Friday, July 29, 2016

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.

Cobourg actually kept things close for the first period, trailing just 4-3 at the intermission. They had some chances to tie things up as they started the second on the power play. Instead, the Lakers grabbed control of the game by scoring 7 straight goals.

The third period was a fan's dream and a coach's nightmare. Both teams threw caution to the wind and they combined for 13 goals, 8 of them by Peterborough.

Cobourg heads into the off-season with lots of work to do but some signs that they may be on track to building a strong team. The Kodiaks kept working and had their chances. Lapses that are typical of a young team cost them against a talented and experienced Lakers squad that was ready to exploit them.

Definitely the best news for Cobourg Thursday was the return of Craig England to the floor. England suffered a detached retina on a hit in his first game of the season. He was told he may never play again and had to undergo two surgeries. The smile on his face at the end of the game was evidence of how happy he was to be back.

“I just wanted to come back, especially after that injury, to get back on the floor. You just want to play the game and it's always nice coming to play in Peterborough, that's for sure,” England said. “It was scary when they tell you something like that, but you've just got to stay positive with everything. I have great support from my family and friends and they helped me a lot through that. Just being positive and having their support was huge through that whole process.”

England played a solid game, even going horizontal in efforts to strip Peterborough players of the ball a couple of times and generally banging around. In other words, he looked like his old self.

“Every time I get out there, I just try to work hard, as much as I can. I made sure that everything was okay by the doctors and made sure that my body was good, because this is a pretty tough sport to just come back into and a tough team to play against, as well,” he said. “I just wanted to get back there and play how I do, just bump and grind. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a ball in the net there but it was fun to be back out.”

As for the Kodiaks' future, England was impressed by how hard his teammates worked even though they only won one game this season and were trailing substantially through much of Thursday's game.

“I wasn't around the team too, too much this year but just from what I saw being around them and coming to watch a few times, this team's young but the willingness to compete is there to show up and compete every night despite the record. It says a lot about each guy in that locker room, that's for sure.”

Peterborough opens their MSL semifinal series against the Oakville Rock next Tuesday at home. The Brooklin Redmen play host to the Six Nations Chiefs in Game 1 of the other semifinal next Wednesday.