Mohawks take a celebratory ride through Elora

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

ELORA – For a few of the Elora Mohawks, Tuesday’s trek through the main streets of the village aboard one of the two fire engines during the team’s victory parade was like a trip down memory lane.

“It’s hard to describe,” forward Hyatt Welsh said of the emotions of the victory parade. “For a couple of us Elora guys, the last time we won was tyke in 2005. We rode a firetruck downtown then to not near as many people, but this was the whole year. That’s what our goal was, to make our hometown proud. For some of these out-of-towners to be brought into this family, it’s got to be pretty special, for sure.”

“The parade just goes to show what this community is and how much this community cares about the Mohawks and how much the Mohawks care about this community,” fellow forward and captain Klayton Hoelscher said. “There were I don’t know how many people, but a tremendous amount of people and a tremendous amount of support. For me personally and everyone else in that room, we’re just so grateful to play in Elora. I’ve said it countless times this year through this playoff run that Elora has to be one of the best lacrosse towns in Canada. You don’t get that support everywhere. That parade ride was awesome. It’s just such a great way to cap off this incredible year and a long career for me.”

Of the 27 players on the Mohawks’ roster for the playoffs, eight listed Elora and seven counted Fergus as their hometowns. After that, there were two apiece from Arthur, Cambridge and Kitchener and one each from Guelph, Alma, Ariss, Brampton, Holstein and Mount Forest.

Four members of the team had taken a ride on a fire engine on the same route 13 years ago celebrating a provincial tyke lacrosse championship.

Welsh, Hoelscher, goaltender Matt Humphrey, forward Josh Rex and defender Chris Jolley were among the Mohawks who were members of the 2005 provincial tyke championship-winning team.

“Thirteen years ago we won tyke C provincials and here we are 13 years later winning the Founders Cup,” Hoelscher said. “That’s pretty special.”

While the fire engines might have seemed smaller to those players this time around, the crowd that greeted them was larger to honour their national Founders Cup and provincial Ontario Junior B League championship.

That there were two fire engines this time was fitting. The players on the first one held the Founders Cup aloft while the Mohawks on the second one got to show off the provincial tourney.

One of the things the Mohawks wished had been different about their national championship win was something they had no control over. The location of the final. It was held at Akwesasne’s A’nowara’ko:wa Arena near the shore of the St. Lawrence River on Cornwall Island and was a drive of just under six hours from Elora.

“Obviously making it to Founders was a huge accomplishment to begin with,” Welsh said. “We’ve talked to some older guys who have been there before and they’ve played in some closer ones and while JVI did an awesome job of streaming for us for everyone to see that, I wish it would’ve been closer so that they could’ve been there in person. But for everyone in this community, thank you and what a ride.”

One of the biggest things the Mohawks might have battled at the Founders Cup tournament was overconfidence. As Ontario champions they were the favourites and they looked to extend Ontario’s grip on the tournament title to nine consecutive years, giving the province its 49th title in the championship’s 55-year history.

However, the Mohawks ran undefeated through the tournament with three wins in the preliminary round-robin group play (16-8 over Mohawk Medicine Men, 17-8 over Manitoba Blizzard and 9-5 over Saskatchewan Swat) and two victories in the playoff round (15-5 over Coquitlam Adanacs in semifinals and 9-5 over Seneca WarChiefs in gold-medal match).

“I don’t think that we played ‘easy’ teams, I just think that we were playing our best lacrosse and that nobody could touch us,” Hoelscher said. “I don’t think that anybody could touch us and for us, it was just staying at that level we knew we could play where it was what we played to get by Six Nations and Wallaceburg and Clarington (to win the Ontario title). We knew if we played at that level, we’d be untouchable.”

It has been about a week and a half since the Mohawks defeated the Seneca WarChiefs in the national championship match and most players have moved on to their next sport – some like Welsh to the Ontario university men’s field lacrosse league with the Laurier Golden Hawks while others like Hoelscher are getting set to embark on another season of hockey, in his case with the Mount Forest Patriots’ junior C squad.

“Actually, training camp was over the Founders Cup weekend so, obviously, there were some priorities there,” Welsh said. “After I get recuperated here and maybe heal up a little bit, I’ll be ready to go for sure.”

“The toughest part for me is probably going from a level where you’re playing at a level where it’s the finals and everybody’s excited to preseason and it’s just kind of going through the motions, getting your feet under yourself and getting comfortable again,” Hoelscher said. “I think it’s just going to take a couple of weeks to wear off winning and then I’ll get going there with hockey.”

The titles might be difficult ones for the Mohawks to defend next year as more than a third of their playoff roster won’t be eligible to return as they’ll be too old. The last-year junior players were goaltender Humphrey, defenders Mason Noble, A.J. Skirving, Jolley, Jack Francis and Kevin Hutchison and forwards Tyrus Rehanek, Kurtis Woodland, Hoelscher, Rex and Cole Spear.