For the first time since 2002, the Peterborough Lakers will not be in the Major Series Lacrosse championship series. The Brooklin Redmen took care of that Sunday night by downing the Lakers 13-8 in Game 7 of the MSL semi finals before a crowd of over 3,500 in Peterborough. Shawn Williams led the Redmen with 3 goals and 4 assists. Gavin Prout (3 assists), Mike Melnychenko (2 assists) and Cam Holding each added 2 goals for Brooklin. Zach Higgins was brilliant again in the Redmen net, allowing just the 8 goals on 57 shots. He also got a lot of help from his posts, with the Lakers ringing at least 10 shots off the iron.
John Grant, Jr. led the Lakers with 2 goals and 4 assists and Shawn Evans had 2 goals and 1 helper. Jimmy Purves played an outstanding game for Peterborough in a defensive transition role and added a goal and an assist to the cause.
Peterborough appeared to have more scoring chances in the first period, but the Redmen were able to capitalize on theirs and left the period leading 4-1, thanks largely to Williams scoring all 3 of his goals in the frame. Purves got the Lakers rolling in the second when he made a perfect cut to open space as the Lakers broke out with numbers then buried a shot past Higgins. Grant's power play laser from outside pulled Peterborough within one, but the Redmen had a response as Kiel Matisz scored a power play goal for Brooklin a minute and a half later.
The Redmen having a response for whatever Peterborough did was a theme for the game. They matched the Lakers' 4 goals in the second period to head into the final 20 minutes with an 8-5 lead. As Redmen captain Derek Suddons said after the game, “At some point, we knew they were going to come out fighting. We had a bit of a lead after the first period, they came out full tilt in the second period. We knew they weren't going to lay down in the third and sure enough they came full force, tied it up at 8.”
The Lakers tied it up by scoring 3 goals in a span of 4:24. The first two came from Grant and Evans on perfectly placed outside shots. The third was a gorgeous goal, with Grant hitting Jordan MacIntosh with a pass right on top of the crease. MacIntosh caught the pass, spun and released it in one motion as he was falling to the floor.
The crowd was fired up and loud, the Lakers players looked to have some of their swagger back, and it felt like the momentum was all going Peterborough's way. Over the past several years, that is the kind of moment where the Lakers took control of games against Brooklin and ran off with wins. This year's Redmen squad showed they're ready to play with the big boys in the big games, though.
Melnychenko put Brooklin back in front when he ripped a low shot just inside the near post at 8:24. The midway point of the period proved to be the real turning point, though. Derek Hopcroft bounced a shot through traffic to the back of the net at 10:07. Cam Holding scooped up the ball off the ensuing faceoff, raced towards the Peterborough net and buried a shot behind Tyler Carlson to make the score 11-8. The Lakers hit some more posts but were unable to score again, and when Melnychenko connected at 12:13 the Redmen were in very good shape. Holding finished off the scoring with an empty netter at 13:45.
Suddons was pleased with the way his defensive teammates played last night and through most of the series. “We played really well as a group and as individual players within the group, as well. You can't give John Grant and Shawn Evans space. If they have space, they're going to bury the ball. So we tried to restrict their space as much as we could this series and go from there.”
Now the challenge is to forget about the Peterborough series and get ready to face a rested Six Nations team in the MSL finals. “We'll find a way to regroup. Enjoy tonight and then move on to the next round,” Suddons said. “We'll be ready to go once we start the next series, that's for sure.”
As for the Lakers, while they didn't get it done this time, captain Scott Self says he still believes in the team they have and doesn't see a need for sweeping change. “I think we had a team that could have gone out and won a Mann Cup. If we got by these guys I think we definitely could have beaten Six Nations,” Self said. “On the other hand, these guys were good enough to beat us. Anyone can win. We didn't get it done. I don't think we need to go out and blow the team up. We've got a very talented team. Maybe they tweak it a bit, who knows? I think we were good enough, we just didn't get it done.”