The Niagara Lock Monsters came this close to giving their fans a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the team’s first ever home game. After moving down to St. Catharines for year two of the Canadian Lacrosse League, the former Peel Avengers were averaging 18 goals per game in three road contests to start the season. But Saturday they were facing the stingy Durham Turfdogs and the contest fell more in line with the Durham style of game. The visitors wound up winning it 12-10, but it wasn’t nearly as easy as it looked it might be early on. The Turfdogs dominated play in the first quarter and led 5-1 after 15 minutes. Play levelled out a bit in the second quarter, but Zack Higgins continued to turn aside everything the Lock Monsters threw at him. When Shane Scott completed a natural hat trick with the first two goals of the period, Durham led 7-1 and looked to be on cruise control.
The trouble is, cruise control doesn’t work very well in lacrosse. Niagara was pressing too hard, forcing long passes that weren’t really open and throwing the ball away far too much to be successful against a disciplined club like the Turfdogs. They did manage to get goals from Jordie Daradick and Kim Squire to pull within three at the half.
“At half time we told them, guys we don’t need to force it,” Head Coach Jeff Dowling told IL Indoor after the game. “We’re getting our opportunities. We know we’re getting good chances on offence. They’re not going in yet, but we don’t need to scramble and force these bad passes. Even in the third quarter we made some bad passes. Their first goal was a breakaway goal after we’d put so much pressure on their goalie and we just turned it over with a forced pass.”
That Russell Poulton goal 39 seconds into the third quarter made it 8-3, but the Lock Monsters began to take control of the game, turning the tide and putting pressure on Durham. They peppered Higgins with shots (a total of 59 for the game) and eventually found a few holes. Dan Williams was instrumental in the turnaround. He reined in his emotions when it looked like he was on the verge of taking a foolish penalty and channelled his energy into ramping up the Lock Monsters’ forecheck and forcing turnovers through rushed passes and 10-second violations.
“He’s a veteran guy, he’s a leader with this group,”Dowling said. “I think he understands when to get fired up—and he was trying to get the team fired up as well—and when to pull it back.”
There was no scoring for almost eight minutes, but then it started to click for Niagara and they went on a 7-2 run spanning the third-quarter break, tying the game at 10-10 on Andrew Potter’s power play goal at 7:23 of the fourth (that was Niagara’s only power play goal in five chances while Durham scored three times on six opportunities).
Durham Head Coach Jason Crosbie could be seen encouraging his players during the referees’ time out that occurred after Potter’s goal. “Hey guys, it’s 10-10, what are we going to do?” Crosby says he asked his players. “Are we going to lie down and let them take something that we fully deserved tonight or are we going to take it? What are you going to do, lie down or go get it? The collective sentiment was we’re going to go get it.”
And get it they did, thanks to the duo of John St. John and Tyler Tanguay. St. John ragged while the Turfdogs were killing a penalty, cutting between two defenders and scooping the ball up after he dropped it coming out from behind the net towards the side boards. He then swam back between the defenders towards the net, threw a convincing fake at Rick Crawley and flipped a perfectly time pass to the cutting Tanguay at the far side of the crease. As Crawley moved across his crease, Tanguay fired the ball back to the far side for a shorthanded goal that proved to be the winner.
Niagara took two slashing penalties in the 14th minute of the quarter, effectively ending their chances to come back and tie the game again. With the shot clock winding down and the game clock reaching 10 seconds to play, Nic Grasby scored to erase any doubt about the outcome.
Scott led the Turfdogs with 3 goals and 2 assists. Grasby and Tanguay each scored twice and added an assist. Scott DeFrancesco scored once and contributed 4 helpers. Higgins wound up making 49 saves to earn first star honours while Scott was the third star.
Williams was the second star for his efforts, including 4 assists to make him Niagara’s high scorer. Squire, Daradick and Corey Fowler all scored 2 goals and an assist for the Lock Monsters.
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