Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brooklin Redmen jump from fourth to first with 6-4 win over Oakville Rock

Derek Suddons and the Brooklin defence held Oakville in check Wednesday.
The Brooklin Redmen clearly learned their lessons about playing the Oakville Rock. Nine days after getting run out of the rink in Oakville as the Rock took a 13-5 win, Brooklin turned the tables at home to win 6-4. In the process, the Redmen jumped from fourth to first in Major Series Lacrosse.

One of the lessons was, have your goaltender play really well. Zach Higgins made 51 saves just a night after making 50 in a 9-7 overtime loss to the Six Nations Chiefs.

“He's played incredible the last two games,” said Brooklin captain Derek Suddons after Wednesday's win. “I thought he played excellent last night in Six Nations. He deserved a better fate and certainly it paid off tonight in the win for him.”

Rookie Austin Shanks led all scorers with 3 goals but he deflected the credit to everyone around him. “For that team to put up more than 10 on us and then our defence and our goalie to hold them to four, it's phenomenal,” Shanks said of the turnaround from last week's game. “Our goalie and our defence as a unit played phenomenal tonight. They were the backbone of our team.”

As for his scoring—Shanks is tied for the team and league lead with 14 goals—that's product of the people around him, too, he says. “The players I'm around, there are so many distractions. You could be getting the top defender or the worst defender. Our whole offence is crazy good. I think it just comes down to every play.”

Shanks had a pair of goals in the first period to help Brooklin get out to a 4-2 lead after 20 minutes of fast-paced, end to end action. While players and the ball were flying around the floor, both teams did a good job of limiting transition opportunities.

Once the second frame rolled around, scoring was difficult to come by in any manner. Oakville outscored the Redmen in the second thanks to a pair of shorthanded markers by Jeremy Noble and Stephan Leblanc that tied the game at 4-4.

Brooklin's only goal of the period came from the stick of Ryan Keenan, who broke a 25-minute scoreless stretch by Oakville goalie Nick Rose. Keenan buried a rebound to put the Redmen back in front just 23 seconds after Leblanc's marker, at 17:27.

The third period was even tighter. Both teams created some chances but the goalies were virtually unbeatable. The only game came 12 seconds from full time when Steve Priolo moved the ball up the floor and passed it to Curtis Knight. He hit Shanks in full flight for a shot on the run that snuck over Rose's shoulder and just under the cross bar.

Rock defender Brad Gillies said Oakville's game plan was to do a lot of the things they did the week before, particularly particularly creating chances in transition, but Brooklin did a good job of taking that away last night.

Gillies didn't find the pace of play surprising given the quality of the teams. “It was two highly-skilled teams out there and the ball was really moving,” he said. “Goaltending was awesome both ways and it was a pretty tight game.”

Not being able to get the transition game going made things more difficult for the guys going out the front door, Gillies added. “The offence seems to click more when our tranny is able to get a couple of goals but when that doesn't happen it is a lot tougher out there for them.

The two points from Wednesday night leapfrogged the Redmen past Oakville, Peterborough and Six Nations. All three teams had been tied for first place with 10 points on identical 5-2 records. Brooklin improved to 5-2-1 and their 11 points took them from fourth to first. For a little while, at least. Six Nations is in Peterborough tonight and the winner will move to the top of the standings.

As anticipated, it's been a highly competitive and entertaining season so far in MSL and according to Suddons, it's only going to get better.

“It was good. I thought we had a real strong third period,” Suddons said. “It seems a lot of games are going like that lately. Again, we're getting to halfway through the year, a lot of teams are starting to find their stride, get a rhythm. The lacrosse gets better as the summer goes on.”

That is music to the ears of lacrosse fans in Ontario.