The Campbell River Midget A2 Ravens hosted the Juan de Fuca A1 Whalers (JDF) on Sunday at Rod Brind’Amour Arena.
The Whalers are probably the best A1 team on the Island and pretty competitive with the top lacrosse teams in the Lower Mainland so the Ravens knew they had to stay focused. Unfortunately, captain Nolan Fair couldn’t even watch this game after going onto the disabled list the previous day. He broke his ankle on Saturday during Team Island tryouts at Fuller Lake and was in hospital on Sunday for surgery to have a pin inserted to stabilize the fracture.
The Ravens knew their collective backs were up against the wall and came out guns a-blazing. JDF started their pick-and-roll motion offence early and never took their foot off of the gas pedal. Ravens goalie Will McLean made a few good saves before JDF snuck one through the five-hole to take the lead. JDF extended their lead with a short-handed effort and followed that with an even-strength goal. Fans were treated to JDF’s high-octane offence as they setup double-screens and ran defenders into them. While short-handed, JDF managed to spring a breakaway which was denied by McLean. After another JDF goal, the first period ended with JDF leading 4-0.
Early in the second period, Bryce Turko spotted Mason Osterhout-Code wide-open and zipped the ball to him. Osterhout-Code buried it to break the goose-egg 4-1 for JDF. That seemed to deflate JDF momentarily and the Ravens kept the pressure on with good ball movement. While on offence, the ball came to Cameron Hunter at the top of the house and he fired a howitzer into the back of the onion bag, to make it 4-2. JDF regained their focus and popped a pair of even-strength goals by running their tried-and-true plays to free shooters at the very edge of the crease. Turko created his own opportunity with a strong forecheck, forcing a loose ball which he scooped up and took in on the JDF goal. He fired the ball into the back of the onion bag to make it 6-3. JDF got a late one to make it 7-3 at the end of the second.
JDF kept the pedal-to-the-metal and scored a pair of even-strength and a pair of power-play goals. Hunter fired a pass to Zach Lontayao and he lit the red light to make it 11-4. McLean made a great save on a behind-the-back shot from the edge of the goal crease but JDF followed that with an open man at the side of the net who made the catch-and-shoot play before McLean could move side-to-side. With less than two minutes left in the third, both teams kept working hard. The Ravens moved the ball well with a few crisp passes but the JDF goalie tracked the ball well and made the save; final score was 12-4 for JDF.
“Everyone stepped up big time, especially since we were missing Nolan, Luke Lund and Reilly Doney this game for various reasons,” said head coach Todd Fair. “Reid Matthews came into the lineup today and contributed. Jeremy Gushe worked hard at both ends and seems to be learning some tips-and-tricks from Ross Rickman regarding how to control larger players by angling them to the boards. Matt Leard and Liam Rivett were unlucky not to score today; each went into the danger zones repeatedly and drew defenders every time. Andy Hunt kept his composure and worked hard at both ends of the floor. Travis Star and Jordan Pentney are getting up to speed quickly and making significant progress every game. Will may want a couple of shots back but the guy is facing more than 50 shots per game so far this season. We tied JDF in the second period and demonstrated more discipline by staying out of the penalty box. Giving teams the power-play at this level often results in a goal against, especially teams that move the ball as well as JDF does.”
“While I’m obviously saddened by my son’s injury, I want to congratulate Zach and Will for making Team Island. Many observers came up to me while we were assessing Nolan’s injury and said that he was a shoo-in for Team Island, too. There were fewer players trying out this year but to have three Ravens on the team is a credit to these athletes.”
The Ravens host Nanaimo on Saturday, May 2 (2 p.m. at Rod Brind’Amour Arena) then travel over the Malahat on Sun May 3 for a rematch against JDF.