(WINDSOR, ON) – Not since 2009 have the Windsor Clippers tasted victory against the Six Nations Rebels; a seven-year drought that reached its depths during an early exit from the 2015 playoffs via a sweep.
Winning 9-8 Saturday night, the Clippers capped off an exciting weekend of lacrosse that included a bit of everything.
Friday evening, the Clippers travelled north to Point Edward to engage the Pacers for the first of four meetings. This match-up featured the return of two former Pacers now with Windsor; Brayden Bell and Alex Mayhead. The reception was not friendly, as the two divisional rivals literally fought their way to 298 penalty minutes.
“We knew they were chippy, we knew. They’re a big rival,” reflected Windsor’s Ryan Marchand. “We’ve played them our whole lives.”
The Ontario Junior B lacrosse game devolved into a brawl at multiple points, culminating in a donnybrook featuring eight different players at once.
The match started innocently enough, however, with just minor infractions throughout the opening frame, and Marchand picking up the lone goal on the penalty kill from Andrew Garant and Logan Holmes.
The Windsor scoring machine kicked into high gear to begin the second as the Clips opened up a barrage on their hosts.
Josh Jubenville popped the first of the period only four minutes in, followed by Holmes and Garant, each on the man-up. Windsor’s Austin Thompson dropped the mitts with Pacer Callaghan Doughty midway through the stanza. Then Marchand picked a power play marker in the aftermath.
Longtime Clipper and Sarnia Sting alum Noah Bushnell found the back of the net with less than 8 minutes remaining in the frame to make it 6-0, but the run was over. Seconds after Bushnell’s snipe, Point Edward’s Blain Adams cracked Bell’s goose egg, followed soon after by a pair from Korey Conroy in the dying seconds.
The last twenty miles were littered with fisticuffs as a Pacers run at a comeback only resulted in desolation.
Off the bat, Mayhead extended Windsor’s lead to four. Minutes later, Point Edward’s Bert Thorpe took exception to Blain Wallace after Wallace was cited for a high-sticking major. A tilt ensued.
On the resulting power play, Adams shortened the slack for the Pacers with another goal.
Moments later, the roof caved in for Point Edward.
After Adams’s goal, Garant nailed a short-hander to pad the lead. Later in the long kill, Marchand picked up another special teams snipe to complete his hatty before Garant did it again, to add salt to the wound.
Garant was not done, though, blasting another one past Pacers tender Cody Haas on a delayed high-sticking penalty. With this, he completed the natural hat-trick with his fourth of the night.
Off the following draw, Point Edward’s Matt Vince took his own high-sticking major, then got into it with Bushnell. The Clippers continued to pile on, with captain Holmes getting another on the advantage and Marchand belting in tally number four.
Then all hell broke loose.
With the score 13-4 in Windsor’s favour and only minutes remaining, the Pacers’ frustrations were simmering and chaos ensued.
A Battle Royale featuring Jubenville, Steve Jaworski, James Morgan, and Chad Marentette for the Clippers and Thorpe, Dylan Lavoie, Dawson Vautour, and Jack Dunn for the home side, left the floor strewn with equipment and stretched out a helplessly inundated refereeing tandem.
For the final two minutes, all was quiet on the far-western front.
“We came out hard,” stated Marchand, who put up 4 goals and 3 assists on the night. “[I] had some bounces go my way, just basically [went] to the floor and got some good looks. We had smooth sailing.”
Marchand, who commutes from London to join his team, enjoys a synergy with his teammates.
“I didn’t get to prepare with them too much [before the game], but since I’ve been playing with them my whole life we have such good chemistry that I can get caught up in two seconds,” he explained.
Bell, in his return to where he started, made 32 saves in the win. Haas was blasted with 51 shots for the Pacers.
“Up until the last five minutes it was a really solid game,” said coach Jerry Kavanaugh. “They were probably better than we thought they were. Their top end is just as good as anybody’s.”
Things got rowdy in the third.
