With Lloydminster hosting the Alberta Lacrosse Association provincial tournaments this year in July, Lloydminster Xtreme head coach Graham Murray wants to ensure his team is playing a playoff home game during the three days the provincial tournament is in town.
It would mean another step forward for the Xtreme, who two seasons ago, in Murray’s first year as bench boss for the junior B lacrosse team, missed the playoffs all together, and last year they won their first round series over the Westlock Rock before being eliminated in the second round by the eventual league champions, the Fort Saskatchewan Rebels.
Now in his third season with the team, armed with a roster of four 21-year-old players and a core group that has stayed together for the past three seasons, Murray sees a home playoff game as just the start of what could be a championship season.
“The goal has to be to host a home playoff game,” said Murray. “Really, with what we got out here, it should be a championship team. With Fort Saskatchewan leaving the league and we have four 21-year olds, we have a veteran squad and should be tops in the league and I expect to be there.”
Only two players left the Xtreme due to graduation, and while tryouts are currently on, Murray is still waiting to see who else will come to tryouts once hockey season officially ends and work situations for older players figure themselves out.
The Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League’s junior B division has been split into two divisions this year, with the Xtreme playing in the North East Division along with the Lakeland Heat (Cold Lake), Sherwood Park Titans and Vermilion Roar.
Westlock, the Edmonton Warriors, Edmonton Wizards and Grande Prairie Jr. Thrashers make up the North Central Division, although playoff structure will take the top six teams from the entire conference, with the first two seeds getting a bye in the playoffs. The North Division finalist will cross with the South Division finalist for provincial champion.
With Fort Saskatchewan moving to junior A, it leaves an opening for a new champion in the junior B ranks. Murray sees the Xtreme as a team that can fill that gap for at least this year. Last year, Lloydminster moved to the Civic Centre for home games, rather than playing in Kitscoty, as a way to try and draw more fans and more local players to the club. It so far has paid off well, as the team is seeing growth in numbers of players coming out for camp.
“In the three years I have been here, we have definitely retained more players,” said Murray. “This is the year where it has built up into something where we have a legitimate shot at winning a provincial championship with this team. There is definitely players coming up through midget so we are getting more. We are showing there is a place to play after midget and get four more years of lacrosse.”
The Xtreme will be hosting a fundraiser on April 7 at the Tilted Kilt from 5 to 11 p.m. before the season opens. The night will also include a silent auction, with proceeds from the auction and a portion of menu items ordered going to the team.
The regular season opens on April 30 with the Xtreme heading to Grande Prairie.