It takes a lot of effort to become a professional athlete. Often times it means sacrificing school for the pursuit of sports, however, that’s not the case for some alumni of the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association (CUFLA), who now find themselves in the NLL.
Many of the Canadians who make the NLL, hail from two provinces; British Columbia or Ontario. The games against the Vancouver Warriors and the Toronto Rock often hold a special place in the hearts of players as they are able to perform in front of friends and family.
The Warriors played at home last week, falling 12-7 to the overpowering Calgary Roughnecks, but the Rock has yet to hit the floor at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. A couple of weeks ago 49 Sports previewed what fans can expect from the Rock’s CUFLA alumni. This week, those players will host fellow CUFLA alumni from the New England Blackwolves in Toronto’s first home game of the season. The matchup will feature the most CUFLA content than any other possible matchup with the current NLL rosters, with seven CUFLA alumni suiting up Saturday night.
Taking a look at the New England Blackwolves roster this season, they have a lot of university talent, including four former CUFLA players. These players are Nick Chaykowski of Trent, Ty Logan of Carleton, Mackenzie Mitchel of Brock and Jackson Nishimura from Guelph. All but one of these players have been members of the Wolves for a while and will be trying to advance push the club past the NLL Eastern Conference semi-final for the first time in four years.
So who are these four men from CUFLA? Let’s take a look.
Nick Chaykowsky: Trent Excalibur
If you want to talk about Canadian things, then talk to Nick Chaykowsky. He’s entering his third year of NLL action, and also played Junior C Hockey before focusing on lacrosse. He sure is an athletic guy and is well versed in Canada’s two nationally recognized sports.
On the floor, he is a bouldering defenseman who plays a very physical game. While his weight, 19 lbs, may not be that of a heavyweight fighter, he is able to combine his 6’2” frame and his lacrosse smarts to become a formidable defender.
Before joining the New England Blackwolves as their 2017 second-round pick, he played junior C hockey and played lacrosse at Trent University. He is currently still at school, as he competes with the Blackwolves. It’s not an easily undertaken task, but work or school balance with the NLL is a common situation for many players across the league.
He scored 18 goals this season with the Excalibur, finishing one goal away from the team lead held by Adam Kitchen. In his previous two NLL seasons, he has scored three goals in total. Now, these stats are not perfect as the CUFLA is field lacrosse compared to the boxed version that is the NLL. It will be interesting to see how quickly he can adjust into the box again, after having his most successful season on the field.
Hailing from Bradford, Ontario, he will be hoping to pop a couple of shots into the back of the Toronto goal to please his special ones in the stands.
Mackenzie Mitchell: Brock Badgers
School pride will be in full force Saturday night at the Scotiabank Arena, as Mackenzie Mitchell takes on two others from his alma-matter in Brandon Slade and Latrell Harris. Not only did they both compete for the same school, but they were also teammates for two seasons, including a pair of trips to the final where they fell to the Western Mustangs both times.
Those finals losses did not put them in despair, as all three players have gone on to become successful players in the NLL. Mitchell did not light the CUFLA on fire, but he has made himself visible in his defensive efforts at the top level.
This is his first full season with the Blackwolves, after being traded to them with two games remaining from the Vancouver Warriors last season. Through his eight games with Vancouver, he was one of their important defensemen, picking up 16 loose balls, three of which caused turnovers.
While he is no Ian Hawksbee on picking up loose balls, he has played with the legend back in Vancouver and undoubtedly learned from his successful career. With his defensive skills on display and former teammates on the other side, Mitchell will be an intriguing player to watch this weekend.
Jackson Nishimura: Guelph Gryphons
It is very possible that Nishimura could fill an entire section of Scotiabank Arena with family and friends. He played his junior lacrosse right in the heart of the city with the Toronto Beaches and was brought up through the lacrosse community around the Greater Toronto Area.
When not playing for the Beaches, he was pursuing his degree in management economics at the University of Guelph, and when he was not doing that! Well, he was competing for the Gryphons on the lacrosse pitch.
Out of the four CUFLA alumni in this piece, Nishimura was the most successful in his post-secondary career. He missed only two games throughout his four years of school and was potently offensive throughout each of them. Not being a forward, his offence didn’t come from goals, but from assists, where he only had one season below five.
In his first NLL season in 2018-19, he played 13 games, which is one more from the 12 that are played in the CUFLA regular season. It could be that his body was unprepared to endure the rigours professional lacrosse had to offer, as it gave out after a similar amount of work that it had been used to.
He has worked throughout the offseason to increase his endurance and durability to be able to compete until the bitter end of New England’s NLL campaign, whether that is at the end of the regular season or sometime in the playoffs. When he is on his game, it’s not only good for him but also New England’s forwards who need someone to start the transition from the back of the floor.
Ty Logan: Carleton Ravens
The Rookie, the new guy, the freshman. Whatever he’ll be called, the former Carleton Raven is ready for his first NLL season after signing with the Blackwolves back in September.
He has played at both the A and B levels of junior lacrosse in Canada and played for Carleton in his three seasons competing against the rest of the CUFLA. His university career was riddled with injuries, allowing him only to play one full season from his four years in the nation’s capital.
Through those four seasons, he scored a total of 25 through 43 games, 15 of which were goals. His best season came in 2016 when he was finally healthy to get through the whole 12 game campaign. He scored nine goals and eight assists, however, the Ravens failed to make the Baggataway Cup playoffs.
It has been a slow and untraditional road to the NLL for Logan, but he is ready to take on the world’s best dawning the Wolves black and orange in 2019-20.
Many fans in the crowd will not realize the amount of Canadian university content on display, but the fact that there are seven athletes who have made it this far all competing in one game is a statement itself. For post-game coverage and updates on how all seven players did, check into 49-sport.com Sunday to find out.