With six games left in the regular season, the Lloydminster Xtreme hold the final playoff spot in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League’s (RMLL) junior B North Conference, even if they are in last place in their division.
With three wins in their last five games, including a pair of weekend victories over the Grande Prairie Thrashers last Saturday and Sunday, Lloydminster sits with a 5-7 record and are tied in points with the Lakeland Heat who have a 5-6 record, yet have a game on the Xtreme.
But with six teams making the playoffs from the conference, Lloydminster has a comfortable lead on the Edmonton Blues, the only team who can catch them in the standings, and gave themselves some breathing room heading into the final games of the season.
“We just need to get in,” said head coach Graham Murray. “I’m not too concerned if we are the fifth spot, fourth spot, third spot, it doesn’t matter to me. We can compete with any team that is in the league right now as long as we come to play.”
Against tough competition, Lloydminster hasn’t be blown out in any game, losing in overtime to the undefeated Fort Saskatchewan Rebels on May 23 8-7, and losing twice to the Vermilion Roar, 13-10 and 12-10. With lower penalty minutes, the most penalized team in the league has managed to cut the amount of times they handicap themselves while keeping their games against the leagues best extremely close.
However, Lloydminster showed what happens when they don’t come ready to compete, as a disappointing 9-5 loss to the Edmonton Warriors at the end of May was an eyeopener for the team with only a few games remaining in the schedule.
“The defence is still a work in progress and it is getting better,” said Murray. “Since the first couple of games we have definitely limited our penalties. We are leading the league in penalties so it is nice that we are limiting it to two or three a game max.”
Lloydminster has been the only team in the RMLL that has been able to take Fort Saskatchewan the distance this season, so this weekends matchup against the Rebels will be a marker to see where they stand heading into the playoffs. The Xtreme also have the Blues and Heat the following week, two teams they are either trying to move away from or leap in the standings.
With favourable matchups against some of the leagues lower teams, Lloydminster has complete control of their destiny heading into the postseason, so for the rest of the season it is about working on a shutdown defence and keeping the penalty numbers low. Murray isn’t looking at standings and points for a favourable match in the playoffs as he feels Lloydminster can play with any team, just as long as they control the things they can control and not get pulled into another teams game.
“We can only control what we can do,” said Murray. “We just need to worry about ourselves, keep winning games and we’ll be fine.”