(WINDSOR, ON) – Big shocker. The Orangeville Northmen didn’t just roll over and die. The Windsor Clippers took an early lead in their best-of-five Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League quarter-final series against the Northmen with an exhilarating 9-8 win in Windsor on Sunday night, but the euphoria did not last long.
The two-time defending Founders Cup national champions were not about to go down 2-0 in the opening series of the playoffs; not in their own barn. The Northmen defended their home turf Tuesday night, taking the game with a convincing 10-4 win to even the series at 1-1.
Not suprising, nor should it be, Orangeville is a highly respected program, well coached, and not to be trifled with.
Nor are the Clippers.
“Four of the last five years, our season has ended in that barn,” said Clippers head coach Jerry Kavanaugh after Game 1. “Our guys have to understand that; how hard it is to win there.”
Noah Bushnell had an outstanding game Sunday, putting home a hat-trick in the win.
“[Orangeville is] a great team and we’ve gotta respect that,” said Bushnell. “They’re the two-time defending national champions for a reason. They lost a lot of guys from that back-to-back winning team, but they still have that same structure. A lot of the guys [are there] that played on that team, same coaching staff, they play a disciplined, well structured, and fast-paced game.”
The OJBLL’s leading assist-getter had a great Johnny-on-the-spot moment in the third, hammering home a timely loose ball to give his team some well-needed insurance against a surging Northmen squad.
“I want to win, that’s all it is,” he said. “There’s no explanation. I just want to win and I’ll do everything I can. If it is showing statistically, if it’s not, I don’t care.”
On that timely loosey?
“Shoot,” he said. “When a gift comes to you like that, you don’t tend to think that much. You appreciate it afterwards but, in the moment, you’ve just gotta stay calm … don’t fumble it … throw it straight, watch for a slide … but you gotta stay calm. That’s the biggest thing. You don’t get excited, you just put it in and celebrate with your friends afterwards.”
Assistant captain Chase Kavanaugh also hammered home a hat-trick and was, as usual, the cornerstone of the Clippers’ dynamic offence.
“It was definitely a tight game. We knew we wanted a strong start. I think we got that off the first few shifts, we went up a few,” said Kavanaugh.
But untimely penalties may have hindered their production.
“Before the game we just talked about being disciplined and staying out of the box. That’s definitely what hurt us throughout the game,” he added.
Both Blain and Brendan Wallace piled on goals, but a late awarded goal to James Morgan ended up being the winner. Orangeville, with the goalie out, had a bad change as Morgan charged down the floor on the empty net, resulting in an automatic goal.
It was one too many for which the Northmen to come back.
“The message was to be smart because discipline is the key,” said coach Kavanaugh. “We got up by two, which is nice, it gave us a bit of a cushion. But, it’s Orangeville. They’re not going anywhere. They’ll battle right to the last second. I don’t think it was our best game … We can be better; which is good news.”
Clippers standout goalie Carson Hebner turned aside 30 of 38 shots for the win. Orangeville’s Daniel Tanner stopped 34-of-42 at the other end. Scoring for the Northmen were Jeremy Searle (2), Tanner Buck, Grayson Houghton, Mitchell Bernier, Brett Draper, Liam McGrath, and Liam Smith.
Two night later, the Clippers found themselves down 5-0 at the midway point of the game, en route to a 10-4 loss. Houghton (2), Searle (2), Buck, Smith, Ryland Baird, Cameron Spencer, Josh Goodwin, and Logan Swanton scored for Orangeville.
Responding for Windsor were Josh Rosa with a pair, Kavanaugh, and Blain Wallace.
Tanner gained a measure of revenge in net, blocking 45 shots for the win, while Hebner stopped 32 for his first loss of the post-season.
The two teams are back in action tonight for Game 3 at Forest Glade. Game time is 8pm.