Friday, August 26, 2016

Peterborough Lakers dump Six Nations Chiefs to move to verge of MSL title with 3-0 finals lead

Brad Self scored on a brilliant end to end run, including hurdling over a falling Chiefs defender, as part of Peterborough's opening 7-0 run. (Photo: Tim Prothero)

In any tight, hard-fought series, there's bound to be at least one blowout. Even considering that, Thursday night's 15-9 win by the Peterborough Lakers to take a 3-0 lead in the Major Series Lacrosse finals over the Six Nations Chiefs was stunning.

Shawn Evans started the onslaught at 2:18. When Josh Currier connected just under 11 minutes later the scoreboard read 7-0 in the Lakers favour and for all intents and purposes, the game was over.

Six Nations fought hard to get back into the game but were never able to close the gap to fewer than five goals because Peterborough kept playing hard, knowing how dangerous the Chiefs can be. Six Nations twice scored three straight goals but each time, the Lakers responded.

One play could symbolize how the night went for each of the teams. Six Nations had just run off three goals to close the gap to 13-8 with 5:47 to play. Peterborough had the ball in the offensive zone when a Chiefs defender stripped the ball from rookie forward Holden Cattoni, who lost his stick in the process. Cattoni spun away towards the ball, ran around it and kicked the ball straight into the stick of teammate Cory Vitarelli, in stride and right in the mesh.

When Vitarelli fired a shot home, it showed that it was the kind of night where even when the Chiefs did things well it just didn't seem to work out for them.

Perhaps even worse than the score for Six Nations was that they may have lost yet another star player to injury. Dhane Smith went down with what appeared to be a sore knee while no one was touching him, which generally isn't a good sign. He had to be helped to the dressing room.

Austin Staats also left the game for a while after a crushing hit from Zach Currier dropped him to the ground. Staats eventually was able to get up and walk off under his own power but his right arm was hanging awkwardly. He did return to action later in the game.

Steenhuis had 5 goals & 4 assists to lead all scorers. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
Mark Steenhuis led Peterborough with 5 goals and 4 assists, John Grant Jr had a goal and 5 assists and seven other Lakers scored at least 3 points. Dan Dawson had 4 goals for Six Nations and Randy Staats a goal and 3 assists.

“It's funny. Sometimes the shots go in, sometimes they don't,” said Steenhuis. “Tonight it seemed like it was easier to get our shots on net and we were putting them in the right spots. They've got a great defensive team over there, they've got a great goalie in net. The bounces just went our way tonight.”

Steenhuis was pleased that the Lakers didn't take their collective foot off the gas pedal and let the Chiefs back into the game.

“I think you're just looking over at their bench and the players they have, how talented they are. You can't really start smiling and laughing on the bench because three or four shots they can get three or four goals real quick and all of a sudden they're right back in the game,” Steenhuis said. “I know we were up by a lot and sometimes you kind of ease up and it's a little less stressful on the bench. Everyone kept their heads, kept going the right way, doing the right things, saying the right things, playing the right way, which is the most important.”

He expressed plenty of respect for the players in the back end, especially Peterborough's youngsters. “These young guys on this team, you can't say enough about them They're swarming that ball on every draw, working their tails off. Our D, our goaltending's been unbelievable all three games. It was really nice for our offence to step up and put a few more balls in the net and take some tension off them in the back. I've never seen so many blocked shots, shots hitting sticks. It's been remarkable watching those guys play.”

From the Chiefs perspective, they got off on the wrong foot and simply weren't able to recover. “We came out flat, they came out flying,” said Chiefs head coach Rich Kilgour. “We never erased that seven-goal lead. We made a couple of nice, two goals in a row there, but could never get over the hump and really get it to a workable margin. Those kind of games happen once in a while, it's just too bad it happened tonight.”

Losing Smith was just another blow to a team that is already missing Cody Jamieson, Jordan Durston and Johnny Powless. “He looked pretty tender going off there,” Kilgour said of Smith. “It seems the way, when it rains it pours. We've got other guys going down and then Dhane Smith. It's tough, losing three of your top probably five offensive players. No excuses, though, we've got enough talent to win a game without them and that's what we're going to have to do.”

Kilgour was unhappy that six of his players were sent off the floor after receiving 10-minute misconducts in the final 3:05.

“He's kicking everyone out at the end of the game. I'm not trying to complain but I've been up here when we're up three or four goals at the end and Peterborough gets a little out of hand and no one ever gets kicked out and no one gets anything,” Kilgour said. “He's kicking Jeremy Thompson out. The guy doesn't say two words in his career ever and somehow he gets tossed. I'm not even going to try to say the refs had any effect on that game. I just don't like at the end kicking everyone out, handing out [misconducts] like candy.”

Much of the Six Nations vitriol at the end of the game grew out of Zach Currier's hit on Austin Staats. Staats was trying to pick up a loose ball as Currier ran towards him and Currier finished his check with a textbook shoulder to shoulder hit. Replays clearly showed that Currier took just one step after Staats had missed picking up the ball and Currier may not even have seen that Staats didn't have it.

In real time, though, the Chiefs just saw their player getting flattened while the ball bounced away off his shin and Staats taking a long time to get up. Add that to a game that clearly went sideways early on them, and the frustration is hardly surprising.

For his part, Currier said he had no ill intent towards Staats. “I was just going hard. I'm going for the ball and the hit was there so I took it,” Currier said. “It's not like I was trying to hurt the guy or trying to get a cheap shot on him. I hit him as hard as I could and tried to get a clean hit on him and then I guess they just didn't like that. I'm not complaining that they're coming after me. They've got to switch something up, down three-nothing in the series. It's a good sign for me that I'm getting under their skin.”

Things blew up a bit at the end when Staats knocked down Lakers goalie Evan Kirk and Currier, who happened to be the nearest Laker, started to run after Staats. He was cut off by Dan Dawson, who grabbed Currier by the head, tackled him to the ground and ripped his helmet off.

Brier Jonathan & the Chiefs will have their eyes on getting their first win of
the series Sunday in Six Nations. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
Billy Dee Smith received a 5-minute major for throwing an elbow that just missed Josh Currier's head. Thompson actually received a misconduct and was sent off the floor but didn't realize it and returned to take a faceoff after Craig Point had scored a shorthanded goal. It was just a result of the confusion through the final minutes of the game.

No supplementary discipline is expected, although Smith just avoided getting a multi-game suspension. Two misconducts within five games would result in a three-game ban, but Smith's previous misconduct, earned in the semis against Brooklin, came five games previously, so he will be available for Game 4 on Sunday.

Josh Currier said that game will be important for the Lakers because they know it will only get harder to close out the series if the Chiefs start to rebound. “We haven't won anything yet. Our mentality was to keep pushing,” Currier said. “Even being up three games to nothing, we haven't won anything. We're just going to keep pushing until we've got four games.”

They'll have that chance back at the ILA Sunday at 8 pm in a game you can watch via JVI Sports Network's free live webcast.