(WINDSOR, ON) – The Windsor Warlocks midget lacrosse team, who are currently ranked fourth in the province with a 16-3-0 record, are making a name for themselves across Ontario as a club with an outstanding scoring ability and stingy defence and goaltending.
Over two weekends, the Warlocks came within in inches of winning two top-level tournaments and are fighting their way toward a berth in the Ontario Lacrosse Association’s ‘A’ Division championships this August in Whitby.
“This year’s team is a group of young men that mostly I have never coached before,” said head coach and National Lacrosse League veteran John Rosa. “Our minors, which is the majority of our team, I have only watched from the bleachers, so we are getting to know each other and figuring out what we can accomplish.”
The Warlocks season was struck an early blow with a serious injury to top-line scorer Connor McManus.
“We have high goals which include making ‘A’ ball,” said Rosa. “We only have two majors on offence, with [the] injury to McManus, so we have a lot to do in getting to the point of success in ‘A’.”
Rosa’s coaching staff includes former NCAA player Chris Derkatz, Scott Botsford, and manager Mike Bulmer.
“Our goal this season is to win our zone, win an “A” tourney, and qualify for “A” ball,” the coach said. “When that happens we will change our expectations to making it to Final 6.”
Despite the youthful team, he has quite the talented crew.
“We have several players that are doing well,” he said. “Zane Dalpe and [Joshua] ‘Crash’ Rosa are doing what we expect them to do, and that is lead our offence. But other players, like Xander Derkatz, Kaleb Sanderson, and Jack Bulmer, are chipping in on offence as well.”
At the end of May, the Midgets travelled to Peterborough to compete in the Laker Classic. The Warlocks went undefeated in round robin play, dropping the Orangeville Northmen 3-2, Toronto Beaches 5-2, Whitby Warriors 6-2, and Nepean Knights 5-4. In the semi-final, the Warlocks squared off with the Brampton Excelsiors, taking them out in a 9-7 barn burner to advance to the finals.
In their sixth and final game of the weekend, Windsor went toe-to-toe with the hometown Lakers in an absolute classic. Peterborough’s Caleb Connell scored the lone goal of the 1st period on the game’s opening possession.
In the middle act, the Warlocks sprung to life with an unassisted marker by Dalpe to draw the game even, less than a minute into the frame. With five minutes remaining, Josh Rosa ripped the opposition’s mesh to give his team their first lead on a Kaden Brennan hook-up, but it was short-lived.
Two minutes later, Tommy Collins knotted the game at 2-2 for the Lakers.
The third stanza was scoreless, as the two goalies duelled it out. Salaris picked up the clutch shutout period to force overtime. On to the extra frame, where, unfortunately for the Warlocks, Collins played the hero for the hometown Lakers.
Dalpe and Salaris, who each played magnificent tournaments, were also both named most valuable player.
“I think we should be an ‘A’ team,” said Dalpe, a two-time Team Ontario national champion. “We’ve got a lot of skill and we’ve got a pretty diverse group. We’ve got a lot of guys that have been here for a while and we’ve got some new players that are starting to learn the game. But, all-in-all, we should be able to go ‘A’.”
Dalpe, McManus, and Kaden Brennan have all received call-ups this season to the Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League’s Windsor Clippers, while Jake Fields and Salaris received some playing time with the big club during the pre-season.
“The way we’re coached, we’re taught the game very well to make it easier on ourselves,” said the Warlocks’ sniper. “I think our midget system is good, with our coach teaching us the game the proper way and how to play and how to develop for the next level.”
According to Dalpe, the team has taken to a defence-first philosophy, building from the D-zone up.
“Defensively is where our team strength lies,” explained Rosa. “It starts with Griffin Salaris in net. Then our D has leaders like captain Kaden Brennan. He [anchors] our backend and can also ignite our offence. Others, like Jacob Fields and Bailey Rolf, have led by example and fortified our defence corps.”
Salaris is having another strong season between the pipes in his second year of midget.
“I really like our team and the boys are awesome,” said Salaris, who was 2016’s Zone 7 Player of the Year. “We really mesh well together and are friends off the floor. We don’t fight or argue with each other and that makes us a strong team.”
