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.

The game was tied 4-4 with Oakville killing a penalty when Jeremy Noble got trapped along the restraining line at the boards by the penalty box. He called loudly for a timeout before he could be forced over the line to cause a turnover—loudly enough for fans at the top of the seating at the far side of the arena to hear him—but his request wasn't acknowledged by the officials.

The ball bounced out of his stick into the penalty box, Brooklin took it down the floor and Knight scored his second of the game. Oakville was extremely upset and seemed to be rattled, although in the end that the Redmen did enough to win the game while Oakville wasn't able to respond.

Joe French tied things up with a perfect shot—around his defender, just past Higgins' left foot and in off the far post—to send the game to the third period tied 5-5.

Knight scored a pair of almost identical goals 1:11 apart in the first quarter of the third period, taking passes as he cut down the alley and tucking perfectly placed shots past Nick Rose. Leblanc eventually got one back past the midway point, but Knight responded quickly and Kevin Brownell sealed the win with an empty netter.

Knight said the Redmen weren't worried about who they meet in the playoffs but were keen to secure home-floor advantage in the first round.

“The top four teams are all pretty good, it's close. I don't think it matters. If you're going to be the best, you've got to beat a couple of teams,” Knight said. “We've kind of been working towards this all year, trying to get better every game. Having home floor advantage is big, having an extra home game and getting to control the schedule a bit. I think that helps a lot.”

Brooklin is the lowest-scoring of the playoff teams, but Knight feels like he and his teammates are starting to get where they need to be to find further success this season.

“I don't think I did anything different, I just got some opportunities and finally buried on them,” Knight said. “We have a great offence, so I think if we keep working hard we can bury more than just eight or nine goals a game.”

Finding chemistry, or rhythm as Knight tends to say, can be challenging in the summer. “It makes it difficult. You hardly ever get to practice, it's hard to build rhythm with new guys coming in and out of the lineup all the time. It's just that type of league, I think, where guys are away in the summer, so there's nothing you can do. But I think in the playoffs we'll have most of the guys around every game so hopefully we can get in a rhythm with the same lineup every night.”

The regular season wraps up Thursday night with Six Nations visiting Brampton and Cobourg in Peterborough to face the Lakers.