Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Shamrocks blow out Lakers 14-8 in Game 3 of Mann Cup to take 2-1 lead

Peterborough Lakers enjoying the scenery at the 17th hole of the course they golfed Sunday. 
Mark down September 6, 2015 as quite likely the last time the Major Series Lacrosse champions go golfing on the off day following Game 2 of the Mann Cup. In 2013, the Six Nations Chiefs had a team golf outing on the Sunday of the Mann Cup and proceeded to lay a bit of an egg, falling behind the Victoria Shamrocks 6-1 in the first period of Game 3 en route to an 8-6 loss.

This past Sunday, a day after a dominating 14-7 win in Game 2 of the 2015 Mann Cup, several Peterborough Lakers went golfing. The next day they gave up a 7-2 second period as the Victoria Shamrocks dusted them 14-8 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

The Lakers will be happy enough if this series turns out the way the 2013 final did—Six Nations won the next three games to take the Mann Cup 4-2 for their first of back to back titles—but for now they may be ruing their 18 holes.

Peterborough got off to a good enough start. Robert Hope sent Brad Self in alone for the game's opening goal at 1:48. Corey Small, who scored 20 goals in Victoria's eight playoff games, had only one in the first two games of the Mann Cup. He tripled that total by notching a pair 36 seconds apart nearing the midway point of the first. Mitch Jones snagged a rebound in the defensive zone, took a few steps toward open space and hit a cutting Karsen Leung near the far restraining line. Leung beat Matt Vinc to make it 3-1.

The Lakers may have been missing Adam Jones—gone back to Ontario for his teaching job until Game 7 if there is one—but the man who took his spot did what he could. Jr Lakers graduate Holden Cattoni arrived from Johns Hopkins on the weekend, stepped into his first Mann Cup game last night and ripped his first two goals to tie the score 3-3, the second being a shorthanded marker just seconds before a penalty taken at the end of the first period expired.

Small scored his third of what would be five on the night to break the tie then Rhys Duch scored a pair to extend the lead. Duch wound up with 3 goals and 2 assists but that was hardly the biggest news in his life this week. His fiancee Jenna gave birth to their first child after Game 2. Duch managed to make it for the birth of Finnley Daniel Duch and it put the Game 2 loss in perspective.

“Obviously we were frustrated by Game 2's result and I didn't check my phone for a while,” Duch said after Monday's game. “We had a couple of meetings and I was moping around a little bit then I picked my phone up. Four text messages, game on. So I battled traffic to get out of the parking lot and it all ended up well. Mum and baby are healthy and I got there on time.”

Chad Culp got one back for Peterborough but Scott Ranger responded 25 seconds later. Dan Dawson's power play goal at 17:10 started a run of three goals in the final three minutes that basically put the game away for Victoria. Small had the last two of those.

Daryl Veltman, Jesse King and Duch scored the first three of the third to complete a 7-goal Victoria run that really put the game out of reach at 13-4. Peterborough got the next three but there was no way they were coming back from that deficit.

Aaron Bold bounced back from an off night in Game 2 to play very well and turn aside 31 of the 39 shots he faced. This time it was Vinc's turn not to play up to his usual standard. The Shamrocks were shooting exceptionally well, but Vinc would usually get to more shots than he did. Evan Kirk came in for the final 11 minutes after Vinc surrendered his 12th goal of the game.

So what was the big difference for the Shamrocks in turning a 14-7 loss into a 14-8 win two nights later? “We came out and played our game, plain and simple,” said head coach Bob Heyes. Now he can't wait to keep the series rolling.

The Victoria Shamrocks kept their eyes on the ball Monday and it paid off in a 14-8 win and 2-1 series lead. (Photo: Kevin Light Photography)
He won't have to wait long, as Tuesday night is the second of three games in three days in the gruelling Mann Cup schedule. But Heyes wouldn't have it any other way—he loves the Mann Cup and is excited to be part of it for the third straight year. “It's the best lacrosse in the world. It beats any pro league stuff by a mile,” Heyes said. “This is history, this is what it's all about. It gets gritty and it gets goofy at times as we saw tonight. But Game 4 is tomorrow night. There is absolutely no time for us to really think about this game tonight. It's over and done with, let's get to the next game.”

Peterborough defender Hope was named his team's game star, a bittersweet honour in a big loss. He agrees with Heyes that it's great to get back on the floor right away. “It's nice to keep going. After a game like that, it's nice to know that we get to come back out and play tomorrow and get another opportunity at them,” Hope said.

The Lakers aren't overly concerned about falling behind 2-1 after a poor effort. They've got a veteran team that has faced similar challenges in the past. They had to overcome a similar effort when they got crushed 11-6 in Game 5 of the MSL finals. They bounced back with a great performance to win Game 6 then took a thrilling Game 7 to advance to the Mann.

Even in this series we had a good bounce back in Game 2,” said Lakers coach Mike Hasen. “We don’t expect anything different, we’ll prepare and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.” The key to being ready for the next game is simple but significant, Hasen added. “We just change our mindset. I think that's the biggest thing is that we gotta make sure we're prepared to go to the wall and play for a full sixty minutes and not let this outside noise get to us.”

The good news for the Lakers, Hasen was asked? “Truth be told, we can't play any worse,” he replied. “That’s one thing that we know to a man that everyone in that room needs to be better and we will be better.”

Game 4 is always critical in a best of seven series. How it plays out Wednesday night will go a long way to determining the final results of Mann Cup 2015. We'll see tonight.