Two local members of the Niagara Thunderhawks Junior Bs helped the Junior A team from Orangeville win the ultimate prize for their level of lacrosse, the Minto Cup.
Zach Belter and Chris Weier both played for the Thunderhawks this season, but with the early exit of the team from the playoffs at the Jr. B level, both were called up to help the Orangeville Northmen on their quest for the championship.
Belter, a defensive player for St. Bonaventure College field lacrosse in New York, was recruited due to his size, strength and natural ability as a defensive specialist. Although he only played two seasons of box lacrosse, his athleticism helped bolster the Thunderhawks’ defence and was recognized by the Northmen as a fit for reinforcing their back end on their quest.
Weier, however, has played his whole career in Niagara-on-the-Lake, both box and field lacrosse. He has won provincial championships in both areas in his minor career.
Weier is a quiet, dependable player who has been the top defensive member of the team all three seasons he has played for the Thunderhawks.
In his rookie year, he won top rookie defensive player for Jr. B lacrosse in Ontario. This success didn’t go unnoticed, and the following season he was recruited to play for the Northmen. This season, Weier had the opportunity to move up for the whole Jr. A season, but remained with his Thunderhawks family.
After the Thunderhawks’ season was finished, he joined the Minto Cup run with the Northmen. Weier played regularly on defence with them, and excelled as one of their top man-short players.
The Minto Cup is one of the oldest continuous awards for athletics, next to the Stanley Cup, originating in 1901 for the top level lacrosse in Canada.
In 1937, it was reassigned for the best Jr. A lacrosse team in Canada. The cup has visited NOTL four times over the past 30 years, with this year being the fifth.
The Thunderhhawks team is the local Jr. B lacrosse club playing out of the Meridian Credit Union Arena, and is made up of a majority of alumni from the Niagara Thunderhawks minor lacrosse system, with exceptions of field lacrosse players recruited from the U.S.
Jr. B is the second highest level of play for players from the ages of 17 to 21years old. The Niagara team has had a long history of developing highly skilled players. This positive characteristic for the program can be a negative, due to the fact that players get recruited to move to the highest level of play, Junior A. The Thunderhawks have seen five players leave the team to excel at the Jr. A level in the last two seasons, reaching the ultimate goal for these players.
The Northmen won the Ontario championship beating out the Burlington Chiefs, which sent them to the Minto Cup in Langley, B.C.
After going 3-0 in the round-robin tournament, the Northmen met the Victoria Junior Shamrocks for the three-of-five playoff for the cup. The Northmen came into the finals as the overwhelming favourite, and didn’t disappoint. They were undefeated for the whole tournament, to win the championship.
For more information, alumni news and the schedule for the Niagara Thunderhawks, visit thunderhawksjrb.ca.