(WINDSOR, ON) – Fifteen years in and the rivalry between the Windsor Clippers and Wallaceburg Red Devils is running as deep as ever. Thursday night tension ran high as the most potent rivalry in Junior B lacrosse was renewed for the fifth time this season.
With a 16-14 triumph, the Clippers came from behind, in front of a large and noisy crowd at Forest Glade Arena, to win the first game of their Ontario Junior B Western Conference quarter-final Chase Kavanaugh started things rolling for Windsor on the first play of the game, but Wallaceburg’s Carter Hastings quickly responded.
Soon after, Blain Wallace bent the mesh for the Clippers, but things went a little south from there.
A quick run from Tyler Brown, Corey Lucier, and Tanner Cole spelled the end of Windsor goalie Joel Evans’ night and resulted in some time between the pipes for newcomer Liam Tomes. The two teams traded goals for the rest of the period, finishing 8-6 in Wallaceburg’s favour.
Scoring for the Clippers after the goalie switch was Kavanaugh, Wallace, Dylan Riley, and James Morgan. For the Red Devils was Kyle Dawson, Tyler Davis, Evan Mathany, and Brown.
Windsor’s Noah Bushnell caused major havoc in the second. His brash and loud style on the floor quickly ruffled the feathers of the Red Devils, laying out heavy hits, blasting goals, and generally inconveniencing everyone he encountered. Bushnell reinvigorated his teammates during a very stressful middle frame. He opened the scoring in the second, followed by Riley, and Wallace.
When the Red Devils felt the game slipping away, and were in need of a momentum switch, coach Justin Durston flagged down the referee and challenged the size of Tomes’ goalie jersey. The gambit worked, resulting in a two-minute power play. But, it did not pay off.
After a strong kill by Tomes and his defenders, Morgan went the other way and beat Wallaceburg netminder Noble Jacobs with a beaut of a low diving superman shot. However, the Red Devils were not done.
Down 11-9, Wallaceburg’s Hastings scored two more to complete his hat-trick, while Davis and Parker Gilhuly picked up singles. Bushnell and Brendan Wallace each scored one more goal in the period, both while on the power play.
The third was Andrew Garant’s period.
Held scoreless thus far, despite picking up seven assists, the Clippers’ captain showed why he is the OJBLL’s leading scorer. He provided clutch offence and blasted his way to a third-period natural hat-trick.
Despite another goal from Davis for the Red Devils, Garant’s scoring was enough to finish the road team. An insurance marker from Andrew Clarke was the final nail in the coffin.
In the dying seconds of the period, Wallaceburg’s Lucier took exception to Brendan Wallace. After getting in Wallace’s face, Bushnell stepped in to separate the two. Some back and forth between Lucier and Bushnell had the Clippers’ tough guy gesturing to the score clock. He was slashed in the groin for his efforts.
Lucier was ejected from the game with a major penalty for his actions.
Tomes picked up his first playoff win in net, turning aside 36 of 46 attempts in just over 53 minutes of play. Jacobs took the loss for the Red Devils as he blocked 38 of 54.
“In the second period, we really bumped up the intensity,” said Bushnell. “[Coach] Jerry Kavanaugh came in before the second and said that we just need to work.”
On his own play.
“A big hit and a quick goal are always big sparks for the team,” he said. “But it’s on every guy pulling their own effort; that’s what really gives us our spark.”
Coach Kavanaugh is already preparing for Game 2.
“I think, for us, it’s going to be cleaning up some of the mistakes,” said the Clippers’ bench boss. “I think if we clean up some of the mistakes we made today, we should have no problem up there. But you know, they are not going anywhere. [Wallaceburg’s] a good team with a lot of firepower, that when you make mistakes, they made us pay for it tonight. It’s on us to clean up that stuff and be better prepared for Saturday.”
Bushnell sees that his team has the potential to keep building on the forward momentum.
“We’re gonna come out and do the exact same thing,” said Bushnell. “We’re gonna pass, we’re gonna hit, and we’re gonna have quick goals and a great power play. We’re gonna have a great penalty kill and we’re going to dominate on Saturday.”
The Clippers will next travel to Wallaceburg for Game 2 of the best-of-5 series on Saturday at 2:00pm.