Jr. Raiders one win away from Minto Cup
Lacrosse: Okotoks carries 3-2 series lead into pivotal Game 6 on Thursday
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 07, 2013 06:00 am
The Okotoks Jr. Raiders missed out on their first of three opportunities to punch a golden ticket to the Minto Cup.
Needing just one win to qualify for the national Junior A finals, Okotoks was tripped up by a spirited Calgary Mountaineers club staving off elimination with a 12-8 result in Sunday night’s Game 5 at the Stu Peppard Arena.
The Calgary victory narrowed the gap to a 3-2 series lead for Okotoks in the best-of-seven league finals.
“It was an opportunity, but we didn’t deserve to win,” a forthright Raiders head coach Dave Pym stated after Game 5. “We didn’t play our system all over the floor, whether it was defence or offence.
“It’s unfortunate we didn’t have as much killer instinct coming out of the gate as we did and then I don’t understand the way some of the calls get made, but I’m not the ref.”
With their backs against the wall in an elimination game, the Mounties took early control with a dominant first period where the hosts took a 5-1 lead into the intermission on tallies from Jordan Prysko, Wes Gardner, Connor Wilson, Cody Graden and Austin Jerhoff.
Raider Aaron Tackaberry sparked a comeback with a terrific individual dive across the goal crease as the catalyst for a three-goal run to narrow the deficit to 6-4.
Then the Mounties powerplay went to work, registering three more markers through Patrick Henry, Jerhoff and Prysko. Goals on the man-advantage through Holden Cattoni and Brett Baron kept Okotoks in the contest, down 11-6 after two periods.
Okotoks’ Matthew Kristiansen kick started the Raiders’ surge in the final frame on a seeing-eye point shot one minute after the break and a shorthanded marker just minutes later, putting a scare in the Mountaineers faithful with more than 12 minutes on the clock.
After Jerhoff’s hat-trick marker restored a four goal lead, Henry struck Raider Dustin Reykdal with a high-stick leading to a donnybrook that would see two players from both sides ejected.
Moments later Tackaberry came to the defence of rookie Travis Getz after the latter was hit from behind, leading to another set of ejections.
“The Raiders have always been five man strong so if something happens, everyone is there. It’s a brotherhood,” said Baron, noting the undisciplined play late in the game. “We just kind of lost our heads a bit, let the refs get in our heads,”
Okotoks would end up shorthanded after each fracas and spent the remainder of the period killing penalties, effectively ending any hopes of a late Raiders’ push.
“It was a game to take the championship and we totally screwed this one up,” Baron said. “Today we stepped back a little bit, I don’t know if we thought we had it in the bag or not.
“But we’ve got to come back like we did in Games 3 and 4.”
The Raiders put themselves in a position to close the series with dominant efforts on home floor in Game 3, an 8-4 victory on July 31, and Game 4, an 11-5 showing on Aug. 3.
Okotoks held Calgary to just 17 goals in the previous three contests, before head coach Rick Windl’s club made some minor adjustments to bury a series high 12 goals in Sunday’s tilt.
“Our powerplay was huge tonight,” said Windl, noting the improved ball movement in all phases. “Basically it was us finding the open guy, that’s something we struggled with the past few games.
“But we still have a mountain to climb here.”
The Mounties faced an identical 3-2 deficit in last year’s unforgettable finals before storming back with two straight wins to take the series in seven.
Game 6 is Thursday, Aug. 8 at Pason Centennial Arena in Okotoks at 8 p.m. If necessary, Game 7 would be Aug. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Peppardome in Calgary.
Returning to the larger dimensions of the Pason Centennial Arena should give the Raiders a definitive home floor advantage on Thursday, Baron stated.
“We’ve got the bigger floor and use it to our advantage,” he said. “I think we have the more athletic team so we’re able to push the ball and we’ve had a pretty good record at home so far so I’m pretty excited to go back and win in front of our fans.”
For more information go to raiderslacrosse.ca.