Power play helps Mohawks take playoff opener
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
FERGUS – The Elora Mohawks were perfect on their power play and that proved to be the difference as they opened their Ontario junior B lacrosse league playoff series with the Hamilton Bengals with a 7-5 victory Thursday night at the Centre Wellington Sportsplex.
The Mohawks scored on each of their three power plays in the tight-checking match and they held Hamilton scoreless on all three of its power plays.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Fergus coach Kyle Goss said. “They’re a very good sixth-place team. We weren’t taking them for granted at all. That’s what playoff lacrosse is and we were prepared for that.”
The Mohawks finished third in the conference at 14-6-0 while Hamilton was sixth at 12-8-0.
“They know how to play big games and they know how to play tough games,” Goss said. “They played us tough during the regular season and we knew that it was going to be no different. And they’d probably be ramped up a bit because it’s playoff time and we were prepared for that.”
“Come playoffs it’s a lot tougher,” Elora’s Ryan Mueller said. He had a goal and two assists in the win. “Those are not the teams we see in the regular season. It’s a completely different game, much tougher. Everyone’s playing better. Everyone’s playing tougher, much stronger.”
The teams were tied 1-1 at the end of the first period and Elora led 5-3 at the end of the second.
“We know how to play in those tight games,” Goss said. “We’ve done that all year long and we score big goals. We score at the right time and I really like that about our group.”
“We know what it’s going to take to make it through the playoffs and what to do at the end of the game when it’s tight like that,” Mueller said.
Such was the closeness of the game that Elora took one more shot on net than Hamilton – 43-42.
Mueller scored the eventual game-winner for the Mohawks at 11:14 of the third period and Kurtis Woodland added an insurance marker on a power play just less than a minute and a half later.
“We just played our game and kept it strong,” Mueller said. “We’ve been working all season to have the legs to be able to play hard at the end of the game. Dryland’s keeping us going.”
After having three consecutive home games at the Elora and District Community Centre halted and moved to the Centre Wellington Sportsplex in Fergus due to safety concerns over a slippery floor caused by the humidity in the Elora arena, the Mohawks’ home games in this series will be played in Fergus.
That means the teams have a little bit more space to work with as the playing surface in the Fergus arena is 15 feet longer than the playing surface in the Elora arena. Both are 85 feet wide.
“We’re not going to play a different game just because we’re here and we’re not going to play a different game in Hamilton,” Goss said. “We’re just going to play the way we want to play.”
“This (arena) gives us a little more oom in the offensive end,” Mueller said. “In a way it helps us. The benches are in the same areas so it’s not a big difference.”
Woodland finished with a pair of goals for Elora while Dawson Bolger, Nathan Bolger, Eric Egan and Cody Stannard also scored. Klayton Hoelscher had two assists while Dawson Bolger, Nathan Bolger, Owen Ristov and Hyatt Welsh each had one assist.
Hamilton received goals from Trevor Barrett, Yvon Bolduc, Sam English, Peter Masters and Luke Robinson. Barrett, Sam Gower and Carter Schultz each had one assist.
Landon Kells was the winner in the Elora net as he made 37 saves while Dylan Sprentz took the loss for Hamilton. He made 36 saves.
Second game of the best-of-five Western Conference quarter-final series is set for Monday at Hamilton starting at 8 p.m. Game 3 is to go Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Centre Wellington Sportsplex.
“We’re just going to have to keep playing our game,” Mueller said. “We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”