As a professional firefighter who makes his living snuffing out flames, Cole Paciejewski knows all about that it takes to light it up.
Just like he’s been doing all this week around opposition nets at the European Indoor (Box) Lacrosse Championship in Hannover, Germany.
The Prince George native has been scorching-hot with his stick playing for Scotland at the 14-team event. Through four games, Paciejewski is leading the tournament in scoring with 25 goals and two assists, averaging six goals per game.
“I’m honestly playing the best lacrosse of my life right now,” said Paciejewski. “It just seems like everything I’m shooting is landing in the back of the net, so things are working really well for me.
“I’m 28 years old right now and I kind of feel I’m just at the peak of my career,” he said. “It’s kind of been my goal to lead one of these tournaments in points and right now I’m on top of the leaderboard. Hopefully, I can keep it going through the rest of the tournament and finish off strong.”
On Wednesday in a quarterfinal playoff, Paciejewski scored seven of his team’s eight goals but it wasn’t enough as the Scots fell 18-7 to Germany, the host team. That dropped Scotland into the consolation side and the best they can now finish is fifth.
“Germany is a very good team and we knew it was going to be a tough game and we gave them everything we had and came up a bit short,” said Paciejewski. “But I’m happy with how the team played. We lost 18-7, which is our biggest loss yet, but that was our toughest opponent.”
The Germans advance to a semifinal game Thursday against Finland. England and Czech Republic meet in the other semifinal.
The pro-German crowd in Hannover added to the challenge for Team Scotland.
“The crowd was hard to play against,” said Paciejewski. “It wasn’t a huge crowd but pretty much everyone there was there to cheer on Germany and they were pretty loud. The Germans are very fast, very physical, very tough, and every big play they made the crowd was erupting.”
Scotland (2-2) will play Slovakia Thursday (4:30 a.m. PT, streamed live on www.sportdeutschland.tv) in a game to determine who gets to play for fifth place on Saturday.
“I believe we were ranked somewhere in the middle of the pack, maybe ninth coming in, and the lowest we can finish now is eighth,” said Paciejewski. “It’s been a good tournament, we’re playing better than anyone thought we would.”
Paciejewski lived in Langley over the winter and played for the Shooting Eagles in the Lower Mainland-based Arena Lacrosse League. Facing high-calibre opponents on regular basis improved his lacrosse skills immeasurably and left him in excellent physical condition.
He came back home and played in the Prince George Senior Lacrosse Association for the BHL Bandits and was one of the league’s leading scorers despite missing four league games due to his out-of-town work fighting wildfires in the Yukon. Paciejewski was unavailable to the Bandits when they lost in the last game of the PGSLA playoff final series to the Canadian Brewhouse Devils.
The team has three other Canadians on the roster but are more heavily-weighted to homegrown Scottish players than in previous years. There is no minor lacrosse system in Scotland and Paciejewski says players there don’t start playing he indoor game until they get to university.
This marks the fifth time Paciejewski has played lacrosse for Scotland, the country where his father Richard was born. He’s been to two world box lacrosse championships, two field lacrosse world championships and one British indoor national championship.
Paciejewski collected five goals in Scotland’s opening game Saturday, a 13-8 loss to England, scored five times in a 16-9 win over Ireland on Sunday, then had nine goals and two assists in a 17-4 victory Tuesday over Belgium.
Paciejewski, who played NCAA field lacrosse in North Carolina for four years while on a scholarship, plans to focus exclusively on box lacrosse for the remainder of his international career. Otherwise, with world events scheduled on alternating years, he has to pay his own travel costs and that’s become too expensive for him to arrange a trip every year.
His next international tournament will be the indoor world championship in 2024.