CLax: Shooting Stars blow 5-0 lead but pull out overtime win over Turfdogs

Toronto's Bubba Durno wards off Durham Turfdog's Tyler Tanguay during the Shooting Stars' 9-8 CLax win Sunday. (Photo: Tim Prothero, VintageLax)
Toronto's Bubba Durno wards off Durham Turfdog's Tyler Tanguay during the Shooting Stars' 9-8 CLax win Sunday. (Photo: Tim Prothero, VintageLax)

They may not share the same building anymore, but they still share a carpet and the rivalry is alive and well. The former Vancouver Ravens rug serves both the Durham Turfdogs in the General Motors Centre and the Mattamy Athletic Centre home of the Toronto Shooting Stars, who last year were the Oshawa Machine. Yesterday, the Shooting Stars started fast then needed overtime but beat the Turfdogs 9-8 to avenge last week’s Durham win in the season opener for both teams. Last week, Durham got out ahead then held on for an 11-10 road win despite Toronto scoring the last three goals. Yesterday, the Stars jumped out to a 5-0 lead, didn’t score for the final 28:31 of regulation time but got out of Oshawa with the two points thanks to Derek Hopcroft’s overtime goal. The winner gave Hopcroft a hat trick. Aaron Grayson had a goal and four assists for Toronto.

The Shooting Stars led 4-0 after the first quarter, 7-4 at the half and scored the first goal of the third when Grayson beat Zack Higgins, who was excellent after replacing an ineffective John Chesebrough in the Durham net. Then they held on for dear life.

Scott DeFrancesco scored back to back man advantage goals for a Turfdogs club that was a more-than-perfect 5-for-4 on the power play. Shane Scott, who led all scorers with 3 goals and 4 assists, connected on the power play with two seconds left in the third to pull Durham within one at 8-7. DeFrancesco’s second and Scott’s hat trick marker both came while the Shooting Star’s were shorthanded thanks to a boarding major by Geoff Griffiths.

Todd Collins aggressive forechecking knocked the ball loose from Dilan Graham near the Toronto net then set a perfect screen on Graham to allow Scott to step around him and bury the seventh Durham goal. Collins’ exuberant celebration right in Graham’s face drew a gloved punch that quieted his cheering but resulted in a five-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the frustrated Shooting Star.

After Collins stepped out of the box from his unsportsmanlike minor earned on the same play, Kyle O’Brien took advantage of the ensuing power play to even things up at 3:01 of the fourth quarter. There was plenty of action and scoring chances both ways for the rest of regulation time, but Higgins and Angus Dineley were both stellar between the pipes. Finally, at 2:57 of overtime, Hopcroft stepped around a screen in the high slot and ripped a bounce shot past Higgins to earn the win for Toronto.

No one was more relieved than Graham when Hopcroft’s shot rippled the mesh. “We were a man down all game it felt like, they got a few power play goals and it was a five-on-four four about five minutes. We’d just finished killing it off,” Graham said. “I got the ball and tried to clear it out and lost the ball like an idiot and they got the ball and scored and the guy was celebrating a little bit obvious so I gave him a little shot, lost my temper which I usually don’t do.”

He’s just happy that they pulled out the win and is looking forward to the team building on it as the season progresses. “Pumped about that one. It’s a big win for the boys,” Graham said. “We’ve got to look at what we did wrong today. We did a lot of good things in the beginning but at the end we let them back. We’re a team that has a tough presence but we can get kind of carried away at times. We’ve got to cut down on the penalty minutes. When we play five-on-five we’re a good team.”

Turfdogs captain Mitch Dumont, who had an outstanding defensive game, says their comeback showed “a lot of perseverance and that we can come back from a deficit.” Now, Dumont says, they need to get the offence working. “You hold any team to eight goals and you expect to win,” he said. “I think what it came down to today was just coming out of the gates. We were off a little bit and we were down 5-0. We’ve got to get better at warmups. We knew they were going to come out hard because we beat them in their barn and we needed to match that.”

The Turfdogs travel to the ILA to face the Iroquois Ironmen next Sunday. Toronto has back-to-back home games next week, facing the Barrie Blizzard Sunday afernoon then the Ohsweken Demons Monday night.

Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at stamplax@hotmail.com.

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