Friday, June 16, 2017

Lakers Down Chiefs in Battle of the Unbeatens

Ian Llord and the Lakers defence did what they had to do - including blocking shots like this one - to hold Six Nations in check as Peterborough won a battle of MSL's unbeaten teams 7-6 Thursday. (Photo: Kendall Taylor)
The matchup of Major Series Lacrosse leaders Thursday resembled a doughnut for the Peterborough Lakers: it was delicious on the outside but had a big hole in the middle.

The 3-0 Lakers jumped out to a 4-2 lead over the 5-0 Six Nations Chiefs in the first period, then saw that turn into a 6-4 deficit when they were able to score only once in a stretch of 39 minutes from late in the first to late in the third. They got things going in time to pull out a 7-6 win by scoring three goals in the final 2:20 for their fourth win and to become the only unbeaten team in the league.

The decisive sequence began when Thomas Hoggarth scooped up a loose ball in Peterborough's end and took off. He passed to Holden Cattoni coming off the Lakers bench and promptly buried a low shot when Cattoni passed it back to him.

With goalie Matt Vinc pulled as the clock ticked into the final minute of regulation time, Kyle Buchanan took a cross-floor pass from Turner Evans and tucked it just between Dillon Ward and the post to tie the game.

Overtime appeared imminent until the ball scooted out of a scrum just inside the Lakers' restraining line towards the Six Nations' end of the floor. With Ian Llord expertly getting between the Chiefs David Brock and the ball, Bryce Sweeting took a perfect angle to get to the ball first.

"I got a lucky bounce, scooped up a loose ball and realized I was on a breakaway," Sweeting said. "I play with Wardo in the winter in the NLL so I kind of know him a little bit. He gave me the far side and I found that corner somehow."

The goal was Sweeting's first in MSL and it's hard to imagine him topping it. "Don't know if I'll get a bigger one in MSL. Six Nations to win the game. Cherry on top, that's for sure," Sweeting said.

More importantly, he said, was the two points the Lakers earned with the win that could prove critical at the end of the season, even though both teams were playing without several of the regulars who should be on the floor when the teams meet for their only other game of the season on July 25 in Six Nations.

"There's no quit at any point in the game, whether we're down two or three," Sweeting said. "We go out every shift to try and even up the score. It was a complete team effort from the back end to the front end."

The lone bright spot in the middle of the doughnut for the Lakers was an exciting one for the Cattoni family. Holden is in his second year with the MSL team but Thursday night marked the debut of his younger brother and fellow lefty forward Taite. The younger Cattoni was called on to dress just 10 or 15 minutes before the game began when veteran Brad Self felt his knee stiffening up in warmup and didn't think it wise to play.

Taite earned the primary assist on Holden's second goal of the game in the second period, passing to his big brother and watching Holden bury the ball.

"It's the first time I've ever played on the same team as my brother," Holden said with a smile after the game. "He's four years younger than me. I aged out of junior just before he came in. Now for him to play here is a pretty special feeling and for him to assist one of my goals is really cool."

For Six Nations, the loss was a tough one but the blow is softened by the realization that the Chiefs were missing 14 regulars from the lineup. They still have to be considered at least co-favourites to win the MSL title and defend their Mann Cup win from last year.