It’s a serious piece of hardware that looks like the Stanley Cup and runs about $2,000.

Made out of solid copper, it will never leave the state of Montana. If Tucker Sargent and his Grizzly lacrosse team have their way, it will never leave Missoula.

Manufactured and donated by Mountain Copper Creations of East Missoula, the piece was created for the inaugural Copper Cup March 21-23 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Sargent, fifth-year coach of UM’s club program, is hoping for some serious fan support when his troops battle Montana State and the University of Great Falls for possession of the cup.

“The Montana State coach and I have been talking forever about how to make a marquee event, really just make it cool,” Sargent said. “The last few years our attendance has grown. Since they added the lights at Washington-Grizzly Stadium that has added interest.

“It’s really just figuring out how to get even more people there to see it. Because once they see it, then they’re into it.”

Although there’s a good number of locals who have never witnessed a game, lacrosse continues to gain momentum in Missoula. Thanks to countless hours of volunteer work by coaches and enthusiasts like the 27-year-old Sargent, Zootown’s youth program is taking flight.

It’s an exciting turn of events for Montana’s coach, who grew up playing lacrosse in New England and was a member of UM’s 2007 national championship team. There’s just one problem though: Lately the Grizzlies have lost a lot of homegrown talent to their archrival.

“One thing that kind of bothers me, the people running the youth league in Missoula were strongest and first to come on in Montana and there was a lot of effort behind it,” Sargent noted. “So we’ve got all these great Missoula kids, but then a lot of them when they go to school they want to get out of town, so there’s like four kids that I would love to have on our team but ended up going to Montana State.

“The Copper Cup is definitely going to be a homecoming for them. I just wish we’d get some of the Bozeman kids coming to UM. I feel like our (grass roots) efforts have been helping Montana State almost.”

The Grizzlies do have one local player in sophomore Tanner Pace, a Missoula Big Sky grad working hard for playing time. Sargent is hoping young prospects like Pace will help him pull the Grizzlies out of a “lull.”

“We’re getting more high-caliber kids now,” the coach offered. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t have our best season we’ve had in my tenure coaching.”

The Grizzlies currently hold a 1-1 record with a win at the University of Portland and a loss to the Oregon Ducks. They will be making their 2014 home debut when they kick off the Copper Cup two weeks from Friday against the Cats. Montana State will then play Great Falls on Saturday and UM will finish up with a game vs. Great Falls on Sunday.

The three-day event is free to the public and the winner will walk away with the Copper Cup. Or slip and slide away, depending on whether this snow is still around.

“We play rain or shine, snow or no snow,” gushed Sargent, who devotes time to recruiting despite the fact he has no scholarship money to offer.

“We played Idaho last year where it was a night game in April and at 3 p.m. it started snowing and didn’t stop. By game time there was four inches. It ended up being our most memorable game and it was at Washington-Grizzly.”

With some vocal support from local lacrosse enthusiasts, Sargent and his stick-wielding crew hope to strut away with the Copper Cup on March 21.

And if there’s no snow involved with this memory, we’ll all be just fine with that.

Reporter ​Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@lee.net.

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Deputy Sports Editor