“[There was] a lot of build up through the game,” he continued. “They have some younger guys, that they pretend they don’t want to be involved in the fight-stuff, but they always seem to be involved. Then they have issues with somebody grabbing them. You grab onto [Logan Holmes’] cage, then you are inviting a fight. It was a little team-building event.”
Saturday night was the big draw.
The Clippers returned to Forest Glade Arena with one objective on their collective minds; ending the Six Nations Rebels’ reign of terror in their Western Conference rivalry. For a long while, it seemed like Windsor would get away with a cakewalk.
The Clippers went right to work on the Rebels. Morgan took a feed from Bell, hammering home a shot past Nations goalie Briley Miller. Holmes tapped in two of his own to advance the Windsor cause.
Chase Kavanaugh and Bushnell also added to the assault to give the Clips a 5-goal lead less than 12-minutes into regulation.
The Rebels fought to stem the bleeding. Layne Smith sniped for Six Nations to end the Windsor run, with Garret Vyse-Squire adding another late in the period on the man-up. The Clippers dominated the period in the shot department, outgunning the Rebels 19-9.
Marchand added to the lead early in the middle frame, but a couple soft calls against Windsor stymied the home team’s rebuilt momentum.
Nations capitalized, with Smith blasting another snipe past Bell and triggering a landslide of Rebels offense. Before the frame could end, Smith completed his hat-trick and Vyse-Squire nailed his second.
Travis Longboat was leading the league in scoring going into the tilt, he also scored his first of the night.
“Our second period was a lot like their first. We went out in the first period and manhandled them, so they went in there, relaxed and reset, and came out in the second and handed it to us,” said Kavanaugh after the game. “We started to get on each other a little bit on the bench in the second, the frustration might have boiled over a little bit. We got a couple interesting calls against us, but those things are going to happen.”
The Clippers found their own reset button when they hit the floor for the third.
Garant scored early, followed by Chase Kavanaugh on the advantage. Midway through, Longboat struck again on the power play, to get it within a goal.
With less than 8 minutes to play, Six Nations’ Lyle Hill was assessed a major penalty for boarding. Windsor went back to work and, late in the man-up, Kavanaugh struck again to regain the two-goal spread.
Longboat would net his third of the game, late, but it would not be enough as the Clippers took the W.
Holmes, who scored 8 points in the match, has been collecting them at a torrid pace. With an assist on the game-winning goal, he overtook Longboat in the league scoring race with his 53rd point.
Bell picked up his second victory of the weekend, making 35 saves. Meanwhile, Miller was assailed by 56 shots in the loss.
Chase Kavanaugh, who netted a hat-trick, including the eventual game-winning goal, was grateful to his teammates for his opportunities.
“It feels good obviously, [but] individual points aren’t the most important thing,” he said. “Coming out of here with a win is the big thing. All three of my goals were coming off of big passes by the guys, so I just kinda caught it. I just shot it quick and got lucky in sweet spots. This was definitely on our calendar for a while. We want the big wins, [we’re] trying to prove we can compete with the big dogs in the league.”
Jerry Kavanaugh was happy with the outcome.
“[It’s a] huge game we look forward to all year as far as to see how you match up against the big dogs,” said the coach after the game. “We play our division so often, you want to see those better teams from outside.”
Windsor has won the Far-West Division title ten of the past eleven years, but has only made it to the conference final once.
“So we see Niagara, with the overtime loss which we weren’t happy with, then you see these guys and they’ve been the benchmark for a long time in this league, so getting the win is huge,” said Kavanaugh.
A common denominator, this weekend, for the Clippers was Brendan Wallace. Kavanaugh pointed to his effort after both games. Wallace, who sat out a year to focus on long distance running, dedicated his time to the club to start the 2015 season.
“Brendan Wallace was insane, as he’s been the last three or four games,” Kavanaugh said. “This year, I think, he’s found his role. He’s been lights out for the last [few] games.”
Windsor returns to the floor Thursday, hosting the London Blue Devils at 7:00pm.