(WINDSOR, ON) – Of those who have seen the Elora Mohawks in action, very few would think they were not a credible threat. Despite their seventh place finish, they were trapped in the Mid-West Division, a veritable ‘Round of Death’ as they would say in soccer.
All four Mid-West teams made the playoffs and three of them own wins over the Windsor Clippers, including Elora. The Clippers exacted revenge for a lackluster overtime loss they suffered at the hands of the Mohawks by defeating them 3-games-to-1 in their best-of-five quarter-final series on Sunday night.
With the series tied one-all, Windsor hosted the Mohawks Saturday evening at Forest Glade Arena. There they got off to a slow start, as Elora collapsed upon Brayden Bell’s net and worked the crease for three early goals.
Jared Bouwman scored one minute in, followed by Sandy Heseltine, then Shawn Lantz just before the mid-point.
Patrick Kaschalk, who has been proven to be a reliable backbone to his team’s offense, was able to bring his boys back within a goal in short order. Kaschalk blasted a goal within a little over seven minutes remaining, then sniped again only two minutes later.
The two teams traded goals through most of the second, as Lantz netted two. Both were answered by Windsor’s Dylan Riley. Dawson McKenzie extended the lead again for Elora, but Noah Bushnell and Chase Kavanaugh both responded late in the stanza to knot the game at six.
The Mohawks pushed hard to start the third and were rewarded with an early goal from Mike Cavanaugh. Ryan Marchand retied the game only minutes later, but Elora seemed to have all the momentum.
After locking down the Clippers’ zone, the Mohawks took their positions and fired at will. Bell made a number of timely saves to keep the game drawn.
With just over five minutes to go, Elora tripped over their own shoelaces.
“I just saw their guy walking the ball up kinda slow,” explained Windsor’s Josh Jubenville. “I saw my guy in the corner of my eye and I let him bite on the pass a little bit. I just anticipated it. I just knew it was going there right when the guy looked at him.”
Jubenville reached out between the defenders and caught the Elora player’s intended pass mid-flight. All that stood between the Clippers’ assistant captain and Elora’s goalie Matt Humphrey was about 100 feet of wide open floor.
“Thankfully, I got the break on the ball, picked my spot and scored,” he explained.
Jubenville’s blast served as a spark plug for his team’s offense. Only a minute later, captain Logan Holmes fed Noah Bushnell for another breakaway, where he, too, eluded the Mohawks’ tender.
Windsor’s offense piled up on Elora. Humphrey was peppered, but stayed solid nonetheless, keeping his team in the game.
McKenzie snuck in on the Clippers’ net with a little under six minutes to go and hammered home a spectacular diver past Bell to push the Mohawks back within a goal.
There was no comeback to be had, however. Late in the game, Andrew Garant and Marchand extended their team’s lead to 11-8 before the final buzzer could sound.
Possibly the most resounding statistic of the night was neither team taking a single penalty. The game was aggressive, but reasonably cleanly played as both teams had their priorities in order.
Bell picked up the win in net, making 29 saves, while Humphrey was peppered with 61 shots at his end.
“We just kinda got out to a slow start,” said Jubenville after the game. “We got a couple goals and that fired the boys up on defense. Our defense just kept shutting their offense down and our offense was just feeding off that energy.”
The Clippers started to come alive in the middle frame. They peppered Humphrey with 25 shots in the set, most coming in the latter minutes.
“We were feeling it, we were moving the ball,” explained Jubenville.
He credited strong D and the play of Bell in getting the ball rolling.
“We were keeping them to the outside; that was our game plan the whole series,” he said. “Keep them to their outside shots, don’t let them into the middle, because that’s all they want. If we shut the middle down, I think Beller [Brayden Bell] can stop those outside shots no problem.”
Windsor, with a 2-1 stranglehold in the series, travelled up to Elora the next night.
Feeding off the momentum of the previous evening, and the energy of a large contingent of Windsorites who travelled to see the game, the Clippers jumped ahead early in Game 4.
On the first play of the match, Marchand hammered a shot past Humphrey. A couple minutes later, Blain Wallace extended the lead to two.
Bouwman answered back for the Mohawks only a minute later, but Kavanaugh was his usual consistent self and bent the mesh twice in short order to give his team a 4-1 lead.
Elora fought back late in the opening frame to shorten the lead to one, with goals from Mike Cavanaugh and Bouwman to bring the game into the break.
Marchand opened the second with another goal, fed from Holmes and Garant, but was answered by Ryan Johnston of the Mohawks on the next play. Midway through the period, Riley popped his first of the night, but he too got a response from Elora; this time from Owen MacDonald.
MacDonald was instrumental in the Mohawks’ first two efforts in the series, seemingly scoring at will. However, he was absent from Saturday night’s game and had little presence on Sunday. The Mohawks goal scorer was recently seen hoisting the Memorial Cup this spring as a member of the London Knights as they won the national junior hockey crown.
Not sitting on their haunches, the Clippers then went for the kill.
Riley netted his second of the game with just over seven minutes remaining in the middle frame, followed by blasts from Kaschalk and Wallace.
Elora was not done though, and Bouwman netted a goal early in the third which was followed by a snipe from Klayton Hoelscher. An unsuccessful penalty shot stopped by Bell sealed the Mohawks’ fate, as Holmes and Marchand hammered down the 11-7 win and the series victory with a goal each before time could expire.
Humphrey did all he could, getting peppered for the fourth straight game, allowing 7 goals on 51 shots. Bell was strong in net for the Clippers, getting the win on 23 saves.
“Brayden Bell was fantastic,” said coach Jerry Kavanaugh. “[He was] a huge part of the win. Our defense did a great job of containing [Elora]. Our offense got more comfortable as the series progressed and we were able to generate a lot of good chances and finish on enough to win.”
The Clippers travelled short to the home of the Mohawks, without Bushnell, Jubenville, or Mayhead due to work commitments and injuries.
Windsor now hooks up with the third seed Niagara Thunderhawks, who also own a regular season win over them.
“We saw Niagara early in the year. Both rosters look much different from that game,” said Kavanaugh. “They are a big team, really solid defensively, and some dangerous offensive guys. I think their [penalty kill] was best in the league, our [power play] was number one. We are playing at a really high level right now. We’ll take this week to rest some minor injuries and watch the Niagara game tape.”
Niagara swept the Guelph Regals in the their opening series.
The schedule is as follows:
- Game 1 @ Windsor, Saturday, July 9th @ 7:00 pm
- Game 2 @ NOTL, Tuesday July 12th @ 8:00 pm
- Game 3 @ Windsor, Thursday July 14th @ 8:00 pm
- Game 4 @ NOTL, Sunday, July 17th @ 7:00 pm*
- Game 5 @ Windsor, Tuesday July 19th, 8:00pm*
- *If Necessary