Friday, July 29, 2016

Evans leads scorers, Vinc and Rose top goalies in MSL regular season

Shawn Evans won his third MSL scoring title this year, leading the league in both points and assists. (Photo: Dave Fryer)

Shawn Evans put himself in elite company by winning the Major Series Lacrosse scoring title this summer. He becomes the sixth man to win at least three, joining legendary players Johnny Shooter Davis and Josh Sanderson at three Ontario senior scoring championships each. Shawn Williams won six titles, Bill Isaacs seven and all-time leading scorer John Tavares nine.

Evans finished with 82 points, giving him a 13-point cushion despite sitting out the final two games of his Peterborough Lakers' regular season. He also collected more assists, 60, than all but second-leading scorer Cody Jamieson of the Six Nations Chiefs. Evans also led the league in assists with Jamieson second at 49.

Evans' third title moves him ahead of the 13 players who won two each. That group includes an interesting array of former stars. They range from Norm Zimmer, who won the first two OLA senior scoring championships in 1925 and '26 to Scott Evans, Shawn's older brother who won titles in 2005 & '06. A pair of current Brooklin coaches, Derek Keenan and Gil Nieuwendyk, each won a pair, as did Peterborough legends J.J. Johnston, Bobby Allan and Larry Ferguson.

Wes Berg barely held on for the goal-scoring lead. Berg had 32 goals, one more than Cory Vitarelli, who almost caught him by scoring six in Peterborough's final game Tuesday night. Berg played 17 games this season and Vitarelli 14.

Schedule released for Brooklin vs Six Nations semifinal

The schedule has been announced for the Major Series Lacrosse best of seven semifinal between the second-place Brooklin Redmen and third-place Six Nations Chiefs.

Game 1 - Wednesday Aug 3rd @ Brooklin 8pm
Game 2 - Saturday Aug 6th @ Six Nations 7pm
Game 3 - Monday Aug 8th @ Brooklin 8pm
Game 4 - Wednesday Aug 10th @ Six Nations 8pm
Game 5 - Friday Aug 12th @ Brooklin 8pm *
Game 6 - Saturday Aug 13th @ Six Nations 7pm *
Game 7 - Tuesday Aug 16th @ Brooklin 8pm *

*if necessary

Schedule released for Peterborough vs Oakville semifinal

The schedule for the semifinal between the first-place Peterborough Lakers and fourth-place Oakville Rock has been announced. The sequence of games is a little unusual because the Lakers don't have access to their Memorial Centre home next week during the Peterborough Exhibition. 

Game 1  Tuesday, August 2 in Peterborough, 7:45 pm
Game 2  Friday, August 5 in Oakville, 8 pm
Game 3  Monday, August 8 in Oakville, 8 pm
Game 4  Thursday, August 11 in Peterborough, 8 pm
Game 5*  Saturday, August 13 in Peterborough, 7 pm (note earlier start time)
Game 6*  Monday, August 15 in Oakville, 8 pm
Game 7*  Thursday, August 18 in Peterborough, 8 pm

*if necessary

Lakers down Kodiaks 19-9 to wrap up MSL regular season schedule

John Grant was passing up a storm Thursday night. He had 9 assists to go
with his 3 goals. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
A week ago, John Grant Jr. looked like an old lacrosse player. Thursday night, he looked like the old John Grant.

The 41-year-old Grant took a few games looking for his rhythm when he returned to the Peterborough Lakers after a summer spent primarily playing professional field lacrosse. It's safe to say he's found it. With the Lakers already having clinched first place before their game against Cobourg Thursday, Grant put on a passing display for the 3,238 fans at the Memorial Centre as the Lakers dumped the Kodiaks 19-9 in the final game of the Major Series Lacrosse regular season. Six Nations downed Brampton 10-4 in the other game Thursday.

Grant had 3 goals and 9 assists, picking apart even small seams in the Kodiaks defence the way he has for years en route to being one of the highest-scoring and most exciting players in the game. He earned 4 assists on goals by Cory Vitarelli alone. Grant also sprinted back to break up a breakaway chance by Cobourg transition player Chad Cummings late in the fourth quarter with the win well in hand.

