Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lakers down Rock 10-7 to take 3-2 lead in semis

Nick Rose making one of his 61 saves Saturday night in Peterborough. Rose's standout performance wasn't enough as the Lakers prevailed 10-7 to take a 3-2 lead over Oakville in the MSL semifinals. (Photo: Tim Prothero)

Shawn Evans returned after missing a game from injury and seemed to be in the middle of all the action as the Peterborough Lakers beat the Oakville Rock 10-7 at the Peterborough Memorial Centre Saturday night to take a 3-2 lead in the teams' Major Series Lacrosse semifinals.

Evans scored 2 goals and 3 assists to lead the Lakers and was involved in a controversial play that the Rock felt could have changed the course of the game.

In Game 4, Oakville had taken an early 3-0 lead that was critical to their 8-6 win to even the series. In Game 5 Saturday, Peterborough were the ones getting out in front with a pair of goals in the first half of the first period. Oakville got a couple back but trailed 3-2 after 20 minutes.

Evans, who sat out with what the team called an upper body injury, missed much of the early part of the second period. In his absence, the Rock scored three straight goals in a span of 2:44. The latter two came just 33 seconds apart as Jeremy Noble slid down the alley and drifted a shot over the shoulder of Evan Kirk then Brendan Thenhaus fired a shot at the near post that appeared to drop in when Kirk fell backwards and knocked the net back.

Peterborough looked to have pulled within a goal when one of their players ripped a hard outside shot past Nick Rose. The Lakers had six forwards on the floor at the time though, so the goal was correctly waved off.

Brad Self had a pair of breakaway chances to try to get Peterborough closer but wasn't able to beat Rose, who put on a sensational goaltending performance with 61 saves on the 70 shots he faced. The Lakers were finally able to claw back within one, almost 18 minutes after their previous goal, when Adam Jones swatted home a rebound as it rolled just out of the Oakville crease.

During the second period, Evans took a cross check to the face from Oakville defender Jason Noble that dropped him to the turf. Irate that there was no penalty called, Evans walked toward the Peterborough bench past referee Chris Williams and appeared to lunge at the official. Members of the Rock felt that Evans made a move as if he was going to hit Williams with his stick. At the time, Evans had his stick in his right hand while his left had was at his side.

Evans admitted he lunged towards the ref but emphasized that he made no attempt to have contact with Williams. “I took another high stick to the head. I took a right lunge at him just cause I was mad and frustrated, but there was no attempt to slash or whack or anything at the officials,” Evans said. “You know you're probably gone for a couple of seasons if that happens. There was no attempt there, but obviously I was upset about the hit.”

Jeremy Noble said he didn't want to comment on the situation but did acknowledge that the Rock were aware of what had happened. “That's up to the refs, I'm not going to say anything about that call,” Noble said. “But if you make a gesture at a ref like that, that's up to the ref's discretion whether he sees it or not. We certainly saw it.”

Rock general manager Josh Sanderson felt that Evans should have been ejected from the game and he likely would have been if the refs had seen Evans' gesture. It would have made a big difference if Evans was kicked out; he scored a power play goal to tie the game 5-5 four minutes after Jones had connected and added a goal midway through the third after a Dan Lomas goal had pulled Oakville within 7-6.

A critical play came on the faceoff following Evans' second-period goal. While an extended scrum played out along the boards just inside Oakville's restraining line, the ball popped out to Lakers captain Scott Self. The defender curled away from the pack and towards the net with a defender maintaining position between him and teammate Zach Currier. Self saw they were giving him the shot and took it, tucking the ball past Rose's left side.

“It was a big play and I think a turning point for us, I think we got a little more energy back in our step,” said Peterborough head coach Mike Hasen.

The game remained 8-6 for almost 10 minutes after Evans' third-period goal. Both defences did a solid job of limiting quality opportunities, although both teams did get some chances only to be denied by sound goaltending.

Nick Weiss finally broke the scoring drought when he took a breakout pass from Brad Self, threw a couple of hard fakes then tucked the ball past Rose's hip to make it 9-6 with 1:59 to play.

The game still wasn't over as Jeremy Noble ripped home an extra attacker laser from the top of the offensive formation with 64 seconds left.

As the Lakers were killing the final minute, Peterborough's Joel Matthews and Oakville's Mitch de Snoo dropped the gloves and engaged in a spirited fight at 19:24. Nick Weiss and Damon Edwards received 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduce penalties at the same stoppage then Mark Steenhuis and Glen Bryan also earned misconducts 12 seconds after play had resumed.

Currier removed any doubt about the final result when he popped the ball into the empty net with 14 seconds left. The Rock's Brandon Slade was given five minutes for slashing before play got underway again. When the clock did start again, it rolled for only 11 seconds before Bryce Sweeting and Eric Fannell were sent off with 10-minute misconducts.

All in all, Game 5 was an intense contest that sets the stage for a thorny but exciting Game 6 Monday night at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre. Noble said the Rock remain confident.

“I don't think we have to change much,” he said. “We're going to have a couple of key players back in our lineup [they were missing Wes Berg and Bryan Cole Saturday]. Listen to our coaching staff. They have a great system in place and we're going to be fine Monday night.

Jeremy Noble and Oakville head coach Matt Sawyer both suggested there wasn't a lot they needed to change to be successful Monday, although Sawyer did point out one key statistic that wasn't in their favour.

Billy Hostrawser about to throw Shawn Evans helmet at Evans, for which
Hostrawser was ejected. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
“I thought they owned the loose balls in our own end, so offensive repeat possessions,” Sawyer said. “We mentioned in [the post-game locker room], it wasn't a 55-45 difference. It was quite lopsided. We lose [Billy] Hostrawser early [he was given a match penalty for throwing Evans' helmet at him while the latter was laying on the carpet] so we're down one defender and when they're working you like that with repeat possessions, we were under siege at times and they capitalized on a couple of those opportunities We came up here, we competed, we battled, we were happy with our effort, not happy with the results. We plan to come up here again. It's a nice place to play.”

A major reason Sawyer has so much confidence in his team is the play of Rose. “I've been around Rosey a long time. We started together back in junior” Sawyer said. “I'm not sure if you can get a better goaltending performance than that tonight but it wouldn't surprise me if he does it again Monday.”

Game time for Game 6 in Oakville Monday is 8pm. If necessary, Game 7 will be in Peterborough at 8 pm next Thursday, August 18.