DENVER, CO – Super Bowl weekend may not have panned out the way many football fans in Denver wanted it to, but for fans of box lacrosse it was a great weekend. Locally, the Colorado Mammoth earned a thrilling victory in NLL action, but the Denver youth aspiring to that level of lacrosse greatness are the real story here.
The Midwest Classic Box Lacrosse Tournament took place February 1-2 in Columbus, Ohio, hosted by fellow USBOXLA program Resolute Lacrosse. Denver Elite was well presented at the event, bringing a team in each age bracket, Pee Wee, Bantam, and Midget. USBOXLA and Denver Elite take a page from the Canadian youth box lacrosse system where teams are broken down by age. Pee Wees include ages 10-11, Bantams ages 12-13, and Midgets ages 14-15, so players generally spend two years playing with the same team. This sense of familiarity was apparent at the Midwest Classic.
Teams played three round-robin games before being seeded for one final game to determine the champion of each age bracket. Denver Elite pushed their way to first place finishes in the Pee Wee and Midget groups, while the Bantams took home the silver.
A solid showing, to be sure, was months in the making. One of Denver Elite’s strengths is its coaching staff, which consists of Canadian-born players who have ascended to the professional ranks. They teach the game the right way and give Denver Elite players the same edge in playing box lacrosse as kids living north of the border.
Coach Jamie Shewchuk manned the bench for all twelve games over the weekend, and had only good things to say about his teams’ performances in his pleasant, but hoarse (what else would you expect after serving as bench boss for 12 games in one day?) Canadian accent. Shewchuk emphasized the importance of working on fundamentals in practice as a contributor to the success at the tourney. Box lacrosse is different from the field game so getting kids used to the pace and physicality of the box game is important. “Dodging from the top doesn’t work in box,” says Shewchuk, “but the kids are getting really good at getting the ball low and setting picks.” While Denver Elite offers a lot of different box lacrosse opportunities and training sessions, Coach Shewchuk was most impressed with his players’ ability to implement what they learned in practice.
The Bantam team that came home with the silver ended up dropping the championship game to a very good Resolute Lacrosse team that they had defeated earlier in round-robin play. Although the Denver Elite team was smaller in size than Resolute they played hard, and other coaches and administrators picked up on the teams solid skill set, a point a pride evident in Shewchuk’s praise of the team.
The Midget team was a little shaky in their first round-robin game, falling to Cali*Lax. But then Cali*Lax dropped a round-robin game, which set up a championship matchup between Denver Elite and Pro Box Lacrosse, a team out of Long Island, NY. By this time Denver Elite had righted the ship and surged to a 4-2 lead. Pro Box eventually tied the game at five, sending the championship game to a shootout. Coach Shewchuk opted to shoot second. Pro Box scored on their first shot, as did Carter Jensen, a 4 year veteran of the Denver Elite program. Skyler “Moose” Winery stopped the second Pro Box shooter, and Mac Mease buried his attempt for Denver Elite. Moose stopped Pro Box’s third shooter, earning the gold medal for Denver Elite.
Shewchuk stated that the MVP for the midget team was a toss-up between Jensen and Moose. He credits Jensen with being a great leader who stays calm under pressure and doesn’t get too high or too low in the ebb and flow of the game. Moose is an outstanding goalie and a student of the game, “you can tell he really watches the box game,” says Shewchuk.
The Midwest Classic was an opportunity to showcase what Denver Elite has been able to accomplish in just a few short years, and the kids delivered in every way possible. The win over Pro Box was a feather in the cap for Denver Elite.
The Denver Elite box teams will now turn their attention to this summer when the teams will compete in three major tournaments: the Elite Cup – Battle in the Box this June in Denver, the Canada Day youth lacrosse tournament in Calgary in July (think of it like the Rose Bowl tournament of youth box lacrosse), and the USBOXLA Nationals in Los Angeles in August.
Denver Elite’s box program is focused on growing the box game in the States. According to Shewchuk, “Ultimately our goal is to make you better. We don’t cut kids, we don’t turn anybody away.” With coaches like that who wouldn’t want to suit up?
LXTC is a lacrosse company based in Denver, Colorado run by six-time national champion, and current University of Denver coach Bill Tierney; stand-out NCAA, MLL, and NLL attackman, and current University of Denver associate head coach Matt Brown; and NCAA, MLL, and FIL championship winning goalie Trevor Tierney. LXTC is committed to developing players to perform at the next level, both on and off the lacrosse field.