Vitarelli had a big night as well, scoring 6 goals. The final one elicited one well-prepared fan to toss a pair of socks onto the floor to celebrate Vitarelli's sock trick. Adam Jones chipped in 3 goals and 3 assists and Mark Steenhuis 2 goals and 4 assists for Peterborough.

Peterborough native and former Laker Matt Crough led the Kodiaks with 4 goals. His last one was reminiscent of a Grant play. Shorthanded, Crough snapped up a pass that had been tipped by a defender en route to him atop the crease, threw a crazy dangle at the defender who picked him up and eventually fired a fancy underhand past Matt Vinc.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Playoff seedings finalized as Brooklin beats Oakville 9-6

The playoff matchups are all set in Major Series Lacrosse after the Brooklin Redmen secured second place with a 9-6 win over the Oakville Rock Wednesday night at Iroquois Park in Whitby.

Curtis Knight led the way with 5 goals, including 3 in the decisive third period, to set up a semifinal meeting with the third-place Six Nations Chiefs that will start next Wednesday in Whitby. First-place Peterborough will play host to Oakville, who finish fourth, in the first game of the other semifinal next Tuesday.

Oakville would have finished ahead of Brooklin had they won last night to split this week's home and home and thus the season series. The Rock got off to a good start when Glen Bryan scored on a transition break just under three minutes in. Knight evened things up about 10 minutes later, but Oakville went into the locker room up 3-1 after Stephan Leblanc and Dan MacRae scored 24 seconds apart later in the period.

Bryan Cole was given a five-minute roughing major when he collided with Brooklin goalie Zack Higgins just over a minute into the second period. Higgins lay on the floor for quite a while as a melee ensued behind his net. When he got back up, he was awfully tough to beat.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Redmen take defensive battle 5-4 over Rock

Austin Shanks, here scoring against Brampton, had the winner for the
Redmen in their crucial Monday win. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
The Brooklin Redmen assured that they will still have something to play for on Wednesday while the Oakville Rock missed a chance to assure themselves of at least third place in Major Series Lacrosse action Monday night at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville.

The teams were tied entering the night with Oakville holding the edge for potential tiebreakers between the teams by virtue of outscoring Brooklin by six goals in the two games they split earlier in the season. But the Redmen kept their hopes for second place in the final standings alive with a 5-4 win on Austin Shanks' goal with three and a half minutes to play.

Both goalies came to the fore, with sparkling save percentages. Oakville's Nick Rose posted an .884 mark by making 38 saves on 43 shots. Mike Poulin was even better for Brooklin, though. He turned aside 42 of 46 shots for an NHL-like .913 percentage.

The game didn't look like it would be so low-scoring early on. Damon Edwards got the Rock off and running with a goal just 56 seconds into the game. Fellow transition player Mitch Wilde evened it up at the 2:20 mark.

When Jeremy Noble connected at 5:10 of the first, the teams were on track to score over 30 total goals. The offence ground to a halt at that point, though. Nobody was able to score for almost an entire period. The next player to find the back of the net was Brooklin's Mark Matthews at 3:15 of the second.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Davide DiRuscio receives 5-game suspension, out for rest of the season

Davide DiRuscio, here playing for the Kodiaks last season,
has been suspended for five games. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
Cobourg Nissan Kodiaks goaltender Davide DiRuscio has been suspended for five games as a result of the match penalty he received for intent to injure in Cobourg's July 10 game against the Brampton Excelsiors.

DiRuscio became engaged with Tyler Ferreira along the boards by the Cobourg goal line. Ferreira was injured on the play and is believed to be out for the season. The goalie will also miss the rest of the season for Cobourg, as the Kodiaks had five games remaining on their schedule and have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Redmen win defensive battle with Lakers 6-4

Brooklin's defence kept Mark Steenhuis and the Lakers offence in check throughout the game. (Photo: Kendall Taylor)
To paraphrase the late, great Casey Stengel, good defence always beats good offence and vice versa. Wednesday in Whitby was definitely a night for defence to shine as the Brooklin Redmen beat the Peterborough Lakers 6-4 in an MSL game where scoring chances were at a premium.

