The first semi final game pitted the youngest squad in the league, Lower Winged River, against the top dog who had yet to lose, Upper Winged River. UWR had the clear advantage in a few aspects, including age and experience to name a few. However, LWR came flying out the gates and punched their older counterparts in the mouth from the starting whistle, and in so doing jumped out to an early lead. As the game wore on, it became apparent that the older UWR team was too much to handle, with just too many weapons across the board. Chris Bucking was nearly unstoppable on the offensive end, following up his stellar performance in the committed game (where he led his team in points scored) by also leading UWR in points scored; Pat Mahoney puzzled the LWR shooters in cage as well. Whenever LWR figured out how to slow down Bucking for a moment, someone else would step up for UWR like Tommy Miller & Christian Bosse, who each each tallied multiple goals in a game that would end up looking more lopsided than it actually was. LWR made sure they would leave their mark regardless of the outcome. Players like Nick Bell, Joey Kraft, & Ryan Skripps among others showed that this bunch has a bright future in CELL, and beyond.
We’ve said previously that Cushing is the team that has progressed perhaps more than any other CELL team over the course of the past two months. This improvement was on full display throughout this game, but especially the first two-thirds. The always-flashy Garrett Young seemed to play with a purpose that exceeded what we’d seen previously, putting aside some sizzle and simply producing. His shot was as accurate and on point as we’d seen it; he simply wasn’t missing in the early going. Garrett’s skill was matched by Adam Canfield’s grit and toughness, and the two proved to complement each other beautifully in this semi-final matchup. But AB has a history of never going down easy. Much as Cushing showed a 1-2 punch that was nearly impossible to stop, AB did as well. Spring linemates Eric Raguin and Jake Erickson are two of the MIAA’s best players, and they showed it this past Sunday. We the game on the line, these two put the team on their backs, and wisely held the ball as time expired. Cushing got their whacks in, as they should have, but dislodging the ball proved impossible. And once again, despite a spirited push from a highly competitive CELL newcomer, two very familiar foes were back in the Championship game yet again.
UWR really established their might in this one, and they did so early and often. The aforementioned Erickson and Raguin needed to be at their absolute best in this one, and get little luck on the way, to beat this team of WInged River elders. When Erickson went down with leg cramps roughly halfway through this one, you could almost hear the air coming out of the balloon. But AB didn’t quit. Defenseman Tyler Briones grinded right up until the end, and Graham Brady filled a bit of the void that Erickson left. But it just wasn’t enough. The UWR team exhibited such impressive offensive balance in this game that it’s almost impossible to mention individuals. So instead of doing what is almost always done and focusing on offense, we’ll instead focus on defense; Zach Mickle, Ryan Rahbany and Pat Mahoney did just as much on the back half of the turf on the offense did on the front. With both sides of the balanced and clicking, UWR simply wasn’t going to be stopped in this one.
Mahoney showed up in a big time way in both games for Upper Winged River. Not only stopping the ball but also advancing the ball in clears and even contributing on the stat sheet with two goals and two assists to go along with his thirty-one saves in two super competitive games. Mahoney, along with a core group of experienced, talented players, went all session long without being defeated, a very impressive feat.