Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rock lose heartbreaker to Chiefs, miss chance to clinch playoff berth

The Oakville Rock were within a couple of minutes of downing the powerhouse Six Nations Chiefs and clinching their first earned playoff berth in Major Series Lacrosse. They had an 8-7 lead and were looking for some insurance. They almost got it, twice.

First Stephan Leblanc drove to the net and appeared to put the ball past Dillon Ward in the Chiefs goal, but Ward pulled out a spectacular save to deny him. A little later, Brier Jonathan picked up a loose ball in the Oakville zone and sprinted up the floor on a three on one. He filled the centre lane with Alex Crepinsek to his left and Ian MacKay, playing just his third MSL game, to his right. Jonathan passed the ball to MacKay and cut over to set a pick on Craig Point, the lone Chief back.

MacKay nipped around the pick and cut to the top of the crease, where he proceeded to throw one fake after another at Ward. With the goalie falling back, MacKay fired the ball into the net for what would have been a critical insurance goal. But referee Roger Nurse adamantly pointed towards the carpet, indicating that MacKay had stepped on the crease line. The slight misstep would come back to haunt the Rock.

Six Nations took a time out with less than a minute to play and sent six attackers into the Oakville end. It didn't take long for the strategy to pay off Dhane Smith stepped around the top of the zone and simply fired a rocket past Steve Fryer in the Rock net.

Jay Thorimbert won the faceoff and just 26 seconds later, Smith did it again, ripping home another outside shot. Just like that, it was 9-8 for Six Nations. Another 12 ticks of the clock and the game was over, and with the final buzzer there went Oakville's hopes of clinching a playoff berth.

Now Oakville has two final chances to get into the post season, and both rely to an extent on the Brampton Excelsiors. On Wednesday night, Brampton visits the Brooklin Redmen, who are one point behind Oakville in the standings. An Excelsiors win would eliminate Brooklin and put the Rock into the post season. If Brooklin wins, though, Oakville will have to beat the Excelsiors in Brampton Thursday night.

One benefit for Oakville if Brooklin is able to win Wednesday is that the Thursday game at Brampton would give them a chance to earn third place. Because Oakville has a 2-1 lead in the season series, they could leapfrog the Excelsiors for third place if they pull into a tie with Brampton, who is currently two points ahead of the Rock. Of course, if Brampton wins Wednesday, they clinch third and leave the Rock hoping to squeak into the playoffs. It all makes for an exciting final week of the 2015 MSL season.