For the first time in the Major Series Lacrosse finals, the Six Nations Chiefs were able to put some distance between them and the Peterborough Lakers. Doing so led to a convincing 11-6 Game 5 victory at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena Monday night that gives the Chiefs a 3-2 lead in the series.
The Chiefs got the first goal again—they've done so in every game in the series—and were up 3-1 before Curtis Dickson finished off a first-period hat trick to get the Lakers back even heading into the intermission. The first two minutes of the second period would prove to make a huge difference in the game.
Kasey Beirnes, Johnny Powless and Randy Staats scored in the span of a minute and a half and the Chiefs had jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the blink of an eye. The Lakers fought back to within a goal but Six Nations pulled away again and led 9-6 after 40 minutes. Brandon Miller continued to be stellar in the Chiefs' net and Peterborough couldn't beat him at all in the third period.
Six Nations was getting more time to set up and step into outside shots than they have in previous games. “Our game plan was, try not to settle for what they're giving us,” Smith said. “They have a game plan, their defence. We noticed the first two games we were just settling for those shots. We worked a little bit harder, we're getting those shots and we're lucky to bury.”
Smith had 3 goals and 4 assists to lead the Chiefs a night after Ryan Benesch had posted a 7-point game in their Game 4 win. “That's what's nice about this team—so many weapons,” Smith said. “We don't have one guy. We're moving the ball really well and we're getting that one shot. It doesn't matter who scores. We don't care. We just want to put up the goals that we need and the defence is shutting the door.”
Chiefs' Head Coach Rich Kilgour said the Chiefs need to head up to Peterborough for Game 6 Thursday and keep doing what they've been doing because the Lakers will be a desperate team. “It's hard enough to win up there. They hung 18 on us one of the games we were up there,” Kilgour said. “We had a good win the other night but that's all behind us. It doesn't matter. Last year, we were up 3-1 and they made it go to Game 7. We're up 3-2, we're not taking anything for granted. The fourth one's the hardest. It's a cliche for a reason, cause it's true. We're just going to go up there, punch in, try and play our game and let the chips fall where they may.”
Mark Steenhuis returned to the Lakers lineup for the first time since injuring his knee in the fourth game of the regular season. “Obviously, we'd lost a couple in a row so I'm trying to be a boost. Offensively, I think we just didn't bury our chances tonight,” he said. “I thought the ball was moving, we got a lot of good looks. I'm disappointed in the way I shot the ball, I'm sure some of the other guys are disappointed in the way they shot the ball. Miller's playing very well, but we're not hitting our spots either. So it's a little frustrating, but we know what's in front of us now so we've got to open him up if we're going to win this series.”
The league's scoring champion and MVP last year, Steenhuis said the Lakers need to get to Miller early in the game and start taking the game to the Chiefs instead of the other way around. “He's a goalie that if he starts off hot he stays real hot, guessing all the right spots. That's what you saw tonight. I mean, he made one stick save that was unreal. Things like that going their way. He's playing well, they're playing well. It's our job to start frustrating them, playing our game and not playing into their hands and dictate the play to them and see what we can do.”
Lakers Head Coach Mike Hasen said it was his team's worst game of the series. “From the get-go we were a little sluggish. Defensively, we were a half step behind. Offensively, we were parking a lot and just watching whoever had the ball do a lot of work. We weren't very smart tonight,” Hasen said.
To force a Game 7, which would be back at the ILA Sunday or Monday (depending on when the Minto Cup finishes), Hasen says the Lakers need to step up their game the way the Chiefs have theirs. “There's no more tomorrow. We've got to have that mentality,” Hasen said. “Our best's got to be our best, everybody's got to pick their game up to another level. They are. We've got to get there.”
Game 7 goes at 8 pm ET Thursday at the Peterborough Memorial Centre. It will be available as a free live webcast from JVI Sports Network.