Last night: Shorthanded Saints fall to James Gang, Shamrocks ride big third period to win over Timbermen

Mack O'Brien
Mack O'Brien

The Norwood James Gang played a solid 50 minutes then held on to down the shorthanded OLA Senior B league-leading St. Catharines Saints 8-6 Saturday night in Norwood. With the Saints having only 12 runners at the game, the James Gang was generally in control throughout the first two periods. Mike McNamara scored his first of two, to go along with an assist, just 21 seconds into the game to give Norwood the early lead.

The James Gang were up 2-0 late in the first period when defender Colin Boucher, taking a shift in the offensive zone, scored the goal of the game. The big man used his size and strength to fight off a pair of defenders while wielding his stick in one hand a few feet off the crease. Still with the stick in one hand, Boucher found the back of the net with a quick shot over Cole Murray’s shoulder.

Murray closed the door on the Saints for next 32 minutes of playing time, though, as the James Gang extended its lead. Matt Evans and McNamara connected for power play goals in the second, giving Norwood a 4-1 lead after two periods. The Saints continued to take penalties and were fortunate to give up on 2 power play goals on the 14 times they found themselves shorthanded. The penalties also cost them in manpower, as both Mark Debrone and Jake McCready received five minor penalties, resulting in ejection from the game.

Norwood extended the lead in the seventh minute of the third period. Kyle Dupont scored on a breakout play while the James Gang were shorthanded. Just half a minute later, Josh Wasson spotted captain Mack O’Brien unattended right on top of the St. Catharines crease. Wasson yelled to get his attention and hit O’Brien with a perfect pass down a seam from mid-floor. O’Brien caught the pass with his back to the net, spun around and buried the ball to make it 6-1.

The Saints showed they are a resilient bunch, though. Dylan Llord buried a quick stick on a perfect pass from Jon Burkholder to get the ball rolling at 10:33. Llord returned the favour, setting up Burkholder for a shorthanded marker at 12:02. Then it was time for Chris Attwood to show off his shooting skills. The righty scored a pair back-to-back to pull the Saints within a goal at 6-5.

The James Gang called a time out during which O’Brien said the message was, “Settle down. The game’s not over. Let’s get back to playing our game.” Their game generally includes healthy doses of scoring from Kyle Clancy and he picked a perfect time to get his only goal of the game. With a defender right on top of him and the shot clock winding down, Clancy ripped a perfect laser beam to bulge the twine for what proved to be the winning goal with just over a minute left to play.

Dupont added an empty net marker to make it 8-5 then Boucher showed that he’s got some sniper in him as well, finding the back of the net with an outside shot with 27 seconds to play.

O’Brien said beating the top team in the league was nice, regardless of how many player they had, but at this point in their season it was great to get two points any way they came. “It’s just nice to get a win. We’ve been up and down. We started out 5-0 and then really went on a slide there,” O’Brien said of his now 8-7 James Gang. “I know it’s not their full squad, but we played them to 8-7 up there with half our squad. We know we can roll with them. We’re still missing a couple of guys tonight. I think we can have a really good series with them down the road. We know they’re missing some key cogs, but so are we. We showed we can play for two periods then, again, we had a lapse in the third. If we can put 60 minutes together I think we can take them.”

St. Catharines Head Coach Paddy Campbell said “No one likes to show up to any game with 12 guys, especially late in the season like this, but that’s the reality of the makeup of a league like this. So to see that we could battle this hard, it meant a lot.”

Campbell said it was a good test for what things will be like if they make it back to the Presidents Cup for the third straight year, when they’ll play seven games in a week and players will be tired. “12 players is not an excuse,” Campbell said. “We should not have lost that game. We took some dumb penalties and we got away from our normal Saints style of lacrosse. We’re not using showing up here with 12 guys as an excuse, but certainly I’m proud of the 12 that did.”

“‘What’s next?’ has been our mantra all year,” Campbell added. “We get down, we just think, what’s next? If we get a penalty, we know we’ve got to kill it. We’re done killing it, we know we’ve got to get a goal. We get a PP, we know we’ve got to bury. So it’s what’s next?”

Campbell also made a point of noting that, while many of his players were getting frustrated with the refereeing, that didn’t cost his team the game. “We know the refs do a great job. No ref comes out here to try to make a bad call,” he said. “So we try not to get down about the calls. We know it’s our own fault and I think the boys now, at this time of year, are starting to take responsibility for themselves. Short of tonight, we’re getting a lot better with discipline.”

Norwood is in third place, two points behind the Six Nations Rivermen, with one game left to play in the 16-game season. They’ll wrap up the regular season with a game in Owen Sound next Saturday. St. Catharines has already clinched first place. They’re now 13-2 and will finish their regular season next Sunday in Six Nations.

In the Western Lacrosse Association, the battle of the Island was close through two periods then the Victoria Shamrocks blew it wide open in the third to take a 15-9 win. The game was tied after 40 minutes but six different players scored for the Shamrocks in a 7-1 third period to extend Victoria’s lead atop the league standings to four points while Nanaimo missed a chance to climb out of the cellar.

WLA
Victoria 15, Nanaimo 9 (box score)

OLA Sr B
Norwood 8, St. Catharines 6 (box score)
Sarnia 7, Owen Sound 6 (box score)

QSLL
Kahnawake 13, Vermont 12 (box score)

BCJALL
Nanaimo 12, Port Coquitlam 12 (box score)
Langley 14, Victoria 13 (box score)
Coquitlam 8, New Westminster 7 (box score)

OLA Jr B
Mimico 9, Orillia 7 (box score)
Brampton 17, Guelph 7 (box score)
Windsor 18, Hamilton 4 (box score)
Kahnawake 12, Gloucester 9 (box score)
Halton Hills 15, Newmarket 10 (box score)

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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