Junior B’s rise to occasion
It was a perfect storm Wednesday night at Canada Games Park.
With the stands packed to capacity and their season hanging in the balance, the St. Catharines WMKL Athletic junior B’s turned in their best performance of the 2023 campaign.
The A’s scored early and often en route to a dominating 13-3 victory over the Six Nations Rebels to even their Ontario Lacrosse Association best-of-five Western Conference final at 2-2.
The A’s visit Six Nations Friday in a one game, winner-take-all battle to advance to the Ontario finals.
“I told the boys before the game it’s going to be a packed crowd and they’re here to see you,” A’s coach Alex Tamas said. “They’re here for a reason. You deserve an opportunity to play this game and you never know when the next opportunity is to play in a meaningful game like this with a packed crowd so just enjoy the moment, own the moment, and live up to it.”
Cody MacNeil helped set the tone for the A’s early, scoring twice in the first period as St. Catharines raced out to a 5-0 lead after 20 minutes.
“It was amazing,” MacNeil said. “Scoring that first goal and then we just kept scoring and scoring, it was unreal. Hearing the crowd go insane after every goal, I could just tell it got all of us fired up and helped us with that game.”
MacNeil admitted the thought of being eliminated crossed his mind.
“There was a lot of pressure being my first year and what could have been our last game. I wanted to make a statement in my rookie year so I had to come out firing and I did. We all did,” he said.
Tamas felt the big lead early was crucial as well — the Rebels had several hundred supporters on hand ready to celebrate.
“That helped big time,” he said. “That’s one thing we’ve struggled with, scoring that first goal and getting off to a hot start. To put them away so early and kind of take the wind off their bench was massive and helped us roll throughout the game.”
The A’s dropped the first two games of the series and faced elimination Monday but kept their season alive with a dramatic double overtime win to extend the series.
“That team only lost one game all season and we just beat them in back-to-back games,” Tamas said. “We knew we are the better conditioned team and we have the better legs and could eventually grind them down.
“We’re not sure they can handle adversity. We know we can, we’ve been battle tested all year, so we just keep that intensity up.”
The A’s now turn their attention to Friday and having to win in what is sure to be a hostile environment at Six Nations.
“It’s electric. I’ve grown up watching my cousins play in there and just being around it, but I know our barn is way more electric than their barn,” MacNeil said.
Tamas said the team is already planning for Game 5.
“Enjoy the moment but the second we walk out of this room we have to flip the page and worry about Friday night. They aren’t going to roll over and die,” he said.
A’s acorns: The game sheet listed 975 as the official attendance although there appeared to be significantly more than 1,000 fans in attendance.
A’s 13 Rebels 3
WMKL Player of the Game: A’s Cody MacNeil with three goals.
St. Catharines Athletics: MacNeil 3; Jack Parker 3; Ian Kohut 2; Trent Mooradian 2; Levi Roest; Avery Steinbach-Parker, Drew Kennedy.
Six Nations Rebels: Winter Rivera, Macay Jimmerson, Shako Swamp.
Up next: The A’s visit Six Nations Friday in a one game, winner-take-all battle to advance to the Ontario finals.
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