Friday, June 3, 2016

Redmen ride hot goaltending and team offence to 11-7 win over Lakers

Dan Ball and the Brooklin Redmen held off the Peterborough Lakers for an 11-7 win Thursday. (Photo: Kendall Taylor)

The last time the Peterborough Lakers lost a home opener was 2004. The team that turned the trick was the Brooklin Redmen, who were back in town Thursday night hoping for a repeat performance. Led by excellent goaltending from Zach Higgins and a sublime 8-point night from Shayne Jackson, Brooklin was able to do exactly that with an 11-7 win that improved them to 2-0 while dropping the Lakers to 1-1.

The visitors jumped out to a quick start when TJ Sanders scored his first of the season just 48 seconds in then Dan Lintner jumped to tuck home a back-door quick-stick power play goal off a perfect cross-floor pass from Reilly O'Connor just over two minutes after the opening faceoff.

Adam Jones got a pair for the Lakers, but in between O'Connor and Lintner combined for a carbon copy of the earlier goal when Peterborough couldn't come up with a loose ball and Zach Currier was caught well up floor looking for a breakout pass.

Currier was one of several young defenders in the lineup for Peterborough and they generally performed well, but Brooklin took advantage of a few breakdowns to make the Lakers pay quickly for their mistakes. Ryan Keenan put the Redmen ahead 4-2 when he connected with 20 seconds left in the first period.

Shawn Evans got a pair to tie things up in the second but back to back holding penalties to Thomas Hoggarth and Shawn Evans followed by a boarding major to Ian Llord gave the Redmen an extended power play, much of the time 5 on 3. Brooklin got goals from Keenan and Jackson to pull back ahead. Perhaps just as importantly, all the penalty kill time seemed to take some jump out of the Lakers at both ends of the floor, although they had looked a little flat anyway.

A shorthand marker by Austin Shanks just 35 seconds into the third period made it 7-4 for Brooklin and the Lakers, though they scored three goals in the final 7:03 of play, were never able to get any closer.

Jackson is part of the wave of Whitby-based players returning to the Redmen lineup in this, the team's 50th-anniversary season, along with Jr A Warriors coach Derek Keenan, who is helping on the bench this summer. Jackson looked like he didn't skip a beat being back in town, chipping in five assists in Wednesday night's win over Brampton and scoring twice with six assists against Peterborough.

“The amount of talent we have on our offence here, and being acquainted with them having played with them took us a little bit to get going last night and tonight it was just working for us,” Jackson said after Thursday's game. “We've got guys cutting off ball, it doesn't matter who has the ball or who's scoring. When you have guys like that and good people like that, it makes it easy to play.”

Keenan praised Jackson and the rest of his offensive group. “Smart player, plays hard all the time. Really intelligent, skilled, tough. Goes to the middle and gets to the dirty areas,” Keenan said. “That's a good group we've got there and we're going to get better. None of them are afraid to get into the dirty areas. You can't play out at the perimeter and have success.”

On the other end, a large part of Brooklin's success Thursday came from forcing the Lakers to settle for perimeter shots by limiting their ability to penetrate to tighter spots for high-quality scoring chances. “I thought we played well, considering we probably had six really inexperienced guys in the back end,” Keenan said. “Mainly I think Higgins was really good. They had a lot of shots (Peterborough outshot the Redmen 57-36). We kept a lot of them to the perimeter but he made a lot of good saves in tight, too.”

Peterborough coach Mike Hasen said he didn't get the effort he expected from his team. “By no means. It wasn't the effort we were looking for,” Hasen said. “Right from the get-go I think we were a step behind, a little slow. You look back to where we were in Oakville Monday, it's two totally different teams.

It's far too early to panic at all, though, Hasen emphasized. “There are 18 lessons along the way, we got taught a lesson here tonight that every team is going to come in here and work hard. We got outworked tonight. That's the lesson.”

Lakers captain Scott Self said he thought Peterborough may have underestimated Brooklin because they were flooring a young lineup with several players still unavailable while they play in the NLL finals or attend to work or family commitments with their pro winter seasons having just completed. In the long term, the loss may turn out to be a boon, especially with the increased parity which means there is a league full of strong teams and no easy nights on the schedule.

“We're all competitors, right?,” Self said. “I think you want to have to push yourself when you step on the floor. And it keeps you in good habits. Sometimes when you play those weaker teams in years past then you go in and play a Six Nations you end up thinking you're a lot better than you are and then you find out the hard way. I think this, starting with tonight, will wake us up a bit and we'll be better for it.”

Both teams return to action by starting home and home series Saturday. Brooklin is in Cobourg as part of the Kodiaks minor lacrosse tournament festivities then plays host to the Kodiaks next Wednesday. Peterborough is at Brampton then welcomes the Excelsiors back to the Boro next Thursday.

Brooklin 11, Peterborough 7 (box score)