Even though it’s the country’s national sport, collegiate lacrosse is not something that is very popular in Canada. It is not sanctioned by the national body of U Sports, rather being run by the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association (CUFLA).
Despite an independently run league, there is still a lot of talent which hits the field. Many of the CUFLA players participate in summer leagues away from there school and some even hit the turf in professional leagues such as the NLL, MLL or even the newest one, the PLL.
The Toronto Rock, Ontario’s only NLL team features many collegiate athletes, including three who have played in the CUFLA. That three feature two former Brock University Badgers, and a Laurier Golden Hawk. So who are these players and what is their season going to look like for the Rock?
Riley Hutchcraft: Goaltender and Former Laurier Golden Hawks
Between the pipes is for the Rock is Hutcraft, who is entering his third season with the Rock, and his second after taking over a bigger role on the team. In his first season, he only played in three games, whereas last year he hit the floor in 13 of them, playing a key role for Toronto.
With his increase in playing time, he also posted his best ever save percentage with a .861. He is still the backup goaltender but could be working in a more 1A 1B situation alongside Nick Rose, as he continues to develop as a professional goaltender.
Hutchcraft played his collegiate lacrosse as a member of the Laurier Golden Hawks, but never found much success in the purple jersey. His minor league lacrosse was with the Mimico Mountaineers, and that’s where he really shined. He was named to the Major Series Lacrosse all-star team twice, before being signed by the Rock. in his years in junior and minor lacrosse, he showed very well. Like many others, part of the difficulty he faced in the CUFLA was the adjustment from box lacrosse to field lacrosse. Goaltenders wear much less gear in the field game, and it is a very different style, hence his struggles integrating right into the NLL.
With the season on the horizon, Hutchinson will attempt to improve on every stat and get mo0re playing time this season with the Rock. He is a member of a revamped group that is expected to be much more competitive in the NLL’s eastern conference this season.
Brandon Slade: Defender and former Brock Badger
Brandon Slade will be putting in the hard work to keep the ball as far away from Hutchcraft and Rose as he possibly can. He is coming off of his first full lacrosse season and spoke to NLL.com about it. “It was always my dream to play for the Rock,” he said, before continuing on to talk about how he has learned the tendencies of players which will allow him to better defend against the highly skilled players this season.
He re-signed with the Rock this offseason and will try to improve on his totals from last year. The brock badgers, much like Hutchraft’s golden hawks are not renowned for their CUFLA success, although, the fact that they have put a pair of players onto the Rock is a statement in and of itself.
Latrell Harris: Defender and Former Brock Badger
It was 2010 when the last athlete from CUFLA was selected for the Canadian national lacrosse team, which is before Latrell Harris was named Canada in 2018 to represent them in Israel.
He is the first student from brock ever to be named to0 the national team. Once he got his first cap for Canada, he had earned the attention of the Rock and found a contract soon after the tournament. He was selected in 2016 by the Rock, and immediately earned a spot on the roster. Before joining the Brock Badgers, he played his junior lacrosse in Ontario’s junior “A” circuit with the St. Catherines Athletics.
He is known for his offensive contributions from the backline and will try to improve his output this season on a much improved Toronto team.
The collegiate system in Canada is not as followed or highly touted as it is in the United States, but it still offers very good players, three of whom will be on display when the Toronto Rock begin their season on December 7th in New England.
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The game on December 7 is in Toronto, and there will be 6 CUFLA players on the floor. In addition to the Toronto Rock guys, New England will be bringing Trent University All-Canadian Nick Chaykowski, former Brock Badger, Mackenzie Mitchell, and former Guelph Gryphon, Jackson Nishimura.