Best regular season in team history delivers semi-final spot
By Jim Hynes
With the help of a tie-breaking formula only a Math major could love, or even understand, the McGill lacrosse Redmen have earned a No.1 national ranking and a direct berth in the semi-finals of the Baggataway Cup, the Canadian University Field Lacrosse (CUFLA) national championship tournament. It marks the fourth time in the past five seasons the Redmen have taken part in the event. The 2011 edition takes place this weekend (Nov. 4-6) in London, Ontario.
The Redmen finished the regular season tied atop the CUFLA’s East division with the Bishops Gaiters. The teams had identical, league best 9-1 records, with each suffering their only loss at the hands of the other. What’s more, each team scored 22 goals in the two contests, furthering the deadlock.
To make a long math problem short, using the CUFLA’s next tiebreaker formula (goals-for over goals-for + goals against), McGill finished a measly decimal point better (0.64 to 0.63) than their rivals from Lennoxville, who had to take a longer path to the national championship.
One goal: win it all
Having lost only two of their 2010 starters, All-Canadians Guy Fox (goalie) and Sepp Stephens (defense), and with 20 returning players, the Redmen came into the 2011 season, with a single goal – winning a national championship.
“Nobody on this team will be satisfied with anything less – we’ve talked about it since August,” says Tim Murdoch, Head Coach of the Redmen since 2003. “We want a championship.”
Murdoch credits an excellent team chemistry, great goaltending courtesy of NCAA transfer J. Jard Waesche (Greenwich, Conn.) and freshman southpaw Riley McGillis (Peterborough, Ont.), and dominating ball control for the team’s strong regular season, the best in its 11-year history.
“We control 75 to 85 per cent of the face-offs thanks to John ‘J.J.’ Miller (Odenton, Md.), the No. 1 face-off man in Canada, so we’ve been able to control the pace and dictate our style of play. Our patience on offense has frustrated teams, while our experience on defense and goaltending have made it very hard to score on the Redmen,” says Murdoch, who played varsity lacrosse at Princeton University and later with the Harvard Business School, where he was co-captain and served as a player-coach in 1989 and 1990.
Hard to score against indeed. In a sport where double-digit offensive output is commonplace, McGill boast a league-leading goals-against average of 6.5. Little wonder, then, that no team beat them in regulation time this year. Their Oct. 6 loss to Bishops and Oct. 14 exhibition defeat to SUNY Plattsburgh both occurred in overtime.
The road ahead
To take home the title, however, the Redmen will need to play a more disciplined game than in years past, where penalties, “dumb ones,” Murdoch says, have cost them dearly in big games against top teams like Guelph and perennial powerhouse Brock, winners of 18 CUFLA championships in 26 years. Both teams are Baggataway Cup participants again this year. Carleton, Bishops and host Western round out the 2011 participants. Guelph’s 20-4 playoff win over Laurentian this past weekend also earned them a semi-final berth.
“It won’t be easy. The top teams in CUFLA are all strong, and we feel that the semi-finals and finals will be determined by a small margin of victory. But, we’re really excited about the possibilities,” Murdoch says. “I think we can go all the way and win a championship for McGill this year.”
For more information on the CUFLA and to keep tabs on the Baggataway Cup action, visit http://cufla.ca/.