Thompson sports fans will have the opportunity to see the run-and-gun spectacle of high-calibre junior B lacrosse this weekend at the C.A. Nesbitt Arena when the Manitoba Blizzard and Saskatoon SWAT pay a special visit for a pair of regular season Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League games.
The games – on Saturday at 7:30 p.m and Sunday at noon – will feature four homegrown players on the Blizzard Roster: David Saunders, Isaac Babulic, William Lutz and Evan Ritchie. The cost of admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids.
Lacrosse at this level – two steps below professional – features a unique combination of physical play and finesse, says Brad Ritchie, a Thompson lacrosse coach and also the father of current Blizzard player Evan Ritchie and former player Taylor Ritchie, who completed his last level of eligibility last season and was the first Thompson player to earn a spot on the Manitoba junior team’s roster.
“The ball handling and the passing is impressive to actually witness,” says Brad Ritchie. “The speed and the toughness and the hitting is as hard as hockey. The grace and the skill required in such a tough aggressive environment makes it interesting to watch. It’s a faster-paced game [than hockey]. There are no offsides and there’s no icing. You don’t’ want to take your eyes off it because it just keeps moving. The conditioning of these athletes is incredible.”
As a comparison, Brad says, it would be like having the Portage Terriers or Flin Flon Bombers play a regular season hockey game in Thompson.
Bringing the two teams up north is intended to expose more potential players and fans in Thompson to the game and to demonstrate how far players in the Thompson Lacrosse Association and on the R.D. Parker field lacrosse team can go.
“William and Evan and Isaac and David, they started the same as our kids now with trouble with passing and catching and just learning to pick up the ball. But through hard work they’ve been able to take it to the next level and meet new people, develop new experiences, develop skills for adulthood and travel the country doing something they love. We want to give these young people here today the same opportunity these guys had and Taylor as well.”
Any proceeds from the event will go towards the Thompson Lacrosse Association, which is still accepting registrations and will have a booth set up at both games.
“The Thompson Lacrosse Association is thankful to both organizations for coming and playing two regular season games here and they’ve both been awesome to work with,” said Brad Ritchie. “There’ll be a lot of goals, there’ll be a lot of great saves, there might be a fight. They’re going to see highly skilled young athletes.”