Peterborough led 3-1 after the first period as Evan Kirk made 16 saves but the Lakers were able to sneak a few past Zack Higgins. It got awfully difficult for Peterborough to find any holes after that, though, while the Redmen managed to create just enough offence to score.

Redmen forward Shawn Williams said it's a real challenge for the offences to produce in a game like that. “It's unbelievable. Both defences and both goalies played so well,” Williams said. “It's hard for the untrained eye to see, but the lanes the D gets in, the passing lanes and shooting lanes and what they take away from you... People from the stands can see what they want, but it's not there. It's tough going out there and every goal is a huge goal.”

Brooklin got a transition goal from Ryan McSpadyen two minutes into the second period. A long dry spell ensued during which neither team could connect despite a fast pace of play that put heavy demands on both transition and reverse transition players, especially given the humidity in the Iroquois Park arena.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Chiefs go to overtime yet again, pull out 11-10 win over Rock

Randy Staats, here accepting the ball in an earlier game, scored the winner
Tuesday night as Six Nations edged Oakville 11-10 in OT. 
The Six Nations Chiefs have played almost a full extra game this summer. Tuesday night marked their fifth overtime game of the Major Series Lacrosse season. That's 50 extra minutes of lacrosse.

While the players may not love the extra work, the good news for the Chiefs is they've been successful in OT. The last two goals of the game, by Dhane Smith and Randy Staats, gave them an 11-10 win over the Oakville Rock that improved their record in overtime this year to 3-0-2.

Lacrosse people talk all the time about how it's a game of runs. Seldom has the truth of that statement been more evident than in last night's game. Six Nations scored the first three goals of the game. Then Oakville scored three goals. That made it 3-3 after 20 minutes.

The second period was Oakville's turn for a run. They scored five goals, interrupted only briefly by a Ryan Benesch marker. The 8-4 lead made it look like the Rock had a good chance to move into a first-place tie with the Peterborough Lakers at 23 points, although the Lakers have two games in hand.

Not so fast, though. The Chiefs took control of the third period. In fact, the scoring played out as a mirror image of the second. Six Nations scored, Oakville's Eric Fannell responded, then the Chiefs got four in a row. Benesch's second of the game, at 18:42, forced overtime.

To recap: 3-0 run for Oakville; 3-0 for Six Nations; 4-1 for Oakville; 4-1 for Six Nations. And on to overtime.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Oakville downs Brampton 9-4 to move back into second place

It's one of the oldest cliches in the book: you have to play 60 minutes. Of course, cliches become cliches for a reason, usually because there is substantial validity to them. The Oakville Rock proved once again that playing the whole game is important as they rode a 3-0 third period to a 9-4 win over the Brampton Excelsiors.

The game was close through two periods. A 4-goal Oakville run in the second put them ahead 5-2 but the Excels fought back to within a goal and trailed by just 2 after 40 minutes. But then Nick Rose shut Brampton out in the third and the Rock were back in second place.

Oakville has 21 points through 15 games, two behind Peterborough (who have a game in hand) and two ahead of Brooklin. The Rock are also three points ahead of Six Nations, where they will be Tuesday night to face the Chiefs.

Wes Berg had a pair to extend his lead atop MSL's goal-scoring. He now has 30 for the season. Bryan Cole also scored twice for the Rock while Jeremy Noble led all scorers with a goal and 3 assists. Joe Resetarits had 2 goals to lead Brampton.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Redmen use 6-2 third period to take 11-9 comeback win over Kodiaks

The Brooklin Redmen are in a battle for playoff positioning. It took over two periods for their intensity to catch up with their need for a win, but once it did they managed to do enough to pull out an 11-9 victory of the Kodiaks in Cobourg Sunday.

