The pregame anticipation was sky high and the fans were looking for a night of high speed, high energy lacrosse. Kinsmen Arena was in a festive mode as the regular season hardware (paperware?) was handed out (well, taped to the dressing room doors!) to Team Juniors and Team Blair. Rumour has it that Bill Merkley has offered a special deal to both Team Juniors and Team Blair on commemorative gold rings.
The goalie question was at the top of everyone’s mind – what would be the winning strategy? which goalie do you start with? The question was so important that it would appear that the first game’s choice was more or less random according to which dressing room was closest to the arena entrance. With respect to in game strategy, apparently there was some thought given to possibly allowing a breakway or two against Justin just before the halfway change just to try to put him off his game – hard to tell if this was implemented as it wouldn’t be much different from normal for any of the 4 teams. In any case, for the 2nd game Team Junior representative made the call, shoot on the easy target first and hope that Justin was tired enough in the 2nd half to be able to maintain a lead. This appeared to be a winning formula in Game #1 but as we are often told – past performance is no guarantee of future results! That’s why we play the games!
In the first game, Team Joe was heavily favoured having a 5-1-0 regular season record against their opponents but it appeared that Team Russ was prepared to prove the ProLine odds wrong. Team Russ got to Gord early while Justin stymied the Team Joe shooters. Going into the half Team Russ was ahead 7-2. Would 5 goals be enough of a lead? ..and it quickly appeared that everything would fall apart – John Low gritted his teeth, put his head down and scored 2 quick goals by sheer force of will. A dangerous shot penalty and Lowsy scores another on the penalty shot and the lead is cut to 2. Another penalty and second penalty shot, but Team Joe is denied by Gord! Team Russ was able to kill this penalty but then an unsportsmanlike call and another penalty shot! (these tactics didn’t work very well for Team Blair last week, but maybe there was a carefully considered reason to try this again)…and again Team Joe was denied! Team Joe was able to score once more to pull to within 1 but Team Russ quickly got back on track and scored their 8th to break the momentum. Then a slight misstep in defender coverage allowed the JKOW to score 2 quick goals. Team Joe kept fighting back, scoring a few more but Gord blocked a number of critical late period chances to maintain the 2 goal lead and Team Russ ran out the clock knowing they were on their way to the finals – final score Team Russ 11 – Team Joe 9. Overall a very good game, close, back and forth play – what LMHLL is all about!