Turkey, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Sultans’ draw will go.
They’re know for being one of the most physical teams on the floor and don’t back down from anyone. If they can stay out of the sin bin, a roster reloaded with talent could go a long way. Will we see the Pot 3 Sultans team perform the upsets? Only time will tell.
Nova Scotia Privateers (CAN) – Gold Pot 3
Rounding out the Gold group will be the Nova Scotia Privateers. The Scotia boys finished 13th last year, but due to one of the top-tier teams not returning to the tournament, the Privs will join the Gold instead of the Silver. This is a quality team of players and even better people, representing the finest of the Nova Scotia Senior Lacrosse League. This team has competed together in the LASNAI and President’s Cup together, and has a history of success in the AHM. Sliding in the Gold group could either prove to be a godsend or a recipe for relegation. The fun part: anything can happen!
The Silver Group
This Silver Group might seem like a snub to some truly impressive teams, but we’ve come to a different conclusion. This system (in theory) pits teams of similar calibers against each other. In doing so, it also creates elevators, chutes, and ladders for every team. If you’re having a rough year, you’ll drop, and you’ll drop quickly in rankings. If you win one game, you won’t be propelled higher than you should be.
“The Path” certainly might manifest itself for one team or another, while others will argue that they have harder roads. Truth is, this will keep winning teams advancing, and losing teams will find themselves in similar company with level playing fields from Game 1 through Game 6.
TJ Malesice (CZE) – Silver Pot 1
Malesice is king of the Silver castle for the time being. This Czech program rivals with SK Jizni Mesto, but a loss immediately out of pool play deflated the highest possible outcome for Malesice. This year, Malesice has had strong showings at tournaments all over Europe, both box and field, and I think that this rougher-style of Czech box lacrosse will translate into an opportunity to play-in for the Gold group. Where they take this opportunity of being on top of the Silver group is anyone’s guess.
Helan Gar (SWE) – Silver Pot 1
The Swedes came out and impressed last year. Upsetting Malesice in group play was the highlight, but aggressive play and an offense that has really begun to click makes Helan Gar one of the rising powers in the AHM. As Sweden booms domestically with lacrosse growth, it will be interesting to see how the box program continues to develop.
Everyone fears the “plateau” and we can only imagine that Helan Gar will double down in an effort to advance to a Gold group play-in, as Eddie Shenandoah and other leaders continue to move this group along in the right direction.
Deutschland Adler (GER) – Silver Pot 1
Probably the most famous group from Germany, the Adler have flirted with success but have struggled in to get over that hump and escape pool play. Also a heavily international group, the Adler play all over Europe, making appearances at a number of box lacrosse tournaments.
They have a large player pool of club members to draw from, it’s just a matter of getting the right guys on the floor at the right time together. We’ll see some Canadians, Finnish, and others join the Germans… but will it mean wins? Word is they’ve got some solid goaltending so we won’t count them out early.
Dublin Riggers (IRE) – Silver Pot 1
The Dublin Riggers find themselves in a peculiar situation. The team representing Ireland missed the Gold group due to the “pool of death” and two pool-play losses subsequently in 2017. This places them as a Silver group Pot 1, which means they’ll have to win out, but will (theoretically) have an easier road to play in to the quarterfinals than say a Gold group Pot 2 or 3. The Riggers live and die by one goal games, and we’ll see if 2018 will be more living or more dying. Heavily Irish, always tough and fiery.
Bratislava Bats (SVK) – Silver Pot 2
Gotta love those Bats! The Bats have been coming to the tournament since the club’s inception back in 2007. Last year, in preparation for the EBLC in Turku, the Bats played as the Slovakia Nationals, but this year the beloved Bats are back!
The Bats are the only Slovakian team playing in the National Box Lacrosse League, otherwise known as the Czech League, so they are very familiar with a number of their local opponents. The Bats have the ability to shake the tree in the Silver group, and I think it’s interesting to see what they’ll do as a Pot 2. They play a lot of box and do it pretty darn well.
Chocolax (SWI) – Silver Pot 2
The Swiss program has been all about relentless improvement, with last year’s AHM really being one of the first events that a Swiss team hasn’t improved upon their prior year’s finish. A number of the Swiss box players also play for the Swiss National Team in field lacrosse, and it’s worth wondering if we’ll see a complete and true Chocolax that has the potential to make noise, or more of the same from last year. House money is on the noise.
