(WALLACEBURG, ON) – After four games in their best-of-five Ontario Junior B Lacrosse series, the Windsor Clippers have vanquished the pesky Wallaceburg Red Devils. The Red Devils showed stark improvement from last season, augmented by blockbuster acquisitions of players from the Six Nations reserve, making trades for Vern Hill, Madison General, Tyler Brown, and Cole Dezainde in April and Colin Montour, Sidney Powless, and Bailey and Austin Skye in June.
If their first three meetings of the year, a 14-14 tie at home, a last-second 13-12 road loss, and a 14-6 shellacking of Windsor in the Wallaceburg Memorial Arena, the Red Devils showed the potential for a changing of the tide in the Far West Division.
On June 13, Wallaceburg needed to win to their final game of the year against the Clippers to possibly take their first division title since 2001; the year in which the Dostie brothers and goalie Josh McNaughton led the Red Devils to a Founders Cup national championship.
Playing at Forest Glade Arena, it did not go to plan for Wallaceburg. A 20-7 blowout loss was, by far, their worst showing of the season.
The Clippers cleaned up the back-end of their schedule and locked up their fifth consecutive Far West championship. It’s funny how things work out though. The Clippers drew the fourth seed in the playoffs, and the Red Devils finished fifth.
Here we go again.
In Game 1, the Clippers rallied back from a third-period deficit in front of their Windsor faithful to win 16-14. The second game was not a pleasant experience for the Clippers as Windsor stayed winless in Wallaceburg, dropping the game 17-11.
If Game 2 was unpleasant, Game 3 was ugly; but not on the floor.
After a hard fought battle by all who played, the Red Devils coaching staff engaged in some post-game extracurricular activities with some Windsor spectators leading to a suspension and even police charges. It seems that the Wallaceburg coaching staff took this year’s theme, SNAFU, a little too literally.
McNaughton, a four-year veteran of the Red Devils, penned an impassioned open letter to his former organization.
“I’ve never played for a coach who swung a stick. Never,” he wrote. “I watched the video, maybe you did too. We may disagree on whether a grown man can be provoked enough to justify acting like a toddler, swinging a wooden goalie stick at a kid’s face and later prancing around like an ape all the while making the accompanying sounds, but what we won’t disagree on is what we saw.”
McNaughton drew parallels to an incident earlier in the season when a Six Nations coach swung a fist at a Wallaceburg player. He asked that the Red Devils, “… do the right thing and remove the coach from the bench for the remainder of the season, if not permanently. He has forfeited his right to lead our kids. We can’t turn our back to this type of behaviour, regardless of the outcome.”
The Facebook post was liked dozens of times before apologists unjustly attacked McNaughton as a turncoat. The post was removed a day later when the subject became too heated.
The league ordered the teams to provide paid security for the remaining games of the series, with Game 4 taking place in Wallaceburg on Canada Day. Corey Lucier, who played a remarkable series for his hometown team, opened the scoring on the first play of the game.
He was answered by a barrage of scoring from the Clippers, a six-goal run, with captain Andrew Garant, Chase Kavanaugh, and Dylan Riley all blasting a pair apiece against Red Devils starter Noble Jacobs. Wallaceburg’s Kyle Dawson and Carter Hastings bookended Windsor’s Noah Bushnell to end the period down 7-3 to the Clippers.
In the middle stanza, Riley, Garant, and Nathan Salaris picked up a three-goal run early in the period, only to see Brown and Hill respond for the Red Devils. Windsor’s Kavanaugh and Jake Rosa each picked up singles late in the period to close up the scoring for the frame.
Then Wallaceburg’s bench staff went to the rule book to try and turn the tide.
Clippers’ goalie Joel Evans was having a stupendous night, allowing just five goals on 28 chances in 34 minutes of play. However, he mistakenly wore a necklace on the floor during the game. According to the Ontario Lacrosse Association, such a mistake is grounds for a two-minute penalty and a game misconduct.
Wallaceburg, smartly, did something similar in Game 1, calling out Windsor’s back-up Liam Tomes for wearing an oversized jersey. Despite catching Tomes and getting the power play, the ploy did not work, but you can’t fault them for trying.
The necklace infraction did work, however, putting Carson Hebner in cold after weeks without playing time. Hebner was able to get out of the second with three saves and no goals against, but the young tender was in for a war in the third.
Wallaceburg brought their guns out in the final period and they chipped away at the rookie goalie. Lucier sniped four times in the third, Hastings twice, and one more for Dawson. But Hebner and the defence, with some timely scoring from the boys up front, cemented a 16-12 win and a trip to the Western Conference semi-final for Windsor.
Austin Thompson led the Clippers scoring in the third, blasting two, with singles going to Riley and Craig Marentette.
“It was a battle,” said Garant. “It was fun, but that’s a team you don’t want to end your season. [For] myself and the other 21-year-olds, that’s a team you don’t want to end your junior career losing to … Everyone was battling hard and I’m glad we beat them.”
Hebner picked up the statistical win in net, stopping 15 in just under 26 minutes of play. At the other end of the rink, Noble and Lucas Jacobs split the loss in net, turning aside 25 of 41.
Due to a Game 5 upset by the Hamilton Bengals over the Elora Mohawks on Sunday night, the much-anticipated rematch of the Six Nations Rebels and Windsor Clippers is on hold, instead, the Clippers will be facing the Orangeville Northmen in Round 2.
The Northmen have eliminated Windsor in three of the past four years and may have been all that was standing in the way last year of Windsor’s first Founders Cup since 1975.
“O’ville is gonna be tough,” said Garant. “We played them really good in their barn and lost with a last second shot, so it’s for sure a winnable series for us. [Evans] and the D have to play good for sure and the offence is gonna have to put up 10-12 goals to win games. This is a team who has finished my season three out of my four years, so I know my boys are gonna come out flying and it will be a fun series.”
In their only meeting this year, Orangeville beat the Clippers in the final possession of the game, 13-12, on June 10. The Northmen are led by a balanced scoring attack with three 20-plus goal scorers and 11 different goal-getters in double digits.
The Clippers were the second highest scoring team in Junior B. Garant and Kavanaugh each had 45-goal seasons, Riley notched 32, four more reached the 20-goal mark, and a total of ten scored in double digits.
The Northmen may not have had nearly as many goals as Windsor, but Orangeville are a defensive juggernaut. Their 106 goals against in the regular season were only contested by the Mohawks, a key divisional rival.
Orangeville goalie Daniel Tanner will be a force to be reckoned with and is already a chief candidate for goalie of the year. Luckily for the Clippers, rookie Joel Evans has shown increased poise and consistency as the season has dragged on and has earned another shot at the Northmen.
- @ Orangeville Friday July 7, 8:00 pm
- Windsor Monday July 10, 8:00pm
- @ Orangeville Thursday July 13, 8:00pm
- Windsor Sunday July 16, 5:00pm*
- @ Orangeville Monday July 17, 8:00pm*
* if necessary