After lying dormant for most of the game, the McGill Redmen (6-0) woke up just in time to hand the Bishop’s Gaiters (4-1) their first loss of the season Wednesday night.
The game, held at Molson Stadium, was a back-and-forth affair, with three lead changes in the first half alone before the Redmen pulled away 11-5. The two teams, who have developed a heated rivalry in the past five years, played a physical brand of lacrosse, with neither side able to establish an advantage in the first quarter. Despite McGill’s impressive ball control, Bishop’s took advantage of a personal foul on sophomore attackman Spencer Bromley to net two quick goals and go up 4-2.
The Redmen, who aren’t usually on the receiving end of a two-goal deficit, were not fazed—a team-wide mentality that should fare well in the post-season. With three minutes left in the quarter, rookie Alex Linton fired an audacious unassisted shot from distance that found the back of the net. Then, just before the end of the second half, co-captain Alex Rohrbach scored to knot the game up at 4-4.
“It’s very difficult for a young team early on in the season to keep a level head, especially when we’re behind,” Rohrbach said. “It’s a testament to our players responding to adversity, and it definitely starts with the coaching staff [….] When they keep calm, it reflects on the players.”
Rohrbach’s shot proved to be the spark for the Redmen offence, which erupted for seven goals in the second half. Rohrbach and Bromley each scored twice in the half, with junior midfielders Rhys Burnell and Anders Bjella, and senior attackman Connor Goodwin rounding out the attack with one goal apiece. Both Rohrbach and Goodwin finished the game with hat tricks.
While the offence looked unstoppable in the third and fourth quarters, Head Coach Tim Murdoch attributed the victory to the team’s shutdown performance.
“I think our defence really wore down their attack,” Murdoch said. “They were struggling to penetrate in key situations. [Freshman defenceman] Danny McDermott had a great night, as did our captain, Paul Rakoczy. [It] was the most impressive defensive half we’ve ever had against Bishop’s in the 12 years I’ve been coaching.”
Rohrbach echoed his coach’s words, praising his teammates on their play.
“I think it started with our defence and our goalies, they played outstanding,” Rohrbach said. “They allowed us to work on our transition game and move the ball up the field quickly.”
Another major factor behind the dramatic turnaround was the play of sophomore goalkeeper William Waesche, who replaced starter James Spagnuolo at halftime.
“[Waesche] played extremely well,” Murdoch said. “He only let in one goal in the second half [and] stopped a bunch of great shots.”
Waesche limited Bishop’s attack to one goal on 10 shots over 40 minutes of play. Offensively, the depth offered by the abundance of talented rookies playing off the bench enabled the team to stay in high gear from start to finish. Murdoch is confident that his team’s blend of youth and experience will make the Redmen lacrosse team a juggernaut in the conference for the foreseeable future.
“We have a bunch of sophomores and juniors playing key leadership roles that might otherwise go to seniors, so the future is bright,” Murdoch explained.
McGill extended their undefeated streak to six with wins against Queen’s (1-3) and Trent (1-4) this weekend, and looks to stay in the win column on Thursday in a pivotal rematch against Bishop’s.
An earlier version of this article was posted on Saturday, Sept. 20