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Western squeezed McGill out of the national championship picture. (Photo: Tim Prothero)

Western dominated the first half then withstood a furious McGill second-half comeback to reach the Baggataway Cup championship game for the third straight year.

Courtesy McGill Athletics

Reid Reinholdt?notched a hat-trick and?Nik Farrus?scored twice to go along with three assists as Western held off a spirited comeback attempt by McGill to topple the Redmen 14-11 in a semifinal of the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association national championship tournament held at Richardson Stadium, Saturday.

The Mustangs advance to Sunday's Baggataway Cup final, where they will meet Brock, which defeated Guelph 13-11 in their semi. The game is slated for 1 p.m. and will be streamed live on the?CUFLA Facebook page.

Western, which had a 24-15 edge in shots, took advantage of a sleepy McGill start and jumped to a 4-1 lead after the first quarter, converting that into a shocking 10-4 advantage by halftime. However, McGill awoke from their slumber in the second half and threw a scare into the Mustangs plans before running out of time. The Redmen squad outscored Western 4-1 in the third quarter and added three more in the final stanza, narrowing the gap to 12-11 before the Mustangs tallied two late markers, including an empty-netter.

"You can't win a lacrosse game if you don't have the ball," said 15-year McGill head coach?Tim Murdoch, who has guided the Redmen to a 169-82-2 record overall and national titles in 2012 and 2015. "The first half was brutal. We didn't play that well defensively when they had the ball. They put a lot of pressure on our defence. Giving up 10 goals in the first half was just too big a deficit to recover from.

"Western did a good job of ground-ball play and possession and just holding onto the ball," he explained, citing faceoff data as supporting evidence. "They won 62 per cent of theiir draws (18/29) and dominated ball possession."

McGill sophomore?Julian?Smith-Voudouris?of Stouffville, Ont., who was named as a CUFLA East all-star faceoff specialist earlier in the week for winning 62 per cent of his draws, went 1-for-7 before leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the third quarter. Freshman?Gardie Herr?of Princeton, N.J., took over and was 8-for-15.

The bulk of the Mustangs' faceoffs were won by?Jackson Rakoczy, the younger brother of former McGill co-captain?Paul Rakoczy, who watched the game with mixed allegiances.

"He's the best faceoff guy in the league and we just couldn't solve him," said Murdoch.

Five Mustangs players had multi-point games. joining Farrus and Reinholdt (3-1-4) was?Thomas Masterson?(2-2-4),?Cody Ward?(2-2-4) and?Cole Davis?(2-0-2).

McGill was led by junior attackman?W88Maxime Murdoch, son of the head coach and a native Westmount, Que., who had four goals and one assist after entering the game in the second quarter. Senior co-captain?Emile Sassone-Lawless?of Ithaca, N.Y., also had a strong showing with two goals and an assist. Rookie midfielders?Hunter Zawada?of Kimberley, B.C., and?Patrick Brandell?of St. Charles, Ill., each registered two assists.

Senior goalkeeper?William Waesche, a three-time all-star from Greenwich, Conn., started his last-ever game for the Redmen and faced 17 shots through just 40 minutes, allowing 10 goals. He was relieved by sophomore?David Pelliccione?of Woodbridge, Ont., who stopped four of eight shots in the second half.

Mustangs goalie?Manraj Nijjar?made four saves for the victory.

McGill, which finished with a 12-3 overall record, could lose as many as seven seniors to graduation. Fifth-year goaltender?William Waesche, as well as midfielders?Emile Sassone-Lawless?and?Bohe Hosking?have all exhausted their eligibility. Others expected to graduate in the spring include attackmen?Goose Bolton,?Cal Callahan?and?Cyrus Wickersham, in addition to midfielder?Alexander Linton.

"We had a good season," reflected Murdoch, a Princeton and Harvard grad who measures success by championships. "It wasn't a great season, it was a good season.

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