TORONTO, ON – August 13th, 2021 – For the first time since 2003, the St. Catharines Athletics are Ontario Champions after capturing the Iroquois Trophy of the Ontario Junior “A” Series (now known as the OJLL / Ontario Junior Lacrosse League). Led through an abridged 2021 season of play by captain Thomas Whitty and carried by an goal from Carter Zavitz with just 1:54 to play in regulation time, the Athletics withstood a late third period surge of energy from the Brampton Excelsiors offense to hang on to a 14-13 lead, which clinched the first championship title in almost two decades for the A’s and concluded the 47-game tournament in dramatic fashion.
The day prior, the Excelsiors had edged the Whitby Warriors 8-7 in the first afternoon semi-final match of the weekend to pave their road to the finals, with Brampton’s Kyle Waters tallying his second goal of the night in the final minutes of the third period to secure the victory. In the second semi-final match, St. Catharines earned their spot after narrowly defeating the Mimico Mountaineers by a score of 7-6, with the go-ahead goal in that game also provided courtesy of Zavitz. The four teams finished at the top of the east and west divisions, which had set the Final Four stage for single elimination games leading to the championship final on August 8th, 2021.
The last OJLL game of 2021 had a little bit of everything for the seasoned lacrosse fan: standout goaltender performances in both creases (Orleman for Brampton with a 5.40 GAA, MacLeod for St. Catharines with a 5.44 GAA), multiple players with hat tricks (for St. Catharines: Zavitz 3G/3A, Leclair 3G/3A, Mayea 4G/1A, and for Brampton: Grenon 3G/3A), major penalties and a heavyweight fight which resulted in an early exit for the A’s Trent Jackson and the Excelsiors’ Nathan Grenon. Throughout all three periods, the game felt like it could go either way as the two teams traded goals back and forth every few minutes. The at-capacity crowd was on the edge of their seats throughout the full two hours as the final seconds drained from the third period and Whitty hoisted the Iroquois Trophy above his head as he swarmed by his Athletics’ teammates.
Remarkably, the OJLL was able to execute its impressive 47-game schedule across three weekends in Oakville, ON at the state-of-the-art Toronto Rock Athletic Centre. Each of the OJLL’s 11 teams played two games per day over the first two weekends before the final four teams were decided by the OLA’s tie-breaker formula for the third weekend. Sprinkled in between game play were a number of media interviews, player profiles and, most importantly, camaraderie amongst the players and event personnel who had been unable to be together in almost 16 months. In total, 475 athletes and 22 on-floor officials were part of the action, which was attended by a notable cast of National Lacrosse League team representatives and General Managers, as well as a number of media outlets. All games were broadcast for free on JVI Sports Network and provided to universities and clubs who requested copies for scouting purposes. The league even managed to fit in an all-star East versus West showcase game on August 14th, where standout players from each of the league’s teams were given a final opportunity to put their athletic talents on display. The West, led by Head Coach Steve Toll, was victorious over the East, led by Toll’s best friend Shawn Williams, by a score of 11-8.
As the 2021 season came to a close, OJLL Commissioner Mark Grimes wished graduating players the best. “We want to thank everyone involved for their part in making this such a successful season, including each and every player participating in their last year with the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League,” said Grimes prior to the ceremonial face-off of the championship match, surrounded by Ontario Minister of Sport Lisa MacLeod, Rosa Checchia, Chief Marketing Officer of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, and VIP guest Doug Gilmour of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “What a privilege it has been to watch you play over these past three weekends. Our league is fortunate to have the best junior box lacrosse players in the world competing right here in Ontario, and we look forward to following what’s next for each of you in your playing careers.”