Fergus Thistles rally in third for West Division crown

FERGUS – The Fergus Thistles certainly didn’t want to see history repeat itself Tuesday night at the Centre Wellington Sportsplex.

The Thistles prevented that from happening when they struck for six third-period goals to down the Brantford Warriors 10-7 to win the best-of-five Ontario Junior C Lacrosse League’s West Division final 3-1.

“We were in this position two years ago where we were up 2-1 on Brantford as well and we lost Game 4 back here and then went down and lost Game 5 down there,” Fergus coach Ryan Morrison said. “We knew how important this game was and we needed to come out and we needed to win it at home here.”

The game was the first one in the series that was won by the home side. The visiting team had taken the previous three matches including a 6-5 win by Brantford at Fergus Friday night.

“We didn’t do anything different this game, but the difference from this home game to our past home game was our offence,” Morrison said. “Our offence finally came to play in this third period and we took it to them. It was just a matter of time until we figured out that goalie.”

Brantford’s Jacob Moir was pulled less than four minutes into the third period after Fergus’s seventh goal of the game and third of the period.

The teams had been tied 2-2 after the first period and the Warriors led 6-4 after the second.

“We were a little concerned at the end of the second, but as you know from the Wilmot series, these guys were down 2-0 and they came back – battled back,” Morrison said. “You can’t push us down.”

Nick Aitchison led the Thistles with five goals and three assists while Cameron Angst collected seven assists. Brodie Schafer scored a hat trick and single goals were netted by Sam MacDonald and Trenton Hitchcock. MacDonald also had three assists while J.J. Swanston, Alec Beaurogard, Adam Lantz (the only Thistles player still with the team who was on it during the previous playoff loss to Brantford) and Schafer each had one assist.

Ryan Dorr hit for a pair of goals for Brantford while singletons were added by Connor Merritt, Jayden Drage, Dalton Thomas, Nick D’Amico and Caleb Wells. Merritt assisted on three of the goals while Trevor McDonald had two assists and D.J. Martins, Wells, Drage, Michael Comeau, Dalton Thomas and Jackson Miller had one apiece.

The Thistles outshot Brantford 51-49 and Xavier DeMichele picked up the win with 42 saves. Moir had 33 saves for Brantford while his replacement, Jackson Miller, had eight and was charged with the loss.

The Thistles advance to play the East champion Whitby Warriors in the Meredith Cup championship series.

“We haven’t seen Whitby yet so we can only go off of what we’ve seen on Pointstreak (league’s website),” Morrison said. “We know that they haven’t lost a game all season and we’ve seen their goal differential from goals for to goals against. We know we have our work cut out, but I also don’t think they’ve seen a defence like us or an offence like us on that side.”

While the Thistles finished third in the West Division and are 19-8-0 on the season including 8-3-0 in the playoffs, Whitby has won all 22 games its played including six in the playoffs. The Thistles have also outscored their opponents 275-200 this season while Whitby outscored its rivals 334-127.

“I think they’re going to be shocked when they come in and see the way that our defence plays because we do play such a sound system, five-man defence,” Morrison said.

The league final is also a best-of-seven affair while the division final and division semifinals were best-of-fives and the opening round was a best-of-three.

“It’s a lot longer of a journey,” Morrison said. “In a five-game series, everything’s bang, bang, bang. You have a bit more time to figure them out (in a best-of-seven), but you can never count them out.”

While Whitby has home-floor advantage in the series due to their better regular-season record, the final is to start at the Centre Wellington Sportsplex Friday at 8 p.m.

Whitby is to host Game 2 at the McKinney Centre Sunday at 8 p.m. and Game 3 there Aug. 7 at 8 p.m. The Thistles are to host Game 4 Aug. 11 at 4 p.m.

Games 5, 6 and 7 will only be played if they’re needed and all have 8 p.m. game times. Game 5 is to go at Whitby Aug. 13, Game 6 at Fergus Aug. 16 and Game 7 at Whitby Aug. 17.

The West Division championship title is the first for the Thistles. However, the Centre Wellington squad, then known as the Warlords, reached the league final in 2008 and 2010 when it was a single-division league. The Warlords were beaten 4-2 by the Caledon Bandits in 2008 and swept in three games by the Clarington Shamrox in a best-of-five final in 2010.

 

Thistles 10 Warriors 7
Brantford     2-4-1–7
Fergus       2-2-6–10
 
Click here for complete boxscore
 
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