Brooklin was shaky early on, having trouble catching the ball to produce any scoring chances in the first half of the first period. Cobourg took advantage by scoring the game's first three goals with some nice ball movement and precise shooting.

The Redmen got one back after 13 minutes then the transition game kicked in to help them even things up. Ryan McSpadyen and Chris Corbeil scored back to back breakaway goals on almost identical shots to the top corner less than a minute apart.

The Kodiaks defence remained solid, limiting Brooklin's chances while the Cobourg offence found some holes to put in the next three goals and extend recapture a three-goal lead, 6-3.

In the blink of an eye, Brooklin took advantage of a couple of small lapses to bury a back-door quick-stick goal by Dan Lintner and a Shayne Jackson marker when he cut through the middle, took a pass and tucked the ball past Rance Vigneux after a hard fake.

Those goals came right on top of one another, at 7:37 and 7:56 of the second period, and it looked like Brooklin was taking control of the game. Cobourg refused to buckle, though, and when Pete connected on a nifty low to low backhand for a shorthanded goal at 11:37, it gave the Kodiaks a 7-5 lead they would take into the third period. Unfortunately for Cobourg, they didn't maintain their intensity after the intermission.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Lakers down Redmen 9-5 to solidify hold on first place

This picture of Cory Vitarelli shooting on Zack Higgins is from two years ago, but the view was similar last night as Vitarelli scored 3 goals, all on quick releases, to lead Peterborough to a 9-5 win. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
It was a battle for 60 minutes, but the difference in the Thursday night's Major Series Lacrosse game at the Peterborough Memorial Centre came down to 96 seconds.

The score was tied 3-3 nearing the final five minutes of the second period. The Brooklin Redmen were
putting pressure on the Lakers, forcing turnovers at both ends of the floor with an aggressive forecheck and backcheck. The tide of the game seemed to be turning in the visitors' favour.

Then the Lakers struck for three quick goals and never led by less than that margin again as they took a 9-5 win that puts them solidly in control of first place in the standings.

The Lakers' run built on an outstanding penalty kill rag by Mark Steenhuis. Under heavy pressure from the king of caused turnovers, Kyle Rubisch, as well as a rotating cast of double team defenders, Steenhuis moved around the floor and controlled the ball through the final half minute or more of Brooklin's man advantage.

Towards the end of the ensuing Peterborough possession, Chad Culp fed Shawn Evans. The league's runaway scoring leader had been kept in check to that point, but Evans loaded up a dead overhand that found its way through Zack Higgins to put the Lakers ahead at 14:54.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Vote for the best players in MSL in IL Indoor's fan poll

IL Indoor is running a poll where you can vote for the best players so far this summer in Major Series Lacrosse.

One player from each team is nominated in six categories: MVP, top defender, top transition player, top goalie, top rookie and top offensive player.

Redmen edge Chiefs 11-10 on strength of special teams success

The difference came down to special teams as the Brooklin Redmen downed the Six Nations Chiefs 11-10 Wednesday night at the Iroquois Park Sports Centre. 

Brooklin scored on four of their seven power play chances while keeping the Chiefs off the board on their three power plays. The Chiefs did get one shorthanded marker from Dan Dawson.

The loss was the first time in three games the Chiefs hadn't tied, after back to back draws with Oakville and Peterborough. 

Austin Shanks continued his excellent rookie season with 2 goals and 5 assists to lead the Redmen. Ryan Keenan, Curtis Knight and Derek Hopcroft each added 2 goals for Brooklin and Shawn Williams had a goal and 4 assists. 

Three players had 5 points each for the Chiefs: Jordan Durston (3g, 2a), Dawson (2g, 3a) and Randy Staats (1g, 4a). 

Each team managed 51 shots on net, with Mike Poulin making 41 saves for Brooklin and Warren Hill 40 for Six Nations. 

