Merchants edged by visiting North Stars

by Sam Laskaris

Clancy Almas was understandably upset. But the head coach of the Merchants Lacrosse Club is not ready to start pressing any panic buttons just yet. For the second consecutive game the Oshawa-based Merchants had to scrounge around for some bodies to dress while they await the availability of several players they have penciled in for roster spots this season. And the Merchants dropped their second straight match, losing 9-8 on Friday to the visiting Owen Sound North Stars, in an Ontario Series Lacrosse contest staged at Oshawa’s Delpark Homes Centre. The Merchants had also lost their season opener one week earlier, 16-5 against the visiting Six Nations Rivermen.

“Definitely a better game but still a little unorganized,” Almas said of the Merchants’ Friday night outing. “It’s tough when you see a bunch of guys that haven’t even met each other. We’re doing introductions instead of talking about plays and what we’re going to run.”

While they are still waiting for some players expected to have key roles with the Merchants during the 2022 campaign to show up, the club had to bring some newcomers into the fold in recent days.

“I think it’s frustrating and you’ve just got to stay with the process knowing we’re going to have guys here that are going to work hard, know that we’re going to have guys that have made a commitment to be here and we can grow from this,” Almas said of his squad’s two early-season losses. Almas added it’s been tough thus far trying to coach some players he’s not familiar with. “It’s a good way to learn what the guys have,” he said. “It’s tough as a coach when you don’t know how far you can push them and how good they are as a player. You need to be able to push them as far as you can and see if they listen and to see if they have the skills and the drive that you’re looking for in players.”

Jake Gilmour, who scored twice and added an assist for the Merchants on Friday, believes there is no need to fret about his team’s first two matches.

“It’s early,” he said. “Once we get most of our guys back I think it will be easier getting into things and starting games on time where we can start getting reps with each other and getting to know each other’s names and get systems in place.” Gilmour praised the club’s defensive players for their performance on Friday. “I think everyone on the defensive side of the ball did their job,” he said. “And it’s our job to finish a little bit more and win the game.” Gilmour also understands the Merchants, who entered the season with lofty expectations, can still accomplish their goals. “It’s two games,” he said. “I think we realize we’re going to see each team two or three times throughout the year so we’re not too worried here. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back and we’ve got a lot of guys here that are hurt but are going to get put back into the lineup. It’s two games. We can still go 14-2. We’ve just got to stay positive, wash these last couple and continue to grow.” 

Darren Elliott also netted a pair of goals for the Merchants on Friday. His side trailed throughout the game, at times by as many as three goals, before mounting a late rally which came up a bit short.

“It was obviously tough coming close there at the end,” Elliott said. “But for the first time for a lot of guys playing together it was kind of expected to feel things out. I liked our effort there at the end. We’ve just got to put in a full 60 minutes and pull out some wins.” Though Elliott knows help is on the way soon for the Merchants, he added those currently on the team’s roster are capable of improvement. “One thing we can control is the effort for the whole game,” he said. “That’s the one thing we’ve got to be a little better at. Overall though I think there’s positives and a lot of room to grow here.”

Matt Duncan, Justin Bragg, Logan Swanton and Devin Pipher also scored for the Merchants on Friday. The Merchants next game is this coming Friday, May 27 at home against the expansion Clearview Crushers. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.