Merchants Force Deciding Game In Playoff Series With Home Victory Against Titans

By Sam Laskaris

How ‘bout them Merchants?

A week ago things looked rather bleak for the Merchants Lacrosse Club and it appeared it just might have a relatively short playoff run. That’s because the Merchants had lost the first two games of their Ontario Series Lacrosse (OSL) best-of-five semi-final series against the Oakville Titans. But by eking out an 8-7 victory over the visiting Titans in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon, at Children’s Arena in Oshawa, the Merchants have deadlocked the series at 2-2.

The Merchants first staved off elimination by registering a 6-4 triumph over the host Titans on Saturday.

Despite having to be back on the floor less than 20 hours later, the Merchants were able to keep the momentum from Saturday’s outing going on Sunday, in large part thanks to a seven-goal outburst in the second period. The fifth and deciding match in the series will be staged on Tuesday in Oakville. That contest will be held at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre, beginning at 8 p.m.

Merchants’ rookie Dylan Riley, who led his club with three goals Sunday, doesn’t seem to mind the fact the Titans will host the series-clinching game. “I personally like playing there better because it’s turf and it’s not as hot as our rink,” Riley said, adding the home confines at Children’s Arena is also a facility he enjoys. Riley believes his squad definitely has the series momentum now having won the last two games. “I know they’re definitely on their heels now,” he said of the Titans. “I’m looking forward to Game 5.”

Merchants’ captain Ryan Degerdon believes the key to winning the series now will be staying disciplined. He’s confident his side can be victorious on Tuesday if it avoids costly penalties. The Merchants and Titans also required the maximum five games in their OSL semi-final series in 2018. Oakville won that deciding contest en route to its league title.

Degerdon does not believe last year’s result will be a factor on Tuesday. “It’s definitely a different team now,” he said. “We had a lot of turnover and a lot of our guys went up to play (Senior) A (with the Brooklin Lacrosse Club). And for the guys that were here last year I think the big thing is we know we have a better team now.”

The final 20 minutes was rather tense for the Merchants and their supporters on Sunday. The Merchants took an 8-4 lead into the third period. But the Titans, the defending OSL champions, turned the contest into a nailbiter by scoring the only three goals in the third.

Degerdon said the key was registering the victory. But he would have preferred things would have been easier for his team in the final moments. “We held on which was the big thing,” he said. “But I’d like to see more of a killer attitude from us.”

Besides Riley’s hat trick, also scoring for the Merchants were Dylan Goddard, Liam Osborne, Bryce Tolmie, Mike Byrne and Adam Perroni. The winner of the Merchants/Titans series will advance to face the Six Nations Rivermen in the OSL championship final, which will also be a best-of-five affair.

The Six Nations squad advanced to the league final on Saturday. The Rivermen beat the Owen Sound North Stars 3-1 in their semi-final series.