Dalpe agreed with the assessment.
“We get along very well, so I think that helps us on the floor because we want to battle for each other,” he said.
The team element is important to Salaris and, when one of his teammates go down with an injury, he and the boys come together to keep the team strong. Connor McManus’ injury was hard on the squad, Salaris said.
“He is such a good player and great in the locker room; he is good at firing up the team and is a leader,” he said. “We had a couple of injuries to other players, but the boys worked hard and pulled out some wins.”
Indeed, with McManus out, the Warlocks are still putting up victories.
“We started the season looking a bit slow against Wallaceburg, but have really started playing pretty good,” said the Midgets’ goalie. “We went to our first tournament in Peterborough last weekend and, honestly, I was worried about how we would do against good teams that were there. Our defence is tough and fast and our offence scores when we need it. [We] know we have to keep working hard to win games and stay in ‘A’ ball, so we can complete our goal for the season.”
Rosa also lists Jackson Land and Ryan Clark as integral components to their success.
“They are players that keep showing their value and the coaching staff feel very confident in their play,” Rosa said.
Last weekend, the Midgets were in Brampton for the John ‘Gus’ McCauley Memorial, taking another kick at the ‘A’ tournament can. Windsor again went undefeated in the round robin, taking out the Mississauga Tomahawks 5-4, the Halton Hills Bulldogs 10-4, and Centre Wellington Mohawks 6-3, before dispatching the Excelsiors, again, in the semi-final, this time by a 3-1 score.
In the finals, the Warlocks locked talons with the top-ranked Oakville Hawks.
Oakville scored four goals in the opening period, led by a pair from sniper Will Sheehan, and followed with two late power-play markers to end the frame. Despite a pair of shutout periods from Salaris to close the match, the Warlocks fell short of clawing back. Brennan and Dalpe each sniped late in the third as the final score was 4-2.
Despite the loss, the Warlocks have pulled off second place in two consecutive ‘A’-level tournaments. No slouch for any contending midget squad.
Along for the ride, and making his mark with the team, is 14-year-old Oxford, MI, native Luke Grove.
“My family is a big lacrosse family,” said Grove, who first played the game as an eight-year-old. “I have four older brothers. Three of them have played lacrosse and my brother Noah plays lacrosse for the University of Indianapolis.”
The majority of Grove’s lacrosse experience has been in the American field game
“I play for the [Detroit] Juiced Cherries field lacrosse travel program,” he said. “I have had the privilege of playing [in] many different places including Chicago, Notre Dame, Delaware, and Maryland. I have also been invited to play at the Jake Reed Blue Chip camp.”
His exposure to box lacrosse has opened him up to a whole new variation of the sport.
“There are many comparisons, but I think the box game is much more physical,” opined Grove. “You need to think fast and have your head on a swivel at all times. Learning to make quick decisions is also important. There are also strategy differences with the faster pace and having to work within a shot clock. Getting this opportunity to play box has helped me develop my all-around lacrosse game.”
His experience with the Warlocks has turned out to be a positive one.
“I think our team is really great,” he said. “We have a lot of talent … and I think we can make a solid run this season and compete with the top teams in Ontario. I have really enjoyed my team. My teammates have been great and their families have welcomed our family into the program.”
The Midgets’ roster is rounded out by Jacob Higgins, Kale Couvillon, Josh Bennett, and affiliates Hunter Bickford, Jordan Elijah, Marcus Stanley, Nate Dowling, Malikye Good, and Calum Brennan.
The Midgets are next in action this Saturday as part of the Warlocks’ Alumni Day celebration. Along with the Tykes, Novices, and Peewees, the Midgets will be competing in two games against the Sarnia Pacers. Game time for the Midgets at Forest Glade Arena will be 11am and 2pm.
Also playing that day, both the Tykes and Novices have games at 10am and 1pm, while the Peewees play at the same times as the Midgets.
An alumni game for those 35 and over will take place at 4pm and will be followed by an alumni game at 5 for 22 to 34 year-olds. The evening will be capped off with the Windsor Clippers hosting the Welland Generals at 7pm in Junior B action.