Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lakers close out Rock in semis with 6-4 win

The Peterborough Lakers went into Oakville and won Game 6 to advance to
the MSL finals. (Photo: Anna Taylor)
The Peterborough Lakers had been to the Major Series Lacrosse finals in 12 of the previous 13 years. The Oakville Rock had never won an MSL playoff series. While the Rock appear poised to end their streak in the near future, Peterborough kept theirs rolling by beating the Rock 6-4 to win the semifinals four games to two.

Oakville led 1-0 after a first period in which defence and goaltending ruled the roost. Only Dan Lomas' power play goal at 11:12 was able to find the back of the net. Peterborough didn't get on the board until 6:06 in the second period and it took a sensational effort.

Nick Weiss ragged the ball on the penalty kill before eventually cutting to the net, fighting off three defenders and slotting the ball past Nick Rose. Mark Steenhuis followed that with a power play goal on a similar drive to the net. His shot went off Rose and the post, bounced on the goal line and spun up into the air, just barely crossing the line if indeed it made its way across.

Matt Vinc held the Lakers in the game with some excellent saves as Oakville put pressure on throughout the second period and eventually did manage to strike paydirt, getting three straight goals over an eight-minute stretch. Steenhuis clawed back some momentum for the Lakers with another power play goal 30 seconds from the end of the period.

It took another spectacular play for the Lakers to even things up in the third. Chad Tutton stayed up for an offensive shift, horizontally towards the crease, took a perfectly time pass from Josh Currier and whipped a backhand off Rose's leg and into the net at 3:13.

Peterborough had taken 43 minutes to get its first four goals, but the Lakers took just 10 seconds to score the final two goals of the game. Chad Culp ripped a step-back sidearm in off the post at 5:56 for what would prove to be the winning goal. Off a scramble on the ensuing faceoff, Stephen Hoar scooped up the ball and raced down to beat Rose.

Peterborough held on the rest of the way to close out the series and set up their third straight championship series against the Six Nations Chiefs. That series will begin Sunday night at 7 pm in Peterborough.

“I might have been the most surprised of everybody in the arena that went in,” Tutton said of his critical goal. Most of his effort was expended as part of a Lakers defensive group that helped Vinc keep the Rock in check.

“It feels like each and every game we become more and more one cohesive unit rather than five individuals out there,” said Tutton. “It just becomes really cohesive and everything's seamless. It's almost like clockwork.”

Vinc was happy with the effort the Lakers came up with to finish off the series but noted they'll have to step things up even further if they hope to play host to this year's Mann Cup. “We can't give them looks like we did Oakville and let them get on a run because they have experience and they have a lot of guys on their team that are looking to get another ring on their finger,” Vinc said.

For Oakville, it was a difficult pill to swallow but an important step in the process they hope will make them Mann Cup contenders in the near future.

“Definitely proud of the group” said Rock head coach Matt Sawyer. “It doesn't soothe the sting right now of losing a series that we thought we were capable of winning.

“You've got to use these experiences to get better. There's a saying that you've got to lose a few to learn how to win. We've got a lot of winners in that room who have won at different levels, Minto Cup or NLL, but I truly believe that this is what they call a man's league. The Mann Cup is the ultimate and I think it's the toughest. We need to learn what it takes to get there. “