The St. Catharines Saints and Norwood James Gang both remained perfect, each posting their fifth straight win to open the OLA Senior B season Saturday, and they’re on target for a clash of the titans in two weeks. St. Catharines rode Corey Fowler’s 7-point night (3g, 4a) and a hat trick from transition man Jay Thorimbert to a 16-9 thrashing of the Owen Sound North Stars. Norwood blanked Sarnia 3-0 in the third period to pull out a gritty 6-4 win over the Beavers to keep pace.
The James Gang gave up the first goal to Sarnia but then replied with a trio of their own to lead 3-1 after the first period. Chad Evans got Norwood’s first two goals on outside shots then Greg Reilly buried a beautiful touch pass over a pair of defenders from Gavin Barrie.
The second period was an entirely different story. Sarnia’s defence shut down the James Gang while Riley Thompson scored his second of the game and Ryan Charteris and Colin McDowall also connected.
Transition player Brad Holbrough says the addition of some speedy defenders has allowed them to step up their pressure defence and keep the James Gang from getting settled on O. “We have a couple of new guys from Windsor that really have the wheels that we need. You can put pressure on when you’ve got the speed,” Holbrough said. “We added Trevor Veres and Justin Wilson. They’re just fast and aggressive, which makes us all be able to step up our D. You need to get on the hands so people can’t get comfortable.”
Holbrough, who commuted to Norwood to play with the team before Sarnia got its own club, says that’s critical when you’re playing a team from the Peterborough area (Norwood is about 30 minutes outside of the city and the roster is made up primarily of Peterborough players). “Everyone who plays lacrosse from Peterborough has a good stick, it seems like, so as soon as they get comfortable they’re going to score a goal. So that’s what we talked about, stay on ‘em, stay on ‘em. But also, keep the defence packed. So off-ball, stay tight and not too much pressure, but as soon as the ball gets in someone’s stick we’ve got to be on them.”
Things turned around again in the third period. Holbrough said being short a couple of runners left him and his teammates gassed and unable to run the floor. “We usually get three to four goals a game from our transition and that definitely hurt us tonight,” he said.
The James Gang, on the other hand, came out of the dressing room clearly intent on pushing the pace. They created several chances and were rewarded when Brandon Monroe tied the game on a breakaway at 8:09. “We talked about that a lot,” Monroe said. “Our D guys are fast, we’ve got a fast back door, so just push the ball, push the ball as much as we can, so we did and we got a couple of goals in transition.”
Monroe threw a hard fake on Justin Matthews then reached around him to pot the goal, looking like a veteran shooter, although he says there was some luck involved. “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing on those. I just went down there and tried to hit the net and she went in for me, so it was good. I was practicing them earlier in the warmup.”
About two and a half minutes later, Brock Boynton looked up the floor and spotted Norwood captain Mack O’Brien lurking all alone near the Sarnia crease. Boynton his him with a long bounce pass and O’Brien buried what proved to be the winning goal. Kyle Clancy gave the James Gang some breathing room in the tight defensive affair with a goal with four minutes remaining and Cole Murray made some key saves when called upon to make the lead hold up.
Sarnia is back home today to face the Six Nations Rivermen. Norwood has to win two more games to reach a potential battle of the unbeatens in St. Catharines on May 31. They visit the Brooklin Merchants this Thursday and Owen Sound Saturday while the Saints play the Oakville Titans this Friday.
Capital Region 9, Snake Island 5 (box score)
Rate This Story: