MIDDLEBURY — This past weekend’s inaugural visit of the Vermont Voyageurs semi-pro box lacrosse team to Middlebury’s Memorial Sports Center went well enough that the team’s management is considering another weekend-long visit next summer.
The Voyageurs’ senior and junior teams played a series of games at the Sports Center on Saturday and Sunday, drawing a decent crowd at $7 a pop on Saturday night and at least some fans for an early afternoon game the next day.
Voyageurs general manager Jeff Curtis said the Sports Center staff was “very accommodating,” that he appreciated the efforts of local organizers Dan McIntosh and Tim Hodson for bringing the Voyageurs to Middlebury, and he would like a return engagement.
“Overall, we were very pleased with the event and we hope to return in the summer of 2014,” Curtis said in an email. “The Memorial Sports Center is a first class municipal arena, well equipped for box lacrosse. I was pleased with the attendance on Saturday evening. We generally have a drop off in attendance on Sunday afternoon. We did well with the sales of Voyageurs branded merchandise (shirts/hats) and introductory box lacrosse videos.”
Hodson said on Saturday night, when the Voyageurs took on the United States box lacrosse developmental team, the arena’s stands were “half to three-quarters full,” while there were fewer fans on Sunday.
Of course, Hodson said there was decent daytime weather — giving residents outdoor options after weeks of clouds and rain — which may have also played a role in the lower Sunday numbers.
“Of course, those were the two days it didn’t rain over the past two weeks,” he said.
Box lacrosse is similar to outdoor field lacrosse, but it is played on an ice hockey rink with a smaller goal and a 30-second shot clock. Some observers say the game is complimentary to ice hockey, but also similar to basketball. Everyone plays offense and defense. The goalie is covered in padding. Checking is limited.
Hodson said the event also helped convince local box lacrosse enthusiasts that the sport has a future at the Sports Center, which invested in such a shot clock before this past weekend.
“Hopefully everyone agrees it’s kind of laying a foundation,” he said. “We saw people there who had never seen box lacrosse before … From that standpoint it was furthering the game.”
Hodson expects a recent uptick in Thursday night box lacrosse pickup numbers to continue, and said there is even talk of a box lacrosse youth team that could operate out of the Sports Center and lure players from the Addison, Rutland and Chittenden county areas. Such a team could be a “cheaper alternative” to expensive club lacrosse travel teams, he said.
Hodson also hopes more box lacrosse might help drive fundraising to help bring artificial turf that was donated by Middlebury College out of storage and finally put into place on the Sports Center rink.
“The vision for the turf became more clear, that we could put box lacrosse lines and soccer lines on it,” he said.
This past weekend also showcased some current and former local players. Onetime Middlebury Union High School athlete Evan Roberts, who has since played for Bryant University as well as Team England in Lacrosse World Cup competition, is a Voyageur regular.
Roberts recorded a goal and two assists in the Voyageurs’ 12-6 win over U.S.A Development on Saturday night. Vermont also beat the national development team on Sunday, 9-5.
Hodson said many of Roberts’ family members and friends showed up to root him on.
“There was a big Evan Roberts contingency there,” he said.
Area teens Seamus Eagan and Jerry Niemo also stepped in to play for the shorthanded junior U.S.A. Development team that split two games with a Quebec Midget squad, winning by 9-8 on Saturday and losing, 11-8 on Sunday.
Hodson said the two local youths “held their own” in the high-level competition.
Also, the Vermont Junior Voyageurs, featuring many current college athletes, played twice. On Saturday, they dropped a 16-14 decision to the Quebec Provincials despite three goals and three assists from Skidmore’s Josh Berger. On Sunday, the Onondaga Junior Redhawks edged the Junior Voyageurs, 14-11, despite three goals and an assist from Dartmouth College’s Adam Fishman.
The next Senior Voyageurs home game will be in Essex on Saturday, July 20, at 7 p.m. The team plays at the rink next to Essex High School.