When the Calgary Mountaineers allowed their playoff series to get tied with the Edmonton Eclipse, the coaching staff asked the offensive leaders to step up. How does five goals sound? Dan Taylor held the hot stick as the Mounties took a 2-1 series lead over the Eclipse and, with the Calgary Raiders knocking off the Edmonton Miners, all the Mounties need is one more win to qualify for the Minto Cup. In the two Mounties wins in this first-round Alberta Junior-A lacrosse series, Taylor has eight goals. In the cancelled Game 2 (which was wiped out due to unplayable floor conditions) and the actual Game 2 loss back in Calgary, the Mounties offence could only muster 10 goals total.
Taylor is finding great chemistry with Tyler Melnyk, who had three goals and six assists in the two wins, but Mounties coach Rick Windl asked them to pick it up between Games 2 and 3.
“Our offence wasn’t putting the ball in the net,” said Windl. “They know what their role is. They both responded really well. Tyler didn’t score but had four assists. It was a great job of getting into lanes for Dan. It’s pick your poison on who you need to cover and Dan came up big.”
Taylor, who is headed to Lehigh University this fall for his first season of NCAA action, fought his way inside the Eclipse defence and came up big. He had five goals on just 10 shots, which was a breakthrough compared with 24 hours earlier.
“We had some nerves as a team,” Taylor said. “Being that the game had been called off, it felt like there was more weight on that one. We didn’t run our offence as well as we could have. We didn’t push the ball as well as we should have. On Sunday, we slowed things down and things were going well for me. It seemed like every shot I took was going in. I’m OK with that. Our team is playing with a lot of passion right now. We’re really tight-knit. I think we can carry this into the Minto.”
The Mounties will be without defender Taylor Graham for the rest of the series. Graham suffered a concussion in Game 3 coming across the middle while killing a penalty and taking a shot to the head. With Graham out, and normal replacement Kyle McFadyen unavailable because he’s attending a wedding, Windl is auditioning some affiliates to take the final roster spot.
The Eclipse are trying to regroup being down 2-1. Although the Mounties chased starting goalie Michael DeGirolamo in the 13-7 victory, the Eclipse will go back to their No. 1 man for Game 4 Friday at Bill Hunter Arena. The one thing they know is they have to play better team defence against the likes of Melnyk and Taylor.
“Taylor was on fire,” said Eclipse coach RJ Johma. “Part of the reason was our defence didn’t play our system. He was able to get inside on us and that was problematic. We have a certain defence that is designed. We played it well on Saturday but decided to abandon it on Sunday. It drives coaches crazy. When you get away from the system, it falls apart.”
In the other series, the Raiders rebounded from a Game 3 loss to the Miners in Edmonton before finishing off the series with a 13-7 win Sunday. National rookie of the year nominee Holden Cattoni led the way offensively for the Raiders with three goals and five assists in the clincher.
“Holden shot the ball excellently,” said Raiders head coach Bruce Codd. “He had one straight off the bench he would score on any goalie. He was determined to get to the net too. In the playoffs, you are only going to score in the middle. It’s a big jump from midget lacrosse to junior and he’s exceeded our expectations. In the same token, we’ve noticed a measurable improvement from the start to now. His work ethic is a big part of that.”
Codd is heading this weekend to Whitby, Ont., to coach Team Alberta in the peewee nationals, and he will likely miss the start of the next series, which could begin as early as Tuesday if the Mounties qualify.Ian Busby writes about lacrosse for the Calgary Sun, covering the Roughnecks full-time since 2008. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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