Aug 29, 2016

Jr NLL 2016.jpg(August 29, 2016)… After the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Jr. Knighthawks PeeWee team poured over the bench and rushed winning goalie Sagoyehdehs Hill. A wave of teal jerseys swept over the netminder as the Jr. Knighthawks celebrated a thrilling 6-4 win Sunday over the Jr. Swarm to end the Jr. NLL Tournament with a victory.

“To see them get a big “W”, see them jump the boards, and tackle the goalie are the reasons you do this,” said Knighthawks coach Mike Accursi. “It was great to see.”

It was a thrilling ending to the Jr. NLL Tournament, which featured over 400 players from around North America. Teams in three age groups converged on Oakville, Ontario, from August 26-28 to compete for the coveted Champion’s Cup.

“It was so much fun playing for my favorite team in the NLL; it was amazing,” said Nicholas Tumminelli of Webster, sporting a huge smile on his face. “Just wearing the colors that the real players wear was a great feeling.”

Like their NLL counterparts, the Jr. Knighthawks played with passion and pride as they took on teams from cities like Toronto, Colorado, Vancouver and Philadelphia. The Jr. Knighthawks also had the unique opportunity of playing under Knighthawks legends like Mike Accursi and newest Knighthawk Andrew Suitor.

“I learned how to play the game of box lacrosse,” said Brad Ruffalo of Webster. “I had a great time and it was a lifetime experience.”

For Carter Accursi, it was also a chance to play for his dad, who is a future Knighthawks hall of famer.

“I take quite a bit of pride playing for the Knighthawks because my dad played on the team for a long time,” said the Jr. Knighthawks veteran. “I love playing the game of lacrosse, so every time I go out there I try to do my best.”

[peewee8] On Sunday afternoon, Rochester’s Leo Letta led the way with a pair of goals, while Ruffalo notched one goal and one assist. Accursi, Warren Oakes and Ethan Shappee, who hails from Webster, also added single tallies. The Jr. Knighthawks used their balanced attack to tie the game late in the first half and then took command in the second by scoring four times. The win against the Jr. Swarm was a culmination of the Jr. Knighthawks’ effort in their previous four games.

“Every game we got better with our passing, shooting, picks and cutting” said Accursi. “The last game was probably our best game. Everything was going well for us. It was a big improvement from the first game.”

The Jr. Knighthawks broke open the contest with a three-goal run, which spanned both halves. Letta started the rally as he tied the game at two with just under five minutes to play in the first frame. He connected for a shorthanded goal, as he took a cross-floor pass and unleashed a rocket to the near pipe.

In the second, the Jr. Knighthawks took their second lead of the game – one they would never relinquish. Ruffalo staked Rochester to a 3-2 advantage as he cut to the middle and buried a feed from James Cook. The offense continued to click with Warren Oakes scoring off a rebound two minutes later to make it 4-2.

“It was exciting,” said Ruffalo, answering the question like an old pro. “I thought it would be a harder shot, but it’s easy when you cut through the middle.”

The Jr. Swarm would get back within one, only to have the Jr. Knighthawks regain the two-goal cushion on a fortuitous bounce. After a shot caromed off the crossbar, it bounced the length off the floor and ricocheted off the Jr. Swarm goalie into the waiting stick of Letta. Letta then scooped up the ball and buried it into the open net for a 5-3 lead with 10:04 to play.

[friends] The seesaw battle featured one more Jr. Swarm goal, which again was met with a Jr. Knighthawks’ response. Shappee, who said the highlight of his tournament was scoring goals, netted one of his biggest with under three minutes to play. After winning a jump ball in front of his own net, he split two defenders and scored on a breakaway to ice the game. The win capped off an incredible experience for Shappee and the Knighthawks.

“It was a fun, new experience playing a true box lacrosse game,” he said. “It was great to meet new friends, and hang out in the locker room and in the hotel.”

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