Thursday, September 15, 2016

Chiefs dominate Game 5 to win third Mann Cup title in four years

The Chiefs enjoy their Mann Cup victory. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
by Stephen Stamp

The Six Nations Chiefs have won their third Mann Cup in four years, beating the Maple Ridge Burrards 14-6 Wednesday night to take the Canadian senior lacrosse championship four games to one.

In the end, the depth and experience of the Chiefs was simply too much for the Burrards, who put up a game fight before falling short.

Dan Dawson had another exceptional effort, scoring 2 goals and adding 5 assists for the Chiefs. That gave him 30 for the series to lead all scorers in the series. Dawson, who was named the Mike Kelly Award winner as series MVP, also passed Colin Doyle for fourth place in all-time Mann Cup scoring.

Early on, the game looked like it would be a third straight hotly contested battle. Maple Ridge's Daniel Amesbury opened the scoring when he tucked home a rebound 7:35 into the game. As they have made a habit of doing, though, the Chiefs responded quickly. Randy Staats scored 19 seconds after Amesbury to tie things up.

Another habit the Chiefs carried into Game 5 was scoring late and early in periods. Wednesday night, Staats got his third of the game with 11 seconds to play in the first. It was a dispiriting goal that arose when Frankie Scigliano tried to play the ball behind his net and seemed to have a momentary lapse of judgment that saw him stand still while Staats snagged the ball as it rolled outside the crease, took a couple of steps so he could reach around the post and tucked it in to the unguarded net. That made the score 3-2 for Six Nations, the third straight game they held a one-goal lead after 20 minutes.

Cody Jamieson was the heart and soul of the Chiefs even, or especially, because he was playing on a knee that will require surgery in the coming weeks. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
Cody Jamieson scored 43 seconds into the second period, starting a run of three Chiefs' goals in the first four minutes that stretched the lead to 6-2 and put the Burrards squarely behind the eight ball.
Many observers had predicted the Burrards would respond violently if they got behind in Game 5, but through the middle of the second period an interference call to Six Nations' Dan Coates was the only penalty. Amesbury took a cross-checking minor for a hard pick to Brodie Merrill's hip at 12:06 of the second.

Maple Ridge opted to try to even up the manpower by calling for a check on Chiefs' goalie Dillon Ward's mask. The Burrards said they had checked with the referee in chief and been told that Ward's mask was illegal, so they anticipated he would draw a penalty. After consulting in the officials' room with both captains present, the refs indicated that the mask was legal, so instead of evening things at four on four, the Burrards incurred a delay of game penalty that gave Six Nations a five on three.

While Maple Ridge did an admirable job off 46 seconds of the two-man advantage, Six Nations' fast and accurate ball movement eventually resulted in a Ryan Benesch back door goal. Benesch added another goal a minute and a half later to make it 8-2 and things were looking great for the Chiefs and bleak for the Burrards.

Jarret Davis scored a beautiful shorthanded goal then Ben McIntosh connected with 38 seconds to play in the period, appearing to give the Burrards some hope as they cut the deficit to 8-4. But yet another late-period goal, this one by Austin Staats with 15 seconds left, gave Six Nations a 5-goal lead.

The Chiefs were at it again to open the third; Craig Point scored 56 seconds in. That was the first of four goals in the first six minutes of the period that effectively drained any remaining drama from the game.

Mike Mallory, who led Maple Ridge in scoring during the regular season but never got into a rhythm in the Mann Cup, scored his first goal of the series as the Burrards got a pair in the thirteenth minute of the period, but it was far too little too late.

Frustration boiled over a bit for Maple Ridge later in the period. Dayne Michaud took a major and game misconduct for crosscheck that targeted a Chiefs' forward's head with just over six minutes left. Then at the 17:10 mark, Kevin Reid earned a slashing major for chopping down on Austin Staats' arm. When Reid saw the referee's hand go up for the penalty, he appeared to snap and went after Staats. As the ref was restraining him, Reid grabbed the ref's shirt and tried to push through him.

Reid earned a pair of game misconducts for his actions, meaning he will miss the beginning of the 2017 Western Lacrosse Association season with a suspension. Next season was the furthest thing from the Burrards' minds, though, as they saw the Chiefs beginning to celebrate their championship while the final minute of the game ticked away.

Maple Ridge were clearly disappointed, but they appear to have built a nucleus that will be able to compete for Mann Cup titles for the next several years. The team that just beat them could serve as a blueprint in some ways for the Burrards' future; Six Nations had to lose before they were able to win, dropping Major Series Lacrosse semifinals and then finals before breaking through to win the Mann Cup.

Now the Chiefs have won three in four years. And they did it with a hobbled leader in Cody Jamieson, whose performance in the playoffs and Mann Cup should go down in history as one of the most inspirational we have ever seen. Jamieson is scheduled for surgery on his knee in the coming weeks. He shouldn't have been able to play on it, let alone produce the way that he did.

Yet when the Chiefs fell behind 3-0 to the Peterborough Lakers in the MSL finals, he strapped on a heavy-duty knee brace and suited up. Ward was the correct choice as MVP of the MSL playoffs and Dawson the correct choice as MVP of the Mann Cup. But make no mistake, Jamieson made both series wins possible.

With Jamieson watching—and agonizing because he had to instead of playing—Six Nations went 1-4 in their final two series of the summer. With him in the lineup, they were 7-0. He deserves to be remembered with Bobby Baun (who scored a Stanley Cup-winning goal playing on a broken leg) among the bravest performances in Canadian sporting lore.

Billy Dee Smith hoists the Mann Cup. (Photo: Tim Prothero)
There's much more than Jamieson to the Chiefs team, though. They are talented, deep, intelligent and loaded with character. It wasn't just Jamieson's injury they dealt with, either. Almost forgotten because of how well they responded was that they played the entire MSL finals and Mann Cup without injured forwards Jordan Durston and Johnny Powless. They were also missing Rob Marshall for the whole Mann Cup and fellow defender Billy Dee Smith missed the first two games of the Mann.

Their success is a testament to the job that Duane Jacobs started and Steve Dietrich continued this year as the team's general manager, as well as to the coaching staff led by Rich Kilgour and featuring offensive coach John Tavares this summer.

The future looks bright, too. Ward is still young and has excellent prospects Warren Hill and Doug Jamieson battling for the right to be his goaltending partner down the road; the pair split the backup duties during the Mann Cup. Austin Staats still has three years of junior lacrosse before he becomes a full-time Chief, but he'll be available for Mann Cups every year if the Chiefs can reach them.

Randy Staats, Vaughn Harris, Brier Jonathan and Kellen Leclair give the Chiefs a host of young players who can take on major roles (Staats already has, of course) as older players either decide to retire or play less prominent roles. And then there's the pipeline of talent that the Jr a Six Nations Arrows provide.

Yes, the future is bright. Today, though, the Chiefs are celebrating the present and recent past. They have cemented their legacy as one of the great teams in the history of Canadian lacrosse.