Kahnawake Mohawks goalie Angus Goodleaf makes one of 25 saves Saturday night at the Kahnawake Sports Complex. The Mohawks (11-3) beat the Capital Region Axemen (13-1) 12-8 in QSLL play. (Joseph Czikk, The Eastern Door)
By:vJoseph Czikk, The Eastern Door
The Kahnawake Mohawks are sitting pretty and the Caughnawaga Indians are pretty happy after both teams notched huge wins over the weekend.
In Quebec Senior Lacrosse League (QSLL) play, the Mohawks (11-3) took out the formerly unbeaten Capital Region Axemen (13-1). The Indians (1-13) finally got their first win on Saturday night when the team beat Vermont (3-11) on the road in Three Nations Senior Lacrosse League (TNLL) play.
The Mohawks and Axemen clashed in a heated match at the Kahnawake Sports Complex Saturday night. The Axemen won all three previous contests this year while the Mohawks came into the game on a six-game winning streak.
A healthy home crowd broke out in cheers as the Mohawks got out to a 3-0 lead.
Mohawks forward Pat Saunders, who also plays in the National Lacrosse League (NLL), fired the first goal past Axemen goalie Brett Perras. Then he came in on a three-on-none rush and snapped a quick pass to Kaheriios Montour, who finished the job.
Kyle Alfred made it 3-0 soon after.
In Saunders and fellow NLL player Callum Crawford of the Axemen, fans Saturday night witnessed a few special talents.
Crawford got the Axemen on the board with a powerplay goal. His teammate Doug Utting followed the momentum when he stripped a Mohawks’ defender and scored on goalie Angus Goodleaf.
Soon after Crawford was assessed a five-minute major penalty after he slashed a Mohawks’ defender. That sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
Saunders struck gold on the ensuing powerplay when he whipped a wickedly accurate shot from long range to make the game 4-2.
Montour then set up Nick Angus for another powerplay goal. With the Mohawks up 5-2 the Axemen started targeting Saunders, who finished the night with four goals and three assists.
Killing a penalty, Saunders evaded two Axemen for a good 25 seconds while they slashed and hacked at his arms. In frustration he threw one of Capital Region’s henchmen into the boards, eliciting another huge cheer from the crowd.
“I think the refs let a bit go there and there was a lot of slashing that should have been called, so yeah, when I did finally lose the ball after about three guys were beating on me for 30 seconds, I got a little frustrated,” Saunders told The Eastern Door.
“They were getting on him but he’s a pro,” said Mohawks coach Jamie Batley. “They were trying to intimidate him a little bit and he took it well.”
Saunders said once the Axemen started going hard on him he was able to free up space for his teammates to score.
“I think they realized if they let me shoot it could be a really bad night for them, but you can’t just cover one guy,” he said.
Not to be outdone, the Axemen scored twice on the ensuing four-on-four play with Saunders in the box. The second period ended at 6-4 Mohawks.
After both teams traded goals early in the third, Crawford set up Jacob Ruest to put the Axemen within one goal of the Mohawks. Crawford would score or assist on seven of his team’s eight goals.
The Mohawks began to pull away when Saunders set up Peter Jacobs with a beautiful behind-the-back pass.
Shortly after that Saunders went five-hole on Perras on the powerplay to make the game 9-6. He made sure to celebrate hard after the goal during the brief respite from an Axemen defender’s near-constant stick work.
Frustrations boiled over after Jacobs scored again for the Mohawks. First, Nick Angus crushed an Axemen into the boards, who stayed on the floor for a few seconds before straggling to his bench.
Then the Axemen’s goalie Perras appeared to get bumped just before Saunders picked up a loose ball and scored just a foot away from the net.
A frustrated Perras punched Saunders, while Axemen enforcer Dan Gawne dropped his gloves and started swinging wildly at the much smaller Montour. The refs quickly pulled Gawne away and escorted him out of the game with the Mohawks’ faithful voicing their opinions throughout the arena.
“Every time we play them we don’t like each other. Both teams always want to win and it’s usually scrappy,” said Jacobs after the game. “We pulled together, we did what we had to do and it feels good to beat them by that much.”
Shortly after Gawne’s antics, Arontase Paul rag-dolled the Axemen’s Geoff McNulty, who didn’t put up much of a fight. Paul was kicked out of the game and collected a total of 34 penalty-in-minutes.
Fittingly, Mohawks good guy Ky Horn picked up a loose ball and deposited the empty-net goal with seconds left in the game to cement the 12-8 win. After the goal Horn jogged away without the slightest bit of emotion, a respectful gesture that ended a wild contest.
“For us to get the win was not unexpected,” said Batley. “Sometimes you get the fruits of your labours earlier than expected. We’ve been working hard all year on our systems – offense and defense – and our goalie played well.”
Markie Kirby ended the season on top of the scoring table, with 68 points, followed by teammate Peter Jacobs who had 60.
The Mohawks will start the QSLL playoffs tomorrow night with a best-of-three series against the Vermont Voyageurs. Game time at the Kahnawake Sports Complex is 8:00 pm.
Game two is scheduled for Sunday @ 2 p.m. at the Essex Skating Facility.
Game three, if necessary, goes the following Saturday, August 6 @ 8 p.m. at the Sports Complex.
Meanwhile, the Indians knocked off the Voyageurs 15-10 for their first win to close out the season on Saturday. Angus Leborgne scored eight goals and Garrett Cree picked up four assists. Netminder Okwi Stacey stopped 25 shots in the victory.