Mohawks collect first playoff series win in seven years
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
ELORA – The Elora Mohawks are to embark on a trip into a territory no Mohawks team has ventured into for seven years – the Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League’s Western Conference semifinals.
“It doesn’t feel like anything we’ve felt before, clearly,” Elora’s Kurtis Woodland said Wednesday night after the Mohawks completed a three-game sweep of the Niagara Thunderhawks in this year’s conference quarter-finals with a 16-3 romp Wednesday night at the Elora and District Community Centre. “It’s an unreal feeling right now and we’ve just got to keep rolling with it.”
“It’s been a long time coming for a lot of the guys and I’m happy for them and I’m proud of them,” Elora coach Kyle Goss said. “We definitely know our job isn’t done. We didn’t come here just to win the first round, we came here to hopefully have a long summer playing lacrosse. That’s definitely our goal.”
The Mohawks were encouraged by the play of their offence in the Niagara series as they outscored the Thunderhawks 44-11 in the series.
“That shows that we have what it takes to put up big numbers and to keep the other team down low,” Woodland said. “That’s a really good thing to keep our confidence high and see where the next series goes.”
“Our offence did a really good job this series,” Goss said. “We seem to be clicking well. (Niagara is) a big, strong team and they knocked us around a bit, but we did a really good job counteracting that.”
The last time the Mohawks played in the best-of-five conference semifinals, they swept the Orangeville Northmen in 2011 and they hadn’t won a playoff series since then until Wednesday night.
“You could have said last year that we deserved a bit better fate, too, but we lost to a good Hamilton team,” Goss said. “We finally got that monkey off the back, for sure.”
Last year the Mohawks third in the Western Conference at 14-6-0, but were ousted from the first round with a 3-2 series loss to the Hamilton Bengals (12-8-0).
Wednesday, the Mohawks scored the final 12 goals of the game as they held Niagara scoreless after the 3:32 mark of the second period when Nathan Maloney’s goal for the visitors cut Elora’s lead to 4-3. Elora had led 3-1 at the end of the first period and they were up 10-3 at the end of the second.
Cole Spear and Klayton Hoelscher each recorded hat tricks for the hosts while Bo Columbus, Kurtis Woodland and Nathan Bolger scored twice each. A.J. Skirving, Brett Harrison, Hyatt Welsh and Ryan Mueller added single goals. Hoelscher had five assists while Spear and Woodland had four each, Mueller had three, Welsh, goalkeeper Landon Kells and Tyrus Rehanek had two each and Skirving, Mason Noble and Bolger had one each.
Niagara received goals from Zach Luis, Saul Vanderzalm and Nathan Maloney. Assists were awarded to Sebastian Reynolds, Maloney, Dan Kritkausky, Connor Watson and Malcolm Vanderzalm.
Elora outshot Niagara 52-42 and both teams had two power plays, but neither team scored on them.
Landon Kells turned aside 39 shots in the Elora net for the win while Keelan Buis made 36 saves for the Thunderhawks.
Elora’s defensive play has been the key to the success the Mohawks have enjoyed this season. They finished second in the conference with a 17-3-0 record and have now won nine consecutive games. They held Niagara to four goals in the final two games of the first-round series.
“Our goaltending and our D have been our backbone and they’re going to continue to be,” Goss said.
“All of our D guys try really hard and our communication back there is top notch,” Woodland said. “They all know what each other’s doing and it works out.”
The Mohawks are to play the winner of a quarter-final series between the Windsor Clippers and Orangeville Northmen. That best-of-five series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 set for Thursday night at Windsor and Game 4 to go Monday afternoon in Orangeville. Game 5, if it’s needed, is to be played Tuesday night at Windsor.
“We’re keeping an eye on it, but no matter who we’re playing we just have to go out there and do our own thing and things will work out,” Woodland said.
That schedule means the Mohawks will get the Canada Day weekend off.
“Everybody needs to rest up and get better,” Woodland said. “Of course there’s bruises playing in the playoffs.”
“We’re going to have a bit of a break here,” Goss said. “We’re going to heal up a bit. We’re going to let the boys enjoy it a bit and get back to work next week.”