Mohawks rally in Game 2 heat to top Gaels again
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
ELORA – The Elora Mohawks are a win away from their first Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League championship since 2005 as they rallied from a five-goal deficit to top the Green Gaels of Clarington 9-7 in a sweltering Elora and District Community Centre arena Sunday night.
“We didn’t draw it up like that, but we’ve been showing resiliency all year and all playoffs, for sure and we definitely did it again,” Elora coach Kyle Goss said.
The win gives the Mohawks a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five final.
The game was a tale of two halves as the hosts uncharacteristically struggled in the first half, especially in the first period when the Gaels used a fast break off turnovers to grab a 4-1 lead. They extended that lead to 6-1 at 11:30 of the second period before the hosts replaced starting goaltender Landon Kells with Matt Humphrey.
“We weren’t as mentally prepared as we probably should have been,” said Josh Rex, the only Mohawk to score more than one goal. He had two. “We had a big blowout kind of game the other night and that’s not really the way our team is coming into those types of game and not have our heads on right. But we really pulled it together, even with the heat. We had to have a bit of a goalie change there and he stood on his head for us, but it was an all-around team game like we’ve been doing all year.”
“That was different for us and Kellsy kind of paid the price for that by getting pulled,” Goss said of his team’s first-half defensive woes. “It was just something you kind of have to do to change the tides and it worked out this time. We definitely weren’t our best on the back end, but the second half we really nailed it down.”
While Goss might have been tempted to go off on his team after the first period, he kept his talks to a minimum.
“We didn’t really have to say much,” he said. “We just had to keep them on track and we didn’t need to get off our game at all. We just had to keep going. We weren’t terrible and that was the bonus. We had some chances, but we knew we weren’t good enough so we just stuck to it. We didn’t need to change a whole lot, we just needed to stick to it and play more as a team.”
Humphrey came up big, making a couple of saves on point-blank shots in his first appearance of the playoffs and his first game action since June 16.
“I’ve had confidence in Hump the whole time,” Goss said. “Hump’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever, ever seen and to be able to go to him and we knew we could go to him when we needed to. That’s just the way the playoffs work. Landon’s been going good and the team’s been going good and it has nothing to do with Hump at all. To see him come in there, I was so happy for him.”
Elora cut the gap to 6-4 by the end of the second period before the teams scored once apiece in the first half of the third. Then the Mohawks seized momentum and netted four goals in the final 10 minutes of the game to claim the win.
The match was interrupted numerous times, especially in the second half of the game, for sweat to be wiped off the floor. The floor itself wasn’t sweating, but anytime a player hit the concrete they left a trail of sweat behind them.
“Everything’s always a factor,” Rex said. “Everybody was slipping all over there. It’s those type of things we’re able to battle through as a team. We don’t think about it too much. We don’t have to really. We just pulled through.”
The referees called for a five minute break with about six minutes to go in the period for a good wipe-down of the floor. It was that hot and humid in the arena that the snack bar had sold out all its Freezies long before the second intermission.
Josh Rex led the Mohawks with a pair of goals while single markers were netted by Kurtis Woodland, Cole Spear, Tyrus Rehanek, Hyatt Welsh, Dean Sealey, Jonah White and Jack Francis. Sealey and Rehanek each had two assists while Spear, Humphrey, Rex, Klayton Hoelscher, Woodland, Zach Cameron, Welsh and Bo Columbus had one apiece.
Adam Kitchen and Brenden Lundy scored twice each for the Gaels while Bryce Tolmie, Tyler Goodchild and Brock Haley scored once each. Goodchild, Adam Poitras, Jeremy McWatters and Haley each had two assists while Matt Shand, Owen Boyle and Tolmie collected one apiece.
Humphrey stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced to get the win after Kells had stopped 10 shots during his stint. Steven Walsh took the loss for Clarington. He had 27 saves.
Game 3 of the series is slated for Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Darlington Sports Centre in Hampton. If the Gaels win that one, Game 4 is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. in Elora.
“(We have to do) exactly as we did last series,” Rex said of Elora’s semifinal win over the Six Nations Rebels. “We were saying the one to take a series is always the toughest one. That was our coach’s exact words. If we go down there and do what we did tonight without maybe having to come back as much as we did, we’ll be all right.”
“We just need to get back to what we did in Game 1,” Goss said of Elora’s 13-5 win in Friday’s series opener at Hampton. “We knew that we were going to see a better team out of them in Game 2, obviously, but we did a lot of good things that are going to beat good teams. We’ve just got to get back to not getting in our own heads and realizing that it’s definitely not over, playing a full 60 minutes and doing what we want to do and we should be fine.”
Winner of the series gets the Ontario Lacrosse Association’s berth in the national championship Founders Cup tournament in Akwesasne, hosted by the Mohawk Medicine Men of the Seneca Nation territory of New York Aug. 14 to 18. The tournament was to be held in Seneca, N.Y., but was moved a little over a month ago when work visas couldn’t be obtained for the officials.
The Ontario champ will be in a pool with the Medicine Men, Manitoba and Saskatchewan for the preliminary round. Top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals Aug. 17 while the other two move on to that day’s tier 2 semifinals. The medal games and tier 2 championship are scheduled for Aug. 18.
Teams in the other pool are Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia and First Nations.
The Ontario champ has won the championship eight consecutive years.