Bengals bite Mohawks late in deciding game
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
FERGUS – Three consecutive goals in the third period gave the Hamilton Bengals a 6-5 win over the Elora Mohawks Sunday night in the fifth and deciding game of the Yellow Bucket Series.
The best-of-five Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League Western Conference quarter-final playoff series featured two teams that had the majority of the players wearing yellow helmets although the goaltenders and a couple of other players wore black helmets.
The win in the series puts Hamilton into a conference semifinal against the Six Nations Rebels.
“I’m very proud of the guys,” Elora coach Kyle Goss said. “We knew how good Hamilton was. We definitely knew they were a lot better than the sixth-place team they finished in. We took them to the brink or they took us to the brink, however you want to look at it, but at the end of the day our guys never stopped working the whole year. Super proud of what we did and the future’s bright here, for sure.”
Game 5 turned out to be a game worthy of a series-deciding match as the action was end-to-end, the hitting was hard, the defence smothering and the goaltending splendid. And penalties were few and had little bearing on the outcome. Hamilton had a power-play goal and the Mohawks scored shorthanded, both goals coming on the same Elora penalty.
And there was a good-sized crowd estimated at around 900 at the Centre Wellington Sportsplex to witness the match. That crowd would not have comfortable fit into the Elora and District Community Centre’s arena.
Hamilton grabbed the early lead with the only goal of the first period before the Mohawks stormed back to go up 4-3 by the end of the second. They scored early in the third to shoot ahead by two goals, but Hamilton tied it by the midway point of the third.
Luke Robinson won it for the visitors with his goal at 16:14 of the third.
For the Mohawks, giveaways proved costly and their offence couldn’t penetrate the Hamilton defence the way it did in Hamilton Thursday when the Mohawks won to force the fifth game.
“We have had trouble all year hanging on to the lacrosse ball, whether it’s the jitters or whether our eyes just light up so much when there’s a wide open guy,” Goss said. “We have struggled with that and we gave the ball away a bit tonight.”
Ryan Buller struck for two goals and an assist for the Mohawks while Cody Stannard had a goal and two assists. Klayton Hoelscher and A.J. Skirving also scored while Eric Egan had two assists and goaltender Matt Humphrey, Noah Lebar, Dean Sealey, Hyatt Welsh and Kurtis Woodland each had one assist.
Robinson finished with two goals and two assists for Hamilton while Sam English also scored twice. Jordan Gillis had a goal and three assists while Trevor Barrett had a goal and an assist and Ty Argent, Tanner Brenneke and Michael Mayes each had one assist.
Dylan Sprentz picked up the win in the Hamilton net as he stopped 42 shots. Matt Humphrey took the loss for the Mohawks. He made 38 saves.
The series was the lone one in either conference to go to its five-game limit. All Eastern Conference quarter-finals were three-game sweeps with the Green Gaels of Clarington, Akwesasne Indians, Kahnawake Hunters and Oakville Buzz victorious.
In the Western Conference, Six Nations had a three-game sweep while the Orangeville Northmen and Windsor Clippers scored series wins in four games.
For a team that had at least half its roster new to junior B at the beginning of the season, the Mohawks end it feeling good about themselves despite suffering their seventh consecutive playoff series loss.
“I said to these guys in the room after that we weren’t even sure we were going to have a team this year,” Goss said. “It was looking pretty scarce, really. We had a lot of guys not knowing how good we were going to be, we had a lot of guys that left to try the junior A thing.
“I kind of called these guys ‘The Misfits.’ We were the guys that nobody knew what was going to happen. Nobody really had a whole lot of faith in us at the start of the year and I think we proved them wrong – 14-6 in the regular season, third place. Can’t get over that hump in the playoffs quite yet, but I’m very happy with the way the guys were for this season.”
The Mohawks end their season looking ahead to next season when, age wise, all but three of this year’s players will be eligible to return. Those who’ll be too old to play are defender Sam Rooney, transition Stannard and forward Egan.
“The Mohawks should really be looking forward to the future,” Goss said. “Hopefully everybody wants to stay and we can build on what we just did with a fairly inexperienced group.”