Polish Eagles (POL) – Silver Pot 2
The Polish program is one of my favorites to watch grow and develop. Even if they have not been able to climb the ladder very far, I believe in the good things coming for Poland.
The Eagles have in the past been beleaguered by the E-Box tournament the weekend before – both physically and as a strain on the number of players they have available. This year Poland will not attend E-Box in an effort to have a better showing at the AHM. It will be interesting to see the dynamic of E-Box teams versus a fresh Polish team.
London Knights (ENG) – Silver Pot 2
The Knights will come out swinging this year. Believe that. A rough finish to 2016 and an equally rough go in ’17 has these boys ready for a rebound. The 2017 EBLC games have put a magnifying glass on English Box Lacrosse. Whether the FIL Blue group powerhouse and 2016 European (field) Championship winning nation has decided to put any focus on box lacrosse or not remains to be seen. Here’s to hoping!
The Ales Hrebesky Memorial made the (fantastic) executive decision to add three more teams in 2018, expanding the roster for the first time in many moons. Also, with the Pioneers taking a year off, we will see four new clubs enter the fold this time around.
Old Dogs Plzen (CZE) – Silver Pot 3
The first of our “new” teams isn’t a new team at all. The Old Dogs have played in plenty of Memorials before, but when they took a hiatus a few years back, they were unable to get back in because the spots were all full.
We’re happy to see another Czech team back in the tournament, and hopefully we’ll see these guys do well in giving a Czech box education to some of these Silver Group teams. They’ve got some seriously young talent, but these kids aren’t scared of anyone and proved it in September’s Menschner Cup. One of our favorites to watch grow, hands down.
Jagged Mountain (USA) – Silver Pot 3
What started out as the IBLA National Champion Parker Rangers, has slowly morphed into the newly minted Jagged Mountain lacrosse club out of Colorado. With some Parker guys unable to trek over to Europe, and guys from elsewhere highly interested, they rebranded with some help from a local brewery and voila, Jagged Mountain was born. The roster is (as far as we know) fully American, but not lacking in real box lacrosse experience. Parker rolled through the rest of the country for the IBLA title, but they’re filling in key missing pieces from the roster. They could come in and really wreck the hopes and dreams of the perennial teams, or fall victim early on to an unfavorable draw. Only time can tell. Welcome, dudes!
The LaxAllStars Non-Olympic Athletes from Everywhere (Earth) – Silver Pot 3
What do we know about this motley crew? We’ll… we’re running it so it’s guaranteed to be a good time! So far, we’ve got guys from the US, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Czech Republic, and Norway coming together and most are going to be meeting each other for the first time. The squad has NLLer Tommy McKee coming in to bolster the offensive side and our own Mark Donahue on defense… so you know Mark is good for at least 2 to 20 PIMs! Expect: rowdiness from multinational culture club.
LCC Wolves (CZE) – Silver Pot 3
Last, but surely not least, the Wolves have slid into the AHM, which is on their home floor. These guys are always fun to watch and a well-oiled machine, even if they’re a bit younger than the majority of the athletes. The Wolves are LCC’s junior program, and these kids are developing into quite the lacrosse players. With the spotlight always shining on the senior program, it’s no wonder why these young Wolves are hungrier than ever to improve and show that they too deserve some recognition. Don’t be surprised if the chemistry and home-town pressure light a major fire in these boys and they wreak havoc on the Silver group and beyond.
HOW MUCH FUN IS THIS?!
We love this event, and we can’t wait until Wednesday’s draw. The draw can, and should, be watched live on LCC’s Youtube page on Wednesday, March 28th at 19:00 local Czech time. Daylight saving time is messing up clocks around the world, so be sure to keep an eye on your trusty world clock app if watching this draw is important to you!
We’d just like to say good luck to all the teams playing, and how much we’re looking forward to seeing everyone again. This truly is one of the greatest lacrosse events on Earth, and if this is your first time hearing about it, we highly encourage you to follow along with our continued coverage of the event, powered by MaxLax! Like playing box, seeing the world, and growing your lacrosse family? Whatever you do, put this on your short list of things to go to someday.
We’ll have a complete pool analysis done shortly after the draw on Wednesday. If you’re like us and are already living and breathing the AHM around clock, we’ll see you before the weekend with another fix of analysis and predictions!