Rock defeat Merchants in defensive battle

The Merchants Lacrosse Club fought right up until the final buzzer in an Ontario Series Lacrosse (OSL) contest staged Sunday in Oakville. The Oshawa-based Merchants, however, were edged 5-4 by the host Oakville Rock in the match which featured outstanding efforts from both goaltenders. The contest was held at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville.

Joel Watson, who toiled with the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) this past season, made his Merchants’ debut between the pipes. At the other end of the floor Rock netminder Craig Wende also impressed, capping off his stellar outing by making a save on Merchants’ forward Keegan White in the final seconds of the match to preserve the Oakville win.

“Both goaltenders played well and both defences played well,” said Merchants’ head coach Clancy Almas.

The fact his side only managed to score four times, however, proves that Almas’ charges have plenty of room for improvement offensively.

“We were just a little off tonight,” he said.

White, Darren Elliott, John Harrington and Kyle Waters netted the Merchants’ goals. Waters, who toiled for the NLL’s Calgary Roughnecks this past season, suited up for his first match with the Merchants. He had been the first pick over-all in the 2021 Major Series Lacrosse’s Entry Draft, chosen by the Merchants’ affiliate Brooklin Lacrosse Club.

With the loss, the Merchants’ record fell to 1-3. Oakville is now sporting a 2-1 mark.

“We’ve got a lot of youth,” Almas said. “Experience and practice are what you need to help with that.”

Veteran defender Mark Debrone also played in his first OSL match this year for the Merchants. Work commitments had prevented him from suiting up with the club before Sunday’s match. Debrone is a customer care advisor for Achievers, a Toronto-based company focusing on employee engagement. Debrone had last played for the Merchants in 2019, the last time an OSL season was staged. The league’s 2020 and ’21 campaigns were both wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a brand new team from when I last played for them,” Debrone said. And he was impressed with the Merchants’ efforts on Sunday. “Holy geez it just gelled together,” he said. “Five goals against is nothing to sneeze at.” Debrone was also pleased to see his squad battle until the final buzzer. The Merchants pulled Watson in the dying seconds of the match but Wende’s final save prevented the contest from needing overtime to declare a winner.

The Merchants’ next game is this coming Sunday (June 5), on the road against the host Ennismore James Gang. The opening faceoff for this tilt, which will be staged at the Robert E. Young Recreation Complex, is scheduled for 4 p.m.