Knowing success can be determined in the earliest moments of a battle, General George Patton demanded of his troops that they, "attack rapidly, ruthlessly, viciously...we as attackers have the initiative." That may have been the game plan of the St. Catharines Saints in game one of the Ontario Senior B lacrosse finals as they rambled and roared like Sherman Tanks through much of the first period before settling down to a prolonged stalemate battle with bitter rival Owen Sound Northmen. The final tally on the Bill Burgoyne scoreboard read 10 - 7 St. Catharines, but much of the scoring strikes for the winners came on early Saints' blitzkriegs.
The swarming Saints tested Northmen starter Scott Komer with several in-close looks in the early moments of this game before a pair of goals in quick succession by Dan Williams and Andrew Potter rewarded their efforts. Potter's clutch cutter catch and over-the-shoulder deposit into the top corner claimed most of the artistic awards. The teams traded goals mid-period in a brief stretch of equilibrium, but then the Saints regained their momentum after some good penalty kills when Dylan Llord emerged from the penalty box for the opportunistic breakaway look and his winding fake-shot preceding a little push flip into an opening that was reminiscent of some Ted Dowling magic from an earlier era.
The Saints were solid defensively in the opening twenty with nimble-footed Jason Mazchowski doing sterling work against the ever-dangerous Adam Jones and speedy Mark Debrone carrying the ball out of harm's way on numerous occasions, and even drawing a couple of penalty infractions from the frustrated Sounders. Jay Thorimbert closed out the scoring in the first period on a short-handed blast that somehow squeezed past Komer, and the Saints confidently jogged off the floor with a 5 - 1 first period lead.
Owen Sound seemed to shift into a different gear after the second intermission as they looked to head-man their way out of this mess. Within minutes they had a couple, the first from I believe Andrew Ball on a two-on-one surge, and then a little later Nate Sanderson shot out of the bench for a long break-away pass completion and some how-do-you-dos with Saints goalie Jake Henhawk. The Georgian boys seemed to be right back into this one with the score now 5 to 3, but the Saints soon kicked back a couple of their own...first Llord on the catch and shoot from the left side (that then precipitated some minor ugliness to give us some three on three action for a couple of minutes), and then Jason Henhawk let go with one of his patented sneaky quick-release numbers that ended the night for goalie Komer. In came Ryan Masters with his team down 7 to 3.
This game was only less than half over, but there seemed to me at least some sense of confidence that the Saints may have this one well under control. And when a frustrated Adam Jones took a five-minute major for high-sticking Saints defender Jon Arnold, that confidence only grew a little more. But this is lacrosse and you know what that means. The Northstars got a spark from their penalty kill, and in particular, the exemplary work Travis Gibbons. Gibbons can shuffle around a double-team as good as any, but he really comes into his own when he is cornered on the boards and somehow maintains possession through all kinds of rigorous activity. Shades of Harry Kazarian...60 years later. The Northstars weathered the storm. Then they fought back with a couple of late goals, one when Adam Jones broke free of his continual tight checking and stretched high for a rifle pass at the goal mouth just a nano-second before it was in past Henhawk. Owen Sound now was the hungry hustling team, and the score after two was 7 - 5.
Side-doors at the BBA were opened at the intermission and people felt some relief from the cooler air. And perhaps the lowered dew-point contributed a bit to the slipperiness at the old St. Kitts lacrosse palace in the third. Referee Mark Gardonio took a nasty belly-flop while running after a Mike Attwood breakaway in the early moments that only added a little to my respect for his avocation. But the show goes on and soon the spotlight was back on Mr. Potter. Shaking free, four on three, at the crease, knows there's time, stops and looks, slides it through...ah, the sweet feeling of a big goal. 8 to 5 Saints.
But don't get too confident. The Northstars have the expectant walk of past champions and just never quit. And again it was the head-man strategy paying the dividends on two quick goals with near five minutes left that suddenly threw this back into a one-goal twilight zone...Gibbons on the two-on-one, and then Mat MacLeod flying from the bench, streaking through a formation of tired Saint attackers jogging off, into a clearing for the pass, and then, the outstretched arms. The score was 8 - 7 Saints but the visitors had the momentum swing back where they wanted it.
As the game wound down, some of the battering was showing on the combatants. There had been a number of train-wrecks in the Saints end in the third period and often defender Mazchowski would pull himself out from under a pile, hobble off...but then gamely sprint back on moments later. He wasn't the only one hurting a little...but the game was on the line and both teams pressed on and hungered for the next "BIG GOAL". And it came with less the two minutes left...streaking out of nowhere, across the goal mouth, a small opening by the top left corner, seen and delivered...a goal-scorer's goal...Potter had the hat-trick and the Saints had some insurance.
An empty-netter came later, and then the game ended with the Saints up 10 to 7. Both teams tensely milled about on the floor after the game and clearly they weren't inviting each other out for a pint. St. Catharines takes a 1 - 0 lead in this best-of-seven final with game two coming Saturday night at Owen Sound. Game three will be back in St. Catharines the following Saturday.
And that's the view from the cheap seats.
Posted on Aug 4, 2012, 1:41 AM from IP address 22.214.171.124