The Brampton Excelsiors faced the St. Catharines Athletics in the finals of the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League (OJLL) finals, held at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (TRAC) Sunday night. This whirlwind tournament style season of 44 games in two weeks yielded outstanding lacrosse game in, and game out, culminating in two outstanding semi-final games the previous day.
Both winning teams showed why they were in the finals, demonstrating great all round team play. Timely goals, great Defense, solid goaltending, effective special teams, and cohesive team play were the reasons these teams made it here. Although St. Catharines got the best of Brampton during the “season”, this was an entirely different event, with an entire different mindset needed.
The First Period:
Nathan Grenon opened the scoring for Brampton at 3:43, but Mason Kamminga tied the game in transition for St. Catharines at 5:33. The Athletics took the lead when Carter Zavitz scored on a high fake, low shot at 6:36, but the Excelsiors came right back at 9:14 when Austin Hasen fed Lucas Ferreira who beat Cam MacLeod (Athletics Goalie) in this back and forth affair.
Special teams got involved when St. Catharines scored on the power play. Sam LeClair faked sidearm and fired an overhand shot past Steven Orleman (Excelsiors Goalie) at 12:46, but a long lead pass from Orleman to Caleb Creasor in transition, evened the game up again, as he made no mistake scoring stick side on the breakaway at 16:46.
After one period, Brampton 3, St. Catharines 3
The Second Period:
Seth Van Schepan made a beautiful swim move at 1:00 to open the second period scoring for the Excelsiors, but Sam LeClair scored his second of the game just 0:27 seconds later to tie it up once again. Some frantic play in front of Brampton’s goal let Brayden Mayea score at 2:29 to give St. Catharines the lead 5-4, but Nathan Grenon’s second goal of the game tied it up again at 3:28. Brayden Mayea scored again with an absolute laser from the outside at 4:07, and again at 4:38 to increase the Athletics lead to two at 4:38.
The pace was fast and furious throughout this period.
Nathan Grenon got Brampton back on track scoring his third of the game at 9:29, followed by Caleb Creasor with his second goal tying the game up once again at 9:36. Sam LeClair scored his third of the game on the power play at 14:11, but Austin Hasen blasted a howitzer from the outside at 14:55 to tie the game again.
A controversial goal for St. Catharines at 15:41. There looked to be a crease violation that wasn’t called, but the ball found its way into the net.
Orleman was pulled from the Excelsiors net for a few minutes to compose himself.
Brayden Mayea increased the lead to two from the outside, and Orleman came back in the net. Brampton came back with Austin Hasen scoring again, closing the gap to 10-9, but Alex Simmons scored the next two from outside making the score 12-9. Seth Van Schepan scored to bring the game back within two, and that’s how the period ended.
After two periods, St. Catharines 12, Brampton 10
St. Catharines opened the third period scoring on the power play at 1:53 extending the lead to three goals.
Nathan Grenon and Trent Jackson got involved in a solid tilt at 5:25, after a questionable hit on Brampton’s Seth Van Schepan. Jackson earned a five minute penalty for the hit, and Grenan, a two minute instigator penalty. The fight also earned both players game misconducts.
On the Excelsiors power play they were able to get one back when Kyle Waters scored, but Carter Zavitz scored again for St. Catharines to bring it back to a three goal lead.
After the goal, Excelsiors goalie Steven Orleman slashed a St. Catharines player, earning him a five minute penalty and a game misconduct.
Things continued to stay chippy, as the refs decided to let the boys play!
Kyle Waters scored his second of the period for the Excelsiors at 14:10, bringing them back within two goals, and then scored again with 0:46.9 seconds left making it just a one goal lead. Brampton won the ensuing faceoff and called timeout with just 0:40.3 seconds left. The Excelsiors had more than a few chances to tie, but Cam MacLeod and the St. Catharines defense were able to hold on for the win.
Final score, St. Catharines Athletics 14, Brampton Excelsiors 13
***Of note…Backup goalie Caleb Slinger came into the Brampton Excelsiors nets after the Orleman ejection and was perfect. He truly gave the Excelsiors a chance to come back and win this game.***
Player of the season…Alex Simmons of the St. Catharines Athletics.
Congratulations to the St. Catharines Athletics….OJLL 2021 Champions. Their first championship since 2003.