Friday, May 24, 2013

Peterborough Lakers open season with 14-4 win over Brampton Excelsiors in front of 3,031 fans

Tyler Carlson, here in last year's Mann Cup, was stellar
for the Peterborough Lakers in their season-opening win.

After a shaky first five minutes, just about everything went right for the new-look Peterborough Lakers as they opened the 2013 Major Series Lacrosse season with a 14-4 win over the visiting Brampton Excelsiors. The crowd of over 3,000 was roaring in pre-game as the 2012 Mann Cup banner was raised to the rafters, but they were eerily quiet after a pair of goals from Mark White and Mike Burke gave the visitors an early lead. Then the Lakers settled down and the offence got the ball moving in vintage Lakers fashion, leading to a quick-stick power play goal by Cory Vitarelli that started a 5-goal run from which Peterborough never looked back.

The score was 6-3 after the first period and the Lakers took total control in the second period, outscoring Brampton 4-0 in the frame. Shawn Evans, fresh off an NLL scoring title and MVP award, kept his roll going with a 10-point night (2 goals, 8 assists). For a team where much of the external talk was about who wasn't there (including John Grant, Jr., John Tavares and Tracey Kelusky), the player who were there made it clear that they're capable of carrying the load. Jordan MacIntosh scored 4 times and added 3 assists. Vitarelli and Josh Gillam each scored twice; Vitarelli had 3 assists and Gillam 2.

But the game was about much more than the offence for the Lakers. They are missing seven players from the back end that helped carry them to the Mann Cup last year and have filled many of those spots with young, local players. They also, however, have added veteran Stephen Hoar in a trade and, in a surprise move announced just hours before the game, had veteran Darryl Gibson return from retirement. Hoar made an impression with his speed and physical game while Gibson was a steadying presence for the youngsters in the lineup.

Many fans were surprised to see Gibson back, and they weren't the only ones. “It was kind of a surprise for me,” Gibson said after the game. “It started about a month ago. I was here watching my son play in a high school tournament at Trent. I just got talking to [assistant coach Jim Milligan] and Tracey [Kelusy]. They kind of planted the bug. I've been paying attention and I've seen what's going on with all the injuries, and [Chris White's] not coming back, [Kyle] Sorensen's not coming back.”

Gibson says the coaching staff made it clear to him that they want “to push on the young guys coming through, let's come up and develop them. It's time for the local guys to step up and play,” and his role is partly to be a mentor for those young players. “They did a great job tonight,” he said. “We all communicated well. For the first game of the year, to give up 4 goals, that's a great start.” The veteran Gibson is also valued for his own smart, physical game that saw him named the team's defender of the year two seasons ago.

At the other end of the floor, the Excelsiors had to cobble together a lineup in the absence of some injured players and other veterans who had to miss the game because of work commitments, such as goalie Anthony Cosmo, Dan and Paul Dawson and Kyle Rubisch. That left a young roster that showed flashes of good play but made too many mistakes for the liking of new head coach Clem D'Orazio. “If you're going to make mistakes out there, that's fine. We've got a young team other than a couple of core guys that are older,” D'Orazio said. “For a young team, you're allowed to make mistakes but the key thing is learning from them and that's what's going to separate the guys that play every game and the ones that might not when we start getting more guys back.”

A couple of the young players in particular had some strong moments. Mark White scored the opening goal when he broke in two-on-one in transition and made a nifty lateral cut around a defender to get himself in position to bury a shot past Tyler Carlson. Rookie Hayden Smith brought the fast, aggressive game that earned him plaudits during his Orangeville Northmen junior career, and was excellent on the faceoff team.

Chris Attwood and Joe Resetarits scored Brampton's other 2 goals. Burke was the only Excelsior with a multi-point night as he added 2 assists to his goal. For the most part, the Brampton offence struggled to generate quality scoring chances and when they did, Carlson was superb. He was seeing the ball well all night and had one of those games where stopping the ball just looks easy.