The win for Brooklin only served to make the MSL standings even tighter. The Peterborough Lakers sit in first place with 21 points, Six Nations has 18, Brooklin and Oakville have 17. Brooklin and Oakville both have a chance to leapfrog Six Nations tonight: the Redmen visit the Lakers and the Rock visit the Brampton Excelsiors. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Lakers and Chiefs tie 6-6

Ryan Benesch led Six Nations with 2 goals and 1 assist.
(Photo: Darryl Smart)
It's not unusual for Peterborough and Six Nations to play close games in Major Series Lacrosse. They can't get any closer than Tuesday night's contest; in which neither team could score in overtime, leaving the final score 6-6. Even the shots were almost identical, officially finishing 51-50 for Six Nations.

The result keeps the Lakers three points ahead of the Chiefs for first place (21 points for Peterborough, 18 for Six Nations). The standings could either spread out for the first time this season or go back to being extremely tight in the next two days as both the Chiefs (Wednesday in Brooklin) and the Lakers (Thursday in Peterborough) play the fourth-place Brooklin Redmen, who currently have 15 points.

Peterborough held period leads of 2-1 and 5-4. Starting goalie Evan Kirk had to leave after 40 minutes; he hadn't been feeling well before the game and was done in by the heat and humidity. That didn't make much difference; Matt Vinc continued the pace by allowing only two goals in the third.

The Chiefs made their third-period pair count, though, by holding Peterborough to a single Shawn Evans marker in the frame to even things up and force the extra period. In overtime, Peterborough managed seven shots and Six Nations four, but neither offence could find a goal.

Evans added 2 assists to his goal, joining Holden Cattoni (2g, 1a) as Peterborough's leading scorer. Six Nations had five players with 3 points each, led by Ryan Benesch's 2 goals and an assist.

Dillon Ward made 44 saves while Kirk and Vinc combined for 45.  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Redmen crush Kodiaks 16-7

Things started out well for the Cobourg Kodiaks Wednesday night when Joey Cupido broke away with an intercepted pass and fended off a stick slapping him upside the head to score just 1:39 after the opening faceoff.

It was downhill from there for Cobourg, though, as the Brooklin Redmen controlled their MSL matchup at Iroquois Park to take a 16-7 win.

Dan Lintner scored 6 goals, all in the first half of the game, to lead the Redmen. Ryan Keenan had 3 goals and 3 assists and Mark Matthews had 8 assists, including 4 on Lintner's goals, for Brooklin. John St. John was Cobourg's leading scorer with 3 assists while Dylan Goddard had 2 goals.

A 5-goal run in the second period really put the Redmen in charge, extending their lead from 5-3 to 10-3. The Kodiaks did battle back, though, closing the gap to 11-7 by the end of the period.

MSL players Evans, Matthews and Smith are finalists for NLL MVP

The National Lacrosse League post-season accolades continue to accrue for Major Series Lacrosse players. The 2016 NLL MVP will be an MSL player after the league announced the finalists for the award: Shawn Evans, Mark Matthews and Dhane Smith.

This will mark the fifth year in a row that the league's top player has come from MSL. Evans is the reigning MVP, has won two of the last three awards, and is once again a finalist. His inclusion among the final three is particularly noteworthy because he switched teams in the offseason, moving from the Calgary Roughnecks to the New England Black Wolves.

Evans became the first player in league history to crack the 100-point plateau in four straight seasons. More importantly, he led the turnaround of a team that was last in the league in 2015 as the Black Wolves advanced to the East Division finals this year.

Evans scored 50 goals for the first time in his career. He has continued his high-scoring ways, leading the Peterborough Lakers to first place in MSL at this point and having more assists this summer than anyone else has points.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Chiefs down Redmen 10-7 to maintain second place

The Six Nations Chiefs rode a 6-goal run that spanned the middle of the first period to early in the second to pull out a 10-7 win over the Brooklin Redmen in Six Nations Tuesday night.

The game, as all Major Series Lacrosse games do right now, had a big impact on the standings. A win would have leapfrogged Brooklin past Six Nations and Oakville into second place in MSL. Instead, with their win the Chiefs solidify their hold on second with 16 points (2 behind first-place Peterborough) and Brooklin remains in fourth with 13 points.

