It was a tall task to live up the to the excitement of Saturday's first Baggataway Cup semifinal, in which Trent came back to down Brock 7-6 in a game those who watched will remember for ages, but Western and Guelph gave the earlier game a run for its money as the Mustangs held on to edge the Gryphons 10-9 to earn their second straight trip to the championship game.
Western led 3-2 after one quarter. Guelph tied things up but LSM Keagan Croley's laser from outside sparked a five-goal Mustangs run that gave them an 8-3 lead and looked to have them cruising to a win.
The Mustangs outshot Guelph by a large margin, 28 shots to 17, but Michael Lalani continued to prove he's at his best in the Baggataway by making big saves at key moments to keep the Gryphons in the hunt and eventually the offence was able to make some headway.
A goal by Michael Cavanagh with eight seconds left in the first half followed by a 2-1 edge in the third quarter—on goals by defender Liam Patten and middie Brett Ulbikas—pulled Guelph within 9-6 after 60 minutes.
Cavanagh finished off his hat trick to open the fourth and get Guelph to just two goals behind, but Ryan Miles also capped a hat trick as he restored the three-goal lead for Western. Hat tricks were coming in rapid succession, as Ulbikas scored his third goal with 9:43 to play to make the score 10-8.
Liam Corbett applied pressure to the Mustangs when he pulled Guelph within a goal. There was plenty of time, four minutes and 10 seconds, left on the clock and the Gryphons had momentum. Both teams were aware that Guelph had won Baggataway Cup championships after entering the tournament seeded third in the West—as they were again this year—in both 2013 and 2014. Could history repeat itself?
Western buckled down and the seconds kept ticking off the clock. Guelph had one final chance when they earned possession as the ball went out of bounds with 5.2 seconds to play. Ulbikas took the ball near the Guelph zone restraining line. Rather than forcing a long pass, he saw Cavanagh about halfway between him and the net. Cavanagh caught Ulbikas' pass and relayed it towards Corbett, cutting open atop the crease.
A Mustang defender got on Cavanagh's hands, though, forcing the pass low. Corbett fell to his knees going after it but looked for a moment like he would snag it and flip it into the net. Western goalie Manraj Nijjar pounced on the ball, diving to the ground and clamping his stick down on it before Corbett could control it. The play snuffed out Guelph's last chance and sealed the win for Western.
Now the Mustangs will try to win their first Baggataway Cup title since 2001. To do so, they'll have to beat a Trent Excalibur group that is seeking the school's first CUFLA title. Both teams went 11-1 in the regular season, suggesting an excellent battle is in store.
Interestingly, Western's and Trent's women's teams met for the OUA lacrosse championship two weeks ago, with the Excalibur pulling out that program's first championship with a stirring comeback win.
You can watch Sunday's championship game, along with all of the weekend's games in the archives, via W88BrockTV's live stream at 1 pm at this link. ?