Mohawks, Niagara to start playoff series Friday

ELORA – The Elora Mohawks and Niagara Thunderhawks are to begin their Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League best-of-five Western Conference quarter-final playoff series Friday night at the Elora and District community Centre.

The Mohawks finished first in the Mid West Division at 17-3-0 and that placed them second in the Western Conference.

Niagara was third in the South West Division at 10-10-0, good for seventh in the conference.

The Mohawks and Thunderhawks met once during the regular season – in Elora’s home opener April 28 that the Mohawks won 11-8.

Elora carries a six-game winning streak into the playoffs and were 8-2-0 at home during the regular season and 9-1-0 on the road.

Niagara won four of its final five regular-season games and were 6-4-0 at home and 4-6-0 on the road.

The Mohawks thrived on defence during the season and were the only team in the 25-team league to allow opponents to score less than 100 goals on them. They gave up 98. Next lowest total was 122 surrendered by the Oakville Buzz. Niagara yielded 188.

Matt Humphrey and Landon Kells split time in net with Humphrey going 9-0-0 with a 4.59 goals-against average while Kells was 8-3-0 and 5.03. Kells had a .874 save percentage while Humphrey was at .872.

Keelan Buis was 5-8-0 with a 9.57 goals-against average and .794 save percentage for Niagara and Quinn Hill was 5-2-0 with 8.51 GAA and .770 save percentage.

Elora scored 218 goals during the regular season while Niagara hit for 183. Tops in the league was Akwesasne’s 304.

Kurtis Woodland led the Mohawks with 39 goals and 59 assists while Cole Spear had 37 goals and 39 assists. In all, the Mohawks had five players collect 50 or more points as Hyatt Welsh had 59 (13g-46a), Ryan Mueller had 57 (33g-24a) and Klayton Hoelscher had 53 (17g-36a).

Zach Luis struck for 28 goals and 29 assists to lead Niagara in scoring while Saul Vanderzalm had 20 goals and 30 assists.

The Mohawks will be looking to avoid last year’s fate when they finished third in the conference, but were ousted by the sixth-place Hamilton Bengals in the conference quarter-finals.

Elora has not won a playoff series since beating the Orangeville Northmen 3-1 in the best-of-five conference semifinals in 2011. Since then they’ve lost seven consecutive series including two to Niagara – 2-1 in a best-of-three conference quarter-final in 2013 and 3-0 in a best-of-five conference quarter-final in 2014. The Thunderhawks had home-floor advantage in both series.

The Mohawks have six players on their roster who played in the 2014 series (Josh Rex, Hoelscher, Mason Noble, Spear, Humphrey and Chris Jolley) while Luis is the lone Thunderhawk remaining from that series.

Friday’s game is to start at 8 p.m.

Second game of the series is slated for Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Meridian Credit Union Arena in Virgil.

Third game of the series is to go in Elora Wednesday at 8 p.m.

If a fourth game is needed, it’s to be played at Virgil June 29 at 8 p.m.

If the series goes its five-game limit, the fifth game is scheduled for July 2 at 8 p.m. at Elora.

  • Guelph Sports Journal