For the third-straight year, the Owen Sound Bug Juice North Stars have been elimintated from postseason contention by the Six Nations Rivermen.
For the second-straight night, the Rivermen gave up a third-period lead in the dying minutes only to stifle the North Stars in extra time.
Six Nations topped the North Stars 9-8 in Game 4 Saturday night inside the Bayshore taking the best-of-five Ontario Series Lacrosse semifinal three games to one.
“We could very easily be celebrating two overtime victories and sending the first-place team home,” said N’Stars GM Keith Peer.
Six Nations had an 8-5 lead in the third period before Lauchlin Elder, Dan Michel and Dan Keane scored three-straight goals to even the score. Michel’s goal came with just under two minutes remaining and set up Keane’s dramatic buzzer-beating bullet that sent the Bayshore crowd into hysterics.
The balloon popped in overtime as Owen Sound failed to record a shot on goaltender Warren Hill until the latter half of the ten-minute frame. Joe Maracle Jr. scored the winner in transition at the 4:57 mark.
“It’s just business as usual. We were trying to not get rattled. We’ve been there before . . . they’ve all seen big games like this and in front of this big crowd I was real proud of our guys for staying the course,” said Rivermen head coach Stew Monture.
Six Nations will now go on to meet the winner of the Oakville Titans and Brooklin Merchants in the OSL championship.
The Rivermen had a 3-2 lead after 20 minutes and expanded their cushion to two-goals after two periods leading 6-4. Six Nations looked to be in control in the third period before Owen Sound stormed back for the second-straight night late in the game.
“It’s never over until it’s over. I’m so proud of our guys. It would have been easy to fold the tent . . . they never gave up tonight,” Peer said. “The challenge was to play a full ten minutes of overtime, and we did, we just couldn’t score.”
Zed Williams led all scorers with a pair of goals and four assists for the Rivermen. Joe Maracle Jr. potted a hat trick including the game-winner. Riley Johnson, Leland Powless and Stuart Martin scored for Six Nations while Gates Abrams put home a highlight-reel behind-the-back shot past N’Stars tender Tyler Carlson.
Michel led the way for Owen Sound with three goals. The regular-season scoring champ notched seven tallies in the final two games. Lauchlin Elder beat Hill on a pair of breakaways. Mike MacLeod, Keane and Brenden Welsh scored the other North Stars goals.
Seven Rivermen players missed the game because of league suspensions. Johnny Powless, Sherman Williams, Wayne Hill, Wayne Van Every, Adam Bomberry, Rayce Vyse and Ian Martin were all booked.
Vyse and Martin have been suspended indefinitely.
Associated player Andrew Lavergne and defender Curtis Gibbons were suspended and missed the Game 4 for Owen Sound.
Not all of the suspended players were punished as a result of the brawl in Game 1, the league hasn’t officially announced any suspensions.
“I still hold my position that it wasn’t as bad as it seems. It was social-media driven,” said Monture. “I don’t think we needed to have eight guys suspended, because that’s a pretty crippling thing, and these guys put a lot of time and sacrifice – leaving work early and getting to work late and leaving their families – to get told that you can’t participate.”
The location of Game 3 was changed from the Rivermen’s home floor – the Gaylord Powless Arena – to the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford as a result of league mandates arising from the aftermath of Game 1’s brawl.
“That was probably the worst kick in the pants that Six Nations lacrosse has gotten in a real long time. They entered the political world on that one, not just so much Owen Sound versus Six Nations,” said Monture. “We just moved up the river a little bit. We’re the Rivermen, and we had to do what we had to do to get the W.”
Other changes included the addition of an extra referee on the floor for both Games 3 and 4, as well as blocking off entire sections of seats behind the player’s benches at both the WGSC and Bayshore.
The North Stars finished the 2019 season with a 9-7-0 record placing them in fourth out of six teams and matched up against the first-place Six Nations Rivermen who notched a 12-3-0 record.
Owen Sound traded for Dan Michel, Jeff Swift and Tyler Carlson at the deadline. Swift was unable to participate in the postseason after suffering a rib injury in the final regular-season game.
“I think the people who came out and saw the product saw that when these two teams actually play lacrosse it’s probably some of the best lacrosse in the country. It’s good to end it on that note,” Peer said.