Merchants drop Ontario Series Lacrosse opener

by Sam Laskaris

With a simple pre-game look at the two benches it would have been rather simple to predict the outcome of Friday’s Ontario Series Lacrosse match between the Six Nations Rivermen and the host Merchants Lacrosse Club. The visiting Rivermen were able to dress the maximum 20 players for the contest held at Oshawa’s Delpark Homes Centre. As for Merchants, they only had nine runners and two goaltenders suit up for the game. Not surprisingly, the Rivermen were able to register a lopsided 16-5 triumph. With the victory the Six Nations squad remained undefeated and is now sporting a 3-0 record.

As for the Merchants, Friday’s outing marked their home and season opener. “We have a bunch of guys that are still away for school, down in the U.S.,” said Clancy Almas, who made his debut as the Merchants’ head coach. “And we also had a few injuries in our last practice. We also have guys that are nursing injuries coming out of the ALL.” That would be the Arena Lacrosse League, which concluded its season in mid-April. “It was tough to get a good group out on the floor this early in the season, especially when guys are just coming off a season and away,” Almas added.

Despite being undermanned, the Merchants netted the first two goals in Friday’s outing. Clancy’s charges also found themselves enjoying a 4-3 lead after the first 20 minutes of action. But the floodgates opened after that as the Rivermen scored nine unanswered goals in the second period to take a 12-4 advantage into the final period.

At the suggestion of the Rivermen bench staff, Almas said he agreed to let the clock run throughout the final 20 minutes. Six Nations outscored the Merchants 4-1 in the final period.

“It was a tough game for both squads so it was better for us to run the clock and finish it a little bit earlier,” Almas said.

Justin Bragg, who scored one goal for the Merchants, knew his side was facing a massive barrier on Friday. “It’s tough going into the game but knowing that we had those nine guys, we had to still go in and show up,” he said. “Fans came out to support us so we have to go out and play as hard as we can.” Bragg was pleased to see the Merchants try to make the best of their situation. “It was a good game for the first period,” he said. “We came out hot and went up two.” But Bragg added he felt his teammates expended perhaps a bit too much energy in the opening 20 minutes. “I think we went a little too hard there in the first,” he said.

Bragg realizes the Merchants will have considerably more bodies out for future contests, starting with the team’s next game, this coming Friday (May 20), at home versus the Owen Sound North Stars. About 40 players have expressed interest in playing for the Merchants this season.

“It is a deep roster,” Bragg said. “I know there are high hopes for the B team and I know we will achieve them.”

Meanwhile, Almas praised the play of both of the Merchants’ netminders on Friday. Lukas Coote started the game and was relieved by Ryan Schuetzkowski, who entered the match slightly past the midway point of the middle frame.

“The goalies were outstanding,” Almas said. “Coote played an amazing first period and then our guys started to let him down a little bit. They were getting tired there obviously only having nine guys. And then Schueter came in and was unbelievable to finish the game for us. That was the bright spot in our game, our goaltending, for sure.” 

Keegan White scored twice for the Merchants. Besides Bragg, Cody Hamley and Ciaron Costello also provided singles.