Shayne Jackson, Derek Hopcroft and Dan Lintner had given Brooklin a 3-1 lead through the first half of the opening period. Six Nations took control, though, with 5 goals in a six-minute stretch of the first, then extended their lead when Craig Point opened the second with a goal three minutes in.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Lakers overcome slow start to beat shorthanded Excelsiors 9-8

Shawn Evans was quiet early, but scored a pair of beautiful third-period
goals to lead the Lakers to a 9-8 win over Brampton. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
The Brampton Excelsiors had traded away six of their best players two days before they met the Peterborough Lakers at home Sunday. Brampton had only 13 runners for the game and no backup goalie. And yet, they came out and played “probably our best game of the year,” as head coach Paul Stewart put it.

The effort, especially on defence and from goaltender Tyler Carlson, allowed them to hold an 8-4 lead after 40 minutes. It took five almost perfect third-period goals from the Lakers to come back and earn a 9-8 win that keeps Peterborough atop the Major Series Lacrosse standings.

All in all, it turned out to be a much more exciting game than anyone had the right to expect, with outstanding performances in stretches from both teams.

It all started with Carlson for the Excelsiors. The defence took a few minutes to find its form against a Lakers team that had five junior callups in the lineup because players were missing with other commitments. During that time, Carlson made a handful of excellent saves to keep the game scoreless.

Then Phil Caputo scored his first of 3 goals in the game to go with a pair of assists. A few minutes later, Carlson started a breakout with a pass to Matt Spanger, who sent Zac Reid in alone to make it 2-0.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Excelsiors adding young talent, giving vets a chance to win, says Stewart

Kyle Rubisch is among the key players Brampton traded away Friday.
(Photo: Dave Fryer)
The trade of several veteran players to Major Series Lacrosse championship contenders came at their requests and was largely the product of respect for what the players have done for the Brampton team, says Excelsiors head coach Paul Stewart.

Stewart said that Brooklin requested permission to speak with Chris Corbeil and Kyle Rubisch and that the Excelsiors never deny such requests. Because of the relationship of the pair with their coach in Saskatchewan, Derek Keenan, Corbeil and Rubisch told the Excelsiors they would like to join him in Brooklin as the Redmen make a push for the Mann Cup.

"Corbs and Rubes, along with [Dan and Paul] Dawson, are the most loyal guys to this organization. After everything they have done for this team, we couldn't deny them a chance to play meaningful lacrosse," said Stewart.  The Dawsons were sent to Six Nations in a pair of trades yesterday.

While Brampton isn't mathematically eliminated from playoff contention at 1-9, even if they won their remaining eight games it may not be enough to get to the postseason.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Brampton Excelsiors send Corbeil and Rubisch to Brooklin, Dawson brothers to Brooklin

Chris Corbeil leads an exodus from Brampton that fuels the MSL playoff race among Six Nations, Brooklin and Peterborough. (Photo: Dave Fryer)
With the Major Series Lacrosse roster deadline approaching (the actual deadline is 11:59 July 2), the Brampton Excelsiors traded away four of their best players.

The Six Nations Chiefs bolstered their roster at both ends of the floor by acquiring forward Dan Dawson and defender Paul Dawson from Brampton.

Brooklin made their defence a whole lot more difficult to play against by acquiring both Chris Corbeil and Kyle Rubisch from the Excelsiors. 

The other of the "big three" teams (which you could argue has become the "big four" with Oakville's emergence as a legitimate contender) got in on the act, as well. The Peterborough Lakers picked up defender and draw man Dylan Evans from Brampton in return for the rights to Ryan Lee and other considerations.

In return for Dan Dawson, Brampton gets forward Quinn Powless and defenders Reid Acton and Andrew Watt. For Paul Dawson, the Excelsiors receive Jay Thorimbert and other considerations.

From Brooklin, the Excelsiors add forwards TJ Sanders and Kyle Buchanan and defender Jordan Houtby.

Six Nations and Brampton also completed a swap of young defenders, with Ethan O'Connor going to the Chiefs in exchange for Tim Edwards, second and third round draft picks in 2019 and other considerations.