Mohawks win playoff opener, hoping history doesn’t repeat itself
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
ELORA – The Elora Mohawks took their first step toward putting their disappointing Ontario junior B lacrosse league playoff performances behind them Friday night when they downed the Niagara Thunderhawks 15-7 at the Elora and District Community Centre.
Despite some solid regular seasons, the Mohawks have not won a playoff series since they beat the Orangeville Northmen 3-1 in a best-of-five Western Conference semifinal series in 2011. They’ve been in seven postseason series since then and lost them all.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about the whole time since the season ended,” Cole Spear of the Mohawks said. “During the season we weren’t too worried about that. We were worried about getting here to this dance and we’re going to go from here. We’ve got a special squad in there (Elora’s dressing room).”
“It’s just a monkey we have to get off our backs and we’re doing all the right steps to get that done,” said Elora’s Ryan Mueller.
Three goals in the final three minutes of the opening period put the Mohawks ahead for good as they led 6-4 at the end of the first period and stretched that lead to 9-5 by the end of the second. They pulled away in the third as they found their scoring touch.
“We came in knowing we’d finished off the first period strong, getting a couple of goals up,” Mueller said. “We knew we just had to keep going. Putting six in in a period is good and our defence knew what they had to do and they stopped them and we just kept going from there.”
Every game’s important in a five-game series, but the first is almost critical.
“It’s huge, especially in your own barn,” Spear said. “Everyone is coming out here to watch and we’ve got some pressure on us. We’ve also got a lot of people who don’t believe in this team here and everybody in that room and in this town believe, so it’s going to be a good year.”
“First game really sets the tone for us,” Mueller said. “Now we have the confidence that we can do it, no matter what, and it’s good to go from there.”
Spear scored Elora’s first five goals on his way to a six-goal outing. Mueller had a hat trick while Kurtis Woodland and Klayton Hoelscher each scored twice. Brett Harrison and Josh Rex added single goals. Tyrus Rehanek, Hoelscher and Rex collected five assists apiece while Woodland and Harrison had three each, Mueller had two and A.J. Skirving, Hyatt Welsh and Spear had one apiece.
Zach Luis led Niagara with four goals and two assists while Aidan Buis, Chris Weier and Nathan Maloney scored once each. Reid Lowe, Michael Wilson and Maloney each gathered two assists while Saul Vanderzalm, Weier and Malcolm Vanderzalm had one each.
The Mohawks outshot the Thunderhawks 55-43 and went 4-for-9 on their power play while Niagara went 2-for-3.
Landon Kells made 36 saves for the win in net for Elora while Keelan Buis took the loss for Niagara. He started and had 20 saves when he was pulled in the second period in favour of Quinn Hill who also had 20 saves.
Second game of the series is slated for Sunday at the Meridian Credit Union Arena in Virgil. Game time is 4 p.m.
“I’m expecting a battle twice as hard from those guys,” Spear said. “They’re going to come out hungry. It’s down there in their barn and they’re going to be ready to go. It’s going to be a good battle.”
Mohawks 15 Thunderhawks 7
1. Elora, Spear (Rex, Woodland) 1:04
2. Niagara, Luis (Maloney) 3:27
3. Elora, Spear (Hoelscher, Mueller) 4:19
4. Niagara, Buis (Luis, Weier) 5:04
5. Elora, Spear (Skirving, Hoelscher) 10:39
6. Niagara, Weier (Wilson) 14:33
7. Niagara, Luis (M.Vanderzalm) 15:24
8. Elora, Spear (Mueller) 17:25
9. Elora, Spear (Rex, Rehanek) 19:12
10. Elora, Mueller (Woodland) 19:59
Penalties: Columbus Elora (high sticking), Moyett Niag (high sticking), 14:23.
11. Elora, Woodland (Harrison) 1:23
12. Elora, Woodland (Welsh, Hoelscher) 6:49 pp
13. Niagara, Luis (Maloney, S.Vanderzalm) 13:33 pp
14. Elora, Mueller (Rehanek) 17:11
Penalties: Francis Elora (unnecessary roughness), Hunter Niag (unnecessary roughness), 3:20; Ristov Elora (high sticking), 3:44; Wilson Niag (checking from behind double minor), 6:36; Luis Niag (high sticking), 8:49; Mueller Elora (holding), 13:20.
15. Elora, Hoelscher (Rex, Rehanek) 3:23
16. Elora, Harrison (Hoelscher, Woodland) 6:32 pp
17. Elora, Hoelscher (Rex, Harrison) 7:55 pp
18. Niagara, Luis (Wilson, Lowe) 9:16
19. Elora, Mueller (Rehanek, Harrison) 14:22 pp
20. Elora, Rex (Spear, Rehanek) 16:08
21. Elora, Spear (Hoelscher, Rex) 16:39
22. Niagara, Maloney (Luis, Lowe) 18:39 pp
Penalties: Baker-Printup Niag (slashing), 3:23; Skirving Elora (high sticking), 4:15; Deakin Niag (slashing), Fragnito Niag (slashing), 4:56; Baker-Printup Niag (illegal cross checking), 13:33; Bench Niag (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:41; Lewis Elora (fighting major, fighting misconduct), Hunter Niag (fighting major, fighting game misconduct), 17:55; Ristov Elora (roughing), 18:14.
Shots on Goal
Goalies: Buis (L, 26:49, 28 shots-20 saves), Hill (33:11, 27 shots-20 saves), Niagara; Kells (W, 43 shots-36 saves), Elora.
Power Plays (goals-chances): Niagara 2-3, Elora 4-9.