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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
PHOTO GALLERY: NOTL lacrosse team plays before thousands at Rock game
Members of the U9 Niagara Thunderhawks enjoyed a tour of the Toronto Rock's facilities in Hamilton prior to the home opener. TRACEY HOPE
Thunderhawks player Nico Mirabella takes in the sights at the big arena prior to the Rock's game at Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre. AMANDA MIRABELLA
The Thunderhawks rush onto the floor to start their game during the intermission at the Toronto Rock's home opener. SUPPLIED
Pregame the team greets Iggy, the Toronto Rock's mascot. LIANA MOORE
Ready to Rock – the Thunderhawks pose for a team shot before hitting the floor. TRACEY HOPE
Nico Mirabella gets an autograph from Philadelphia Wings Ryan Wagner (a Thunderhawks alumnus). TRACEY HOPE
The NOTL players hang out with Iggy, the Rock's mascot, before the game. TRACEY HOPE
Goaltender Weston Stewart is all ready for the action to start. ADAM STEWART
Goalie Ethan Sticca awaits the ceremonial opeing shot. JAMES STICCA
Goalie Weston Stewart looks on as Noah Werner has his Thunderhawks jersey signed by Philadelphia Wings player, Ryan Wagner, a NOTL lacrosse alumnus. TRACEY HOPE
Catherine Hope, Bennett Hope, Nico Mirabella and Noah Werner pose with Toronto Rock player (and Thunderhawks alumnus) Chris Weier. TRACEY HOPE
Brock Friesen (in blue) attempts a shot while Smith Kaposy and Bennett Hope try to stop him. TRACEY HOPE

Tracey Hope
Special to The Lake Report

A group of Niagara-on-the-Lake lacrosse players got to show off their skills and hang out with the pros Saturday night before a crowd of 7,100 fans at the Toronto Rock’s home opener.

The Niagara Thunderhawks U9 Sixes team, coached by Jared Hope, James Sticca and Matt Dietsch, hit the floor during the intermission in the Rock’s first game of the 2023-24 season at Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre.

“The whole experience was awesome and the smiles on the kids faces during the game said it all,” Dietsch commented afterward.

Parent Liana Moore added, “This was the perfect way to end off the year for the kids.” The team’s season wrapped up in October.

On Saturday, the Rock beat Philadelphia 11-7, but the NOTLers arrived at the arena before the game so they could drop off their equipment before all of the fans showed up.

This allowed our kids to have a behind-the-scenes view of the facility, meet the Toronto Rock cheerleaders, mascot Iggy and tour the arena.

For a lot of the families, it was the first time attending a professional lacrosse game and for the kids, their first time ever playing on an artificial turf floor.

It was also the largest crowd anyone on the team had ever played in front of.

At professional lacrosse games, music is played the entire time so it adds an energy level to the crowd you don’t typically see at other professional games, like the NHL.

As an added bonus, about two weeks before the game, the Toronto Rock reached out to see if one of NOTL’s goalies was interested in being in net for the ceremonial first shot.

Ethan Sticca was the perfect choice.

He is the grandson of Mary Sticca (vice-president of minor box lacrosse for the Ontario Lacrosse Association) and son of U9 team coach James Sticca (scheduler with the Thunderhawks board of directors).

The Sticca family combined has dedicated hundreds of hours to help make lacrosse programs locally and provincially a success.

The memorable night came about after I contacted the Rock in October about having our team play during an intermission.

We had hoped to do it Dec. 30 when Jay Thorimbert (Niagara Thunderhawks’ board treasurer, 2023 NOTL U11 coach and pro player with the New York Riptide) was playing against the Rock.

It wasn’t available, but on Saturday Thunderhawks alumnus Ryan Wagner of the Philadelphia Wings was in town for the match against the Rock.

So, we quickly snatched that up.

With coach Dietsch donning the referee’s shirt, the Thunderhawks had about a 10-minute scrimmage, with all players participating – team white vs. team blue.

Prior to the game, one of the team parents got the inside scoop on where to meet the pros after the game, which allowed the kids to meet and get autographs from various Rock and Wings players (including NOTL alumni Ryan Wagner and Chris Weier).

As well, some of the team saw recently retired Toronto Rock legend Dan Dawson in the crowd and got some photos with him.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the team was included in a short clip on TSN.

And thanks to a reshare by the Ontario Lacrosse Association, an Instagram video of the NOTL team entering the field has been viewed more than 4,100 times so far.

That’s a huge accomplishment for our small but mighty club as we’ve gained many new followers as a result.

For any kids looking to try out the sport, registration for a free Try Lacrosse program opens in mid-January.

It lets kids experience lacrosse over multiple sessions before the season. Details on how to sign up will be available at niagaralacrosse.com and on the team’s social media accounts in the new year.

The Thunderhawks roster includes goalies Weston Stewart and Ethan Sticca, and players
Rily Chan-Hill, Auston Cwiertniewski, Colton Dietsch, Reed Francis, Brock Friesen, Sydney Herriman, Bennett Hope, Smith Kaposy, Hunter Konopka, Nico Mirabella, Theo Moore, Noah Scaringi, Noah Sticca and Noah Werner.

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