|Matt Spanger and the Brampton Excelsiors took on Shawn Williams and the|
Brooklin Redmen in both teams' season openers Wednesday.
(Photo: Tim Prothero)
Both teams were missing a handful of players for various reasons, primary among them guys being involved in the National Lacrosse League championship series. It's safe to say that as the game went on, the Brooklin Redmen handled a cobbled-together roster better than the Brampton Excelsiors did.
Brampton jumped out to a 4-3 lead after one period and scored the opening goal of the second. But for the final 34 minutes, it was all Brooklin as the Redmen scored nine unanswered goals to take a 12-5 win in the Major Series Lacrosse season opener for both teams at Whitby's Iroquois Park Sports Centre.
Junior graduate Austin Shanks led all scorers with 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points. Dan Lintner, fresh off his NLL rookie season in Toronto, enjoyed being back with many of his junior teammates with the Whitby Warriors, scoring 4 goals and adding an assist. Two of those reunited teammates each added 5 points: Reilly O'Connor had a goal and 4 assists, Shayne Jackson 5 