By Jesse Ferguson, 4BRANT
In the Ontario Lacrosse Association Junior C action on Monday, July 16, it was a match of Warriors at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford.
The Brantford Warriors took on the Six Nations Warriors in the West Division semifinal.
Monday found the two teams deadlocked at a game apiece with each team taking their home game in this five-game series.
Defending Meredith Cup Champions (2017), the Warriors of Brantford, wearing yellow, looked to break the tie against the Six Nations Warriors, who wore black and orange, reminiscent somewhat of Philadelphia Flyers (4BRANT would like to acknowledge the sad passing of former Flyers’ goalie Ray Emery, who passed away late Sunday, early Monday).
Brantford held off the early offensive zone by Six Nations to come back down the rink and find the back of the net. Twice.
To open the scoring, it was Brayden Doxtator from Michael Comeau and Caleb Wells. The second tally was by Connor Merritt.
A fan arriving at the game, Jody Dawdy, was there to see Merritt “light it up.”
Six Nations battled back though. Darris Anderson put Six Nations on the board with a beauty shot on the powerplay.
Then as fast as Brantford scored goals in succession, Six Nations answered again with a solo effort by Jaxon Martin.
The game was going at breakneck speeds then found Brantford, fortunately, on a breakaway. Unselfishly, Michael Grace, waited for help and dished it to Ryan Dorr, who scooped it in high to reclaim the lead.
Brantford reestablished their two goal lead on the powerplay with Merritt’s sweeping shot into the roof of the net for his second goal of the game. This goal was assisted by Cole Robillard.
Six Nations players were themselves as they ended up in the penalty box, where a powerplay can be even more dangerous than in hockey. This was a factor in Brantford’s last goal.
Still in the first, Six Nations showed they too were money on the powerplay by sniping a goal courtesy of Jordan Mike. Jordan Hess picked up another assist.
As time closed in on a high-scoring first period, Six Nations searched for the tying mark. Jordan Mike on Six Nations managed to equalize things up right before the intermission buzzer sounded (below).
After 20 minutes of play, it was 4-4 in an action-packed first period that left fans wanting more.
Now, onto the second. If a five-on-four powerplay is worrisome for a team in lacrosse, then a five-on-three is frightening. This was Brantford’s dilemma early in the second and resulted in forfeiting the lead. Jaxon Martin dipped into the goals for Six Nations.
Then it was Hess for Six Nations acting as the benefactor of both teams going down two men as he led a rush and finished for Six Nations to put them up two, on an unassisted tally.
Then Brantford answered with a pretty goal by Cooper Day-Allison that was setup by several key passes off the rush including Spencer Martin’s assist.
Brantford managed to draw back even with a goal by Caleb Wells with under seven to play in the second. And soon thereafter, they managed to get even five minutes later by number Jayden Drage on a surprise shot in this high-flying affair.
Number 99 of Six Nations, Ryan Johnson, made a sleek move off the rush to find himself alone with the goalkeeper, Mitchell Dunham, and he coupled that with a deke of Dunham to put Six Nations within a goal entering the third period.
At the end of two, it was 7-6 Brantford.
As the third period debuted, Brantford made the flashiest move of the night deking in and realizing their lanes were closed, so the player opted to turn back to the net before flinging the ball above his head and behind him on net. Cole Robillard was credited with the very pretty goal while Caleb Wells drew the helper.
This goal restored Brantford’s two-goal lead. However, a Six Nations powerplay beauty from Jordan Mike from what looked to be lacrosse’s best version of the one-timer, but the goal was marked unassisted. Regardless, Six Nations begun their push.
Consequently, then Brantford’s goalie, Dunham, began to stand on his head, making a few stunning saves. But with all these great saves, he let in a bit of a soft one to Landon General. This cut the Brantford lead to just one.
And things got diceier again. There was one pretty ugly play on a Six Nations breakaway where the backchecker got tangled up in the feet of the attacker and he fell violently behind the net. Luckily, the player got up and walked off the floor under his own power.
With four minutes to play Six Nations’ Tyrese Staats converted a rush from Darris Anderson after some rough stuff at the other end of the rink. This tied things at 10 with five to play!
Brantford’s Connor Merritt was back at it again as he ended Brantford’s offensive zone time with a shot from a little farther out than normal. But what do they say in hockey? Sometimes a shot from anywhere is a good shot– and perhaps the same applies in lacrosse.
It did in this case, as with 1:12 to play Merritt notched his hat trick goal to put Brantford ahead 11-10!
For the final 18 seconds of the game, Brantford’s Robillard fearlessly held the ball in the Six Nations end while fending off slashes and cross-checks. But he held them off long enough, withstanding enough pain, for the buzzer to sound signalling a Warriors win!
Brantford travels to Six Nations Wednesday night and attempt to close out their counterparts.
If not, the deciding game 5 will go Thursday night at the Gretzky Centre.
The winner will advance to face Wilmot, in the West division final before the Meredith Cup provincial final. Brantford is reigning champion, but watch out though for Wilmot as they have swept both of their first two playoff series.
Featured picture from brantfordwarriors.com