Raiders take stranglehold on semi
Lacrosse: Okotoks up 2-0 on plucky Sherwood Park team
Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 06:00 am
The defending champions are one win away from a shot at repeating the feat.
The Okotoks Jr. Raiders earned a 2-0 stranglehold on the best-of-five league semifinal by holding court on home floor and outlasting the gritty Sherwood Park Titans 10-6 in Sunday’s Game 2 after hanging on for a nervous 15-12 result the night prior.
“We had to come to play because (Game 1) we sort of gave up that third period,” said Raiders rookie dynamo Brett McIntyre. “We wanted to show that they don’t have a chance with us and that we’re here for a reason.
“We tried to focus on our game, do what we do, and just execute.”
Execution was evident from ball-drop in Game 2 as the Raiders stormed out to a four-goal lead in the opening frame with McIntyre twice getting on the board along with shifty lefty Jordan Getz and recent returnee Kade McCormick. Sherwood Park would cut the lead in half before period’s end.
The Raiders kept the Titans at bay in a penalty-filled middle frame with Dylan Kinnear and McIntyre’s hat-trick tally giving the hosts a 6-4 advantage after two periods. After McCormick restored the three-goal advantage, the Titans gradually chipped away and cut the deficit to just one with six minutes on the clock.
Okotoks then earned some breathing room with Ben Fream finding a wide-open Travis Getz on the doorstep and a pair of empty netters through defensive aces Carson McCormick and AJ Kluck with Adam Virgo putting in yeoman’s work on the Raiders’ last line of defence.
“We were a lot more composed, a lot more level headed and we didn’t really get off our game today,” said physical Raiders defender Curtis McMullen. “Our penalty kill did great when we went a man-down. Virgo played great, made big stops when we needed them.”
“When they pulled their goalie with the sixth man we were ready for that. We didn’t have that same thing as last game where we weren’t adjusting.
Okotoks looked to be on easy street in the series opener behind a nine-goal second period giving the hosts a 13-5 advantage heading into the final frame.
Sherwood Park responded with a 7-0 run to turn the potential blowout into a nail-biting finish. With the extra attacker on, Carson McCormick buried an empty netter with Jordan Getz adding some late consolation to give Okotoks the stressful three-goal win.
“We were just getting too jumpy, weren’t adjusting and panicked,” McMullen said on the third-period collapse. “They kept doing the same thing and we knew what we had to do. It was more about staying focused and playing easy.”
Jordan Getz led the club with a four-goal effort to go along with a hat-trick from newcomer Duston Doudelet, two-goal performances from both Carson and Kade McCormick and single tallies from Travis Getz, Colton Bymak, Kinnear and McIntyre.
The two victories don’t tell the whole tale of what’s been an incredibly combative and at times mean spirited series between two evenly matched opponents.
McMullen, who traded blows in Game 2 in a spirited tilt with Chris Ulmer, said the intensity is what makes for playoff lacrosse.
“The emotion is always there, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing,” McMullen said. “These close games like this really get you going, when it’s a blowout game you kind of lose focus.
“It’s nice having good competition.”
Okotoks can clinch its spot in the final on Friday as Game 3 hits Sherwood Park. If necessary, Game 4 would be Saturday at the same venue and Game 5 would take place in Okotoks on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We have to stay focused, forget about those two games,” said McIntyre, Okotoks’ first overall draft pick. “To focus on the game ahead of us and stick to our systems and we will be fine.
“Game 3 is going to be a little more intense because they’re going to be desperate.”
Awaiting the winner of the series is the top seeded Calgary Mountaineers who earned a bye through to the final by virtue of posting the best record in the regular season. Should the Raiders advance it would be the third consecutive final between the southern foes.
For more information go to raiderslacrosse.ca