The Grizzlies entered Sunday, March 20 semi-final game on a five-game losing streak – the most consecutive losses by any of the four ALL West teams – but took control early and lead wire-to-wire in knocking off the Shooting Eagles by the 11-7 score.
The Shooting Eagles entered the game averaging 13.75 goals per game, but the Grizzlies and goaltender Brandon Humphrey were up to the challenge, holding their opponent well below their season average.
Humphrey made 45 saves on 52 shots as the Grizzlies were outshot 52-45 and was named the game’s first star. Second star honours went to his counterpart at the other end of the floor as Brody Harris stopped 37 of 48 shots, coming up with several big stops to keep his team in the game.
Humphrey said his teammates did a great job allowing him to see the shots.
“They really made my job a lot easier and that is how we have to play. It is pretty tough to steal games as a goalie – we are not going to steal them very often – so when the team plays as a team, it means I can just do my job and don’t have to do anything extra and do too much, and just let everybody do their role,” Humphrey said.
It also helped that the Grizzlies never trailed, jumping ahead 3-0 in the first quarter. The Shooting Eagles did cut the deficit to 7-6 late in the third quarter before the Grizzlies responded with four of the game’s final five goals.
“We had to stick to our process. A game is a series of adjustments, but we had to stick to our process and what we were doing both offensively and defensively. When you re-check and self-check …when they got close to us, we had to focus in on our process, we had to be more focused on what we were doing,” Joseph said.
James Baker led the Grizzlies offence with a hat trick and six points while Erik Maas (two goals, three assists) and Kieran McKay (two goals, two assists) both had two-goal games. Maas was also the game’s third star.
Mitch McDole (one goal, three assists), Brian Smith (one goal, two assists) and Sekawnee Baker (one goal) rounded out the scoring. The Shooting Eagles offence was led by Mark Yingling’s two goals, while Doug Porter had a goal and an assist. Dylan Laprade, Jake Foster and Justin Digby had a goal apiece.
“When you play team defence and communicate, that is always the big thing for lacrosse team at any level and I think our guys did a great job of communicating with each other. They have great offensive players across the board … so the ability for our team to be able to play team defence was the most important part,” Joseph said.
“We grouped together as a family and started doing the things we were supposed to be doing and committed to them and to each other; stopped playing as individuals and started playing together,” Humphrey said.
The Grizzlies last win came back in week seven in the final week of January and since then, the team was outscored by 26 goals during their five-game losing streak with the losses coming by three or more goals. All through the losing streak, the Grizzlies coaching staff preached how each defeat was a learning lesson for their young team.
“When you start something, you should always start something with an end in mind. The great thing about this league is it allows us to try things, allows us to experience things together and today what you saw was the coming together of all the lessons we learned this whole year,” said Grizzlies coach Tewanee Joseph.
“This is the whole thing we were building towards: the playoffs. For us, it was about being prepared for the moment.”
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