Blue Devils swept in semifinal
London Community News
By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
It’s not Founder Cup gold, but the London Blue Devils still have a lot to hold their head high about after wrapping up their Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League season Friday (July 13), losing 15-12 to the Wallaceburg Red Devils’ in the West Conference semifinal.
“It’s tough to lose three straight to a division rival like that, but I’m kind of speechless,” said Blue Devils’ head coach and general manager Jeff Williamson.
It’s almost fitting that game three of the double Devils’ playoff battle was the most Jekyll and Hyde-type game for both teams in the opening two periods of their Friday 13the matchup.
The division foes literally beat each other into the ground and tempers blew up early with London’s Sam MacGee and Pat Van Boxmeer tangling with Wallaceburg’s Mike Myers and Rob Pollock at the midway point of the first period during the same stoppage.
The fist-a-cuffs looked to light a fire under the Blue Devils who found the back of the net five times after the fight to take a 6-1 lead at the end of 20 minutes.
If London thought they were going to be running back to Wallaceburg for game four that easily than they forgot just how dominant the Red Devils have been in lighting up their net in games one and two — especially in the second period.
After squeaking out two one-goal wins in the series openers, Wallaceburg scored 18 of their 36 points in the second frame by the semifinals’ end.
Going into the third period of Friday’s game, tied 9-9, the Blue Devils, along with their home fans at Earl Nichols Recreation Centre, started to look deflated by the roaring comeback and the Red Devils’ punched their ticket to the conference final against the Six Nations Rebels.
London, who had the least amount of goals scored against in the West in the regular season, had no answer for Wallaceburg’s offence.
The Blue Devils had only allowed double-digit goals scored on them three times all season. The Red Devils did it three times in the series alone. (Game one- 10-9 Wallaceburg; Game two- 13-12 OT Wallaceburg).
“We tell (the players) to go out there every shift, come back dripping in sweat, recharge and then get them back out there,” Williamson said. “Obviously, it’s not what we wanted, but you can’t take away what these kids did.”
For that matter, you can’t take away what Williamson has done with the team. Since joining the Blue Devils’ staff three years ago he’s seen progress every year, going from a team not making the postseason, to last year’s first round exit and now seeing some time in the second playoff series.
“It’s a work in progress, you’re not going to turn an organization around in no time. Obviously, it’s going to be a good team when we come back,” Williamson said, leading a team stacked with nine rookies to their second postseason appearance. “We kind of dropped the term rookie ages ago. This is a team lead by example, even if you’re a fifth year guy or a first year guy.”
Some of that leadership was showed by first-year player Chris Wilman who met each Blue Devils man at the dressing room door with handshake and a greeting of “Good job.”
For some players, that walk to the dressing room will be their last as a Junior B Blue Devil, having to hang up their jersey after the maximum five-years allowed in the league.
If you ask newly-retired Ian King, a Founders Cup would have been nice, but seeing the growth of basement dwelling team to a playoff contender isn’t something to complain about.
“I think it’s just a big step for the organization,” he said, joining Andrew Jenkins and captain Pat Van Boxmeer in their last game. In their first season with the Blue Devils, they finished 13th in the West. “First playoff win, first playoff series win and I mean three close games in these series. It was big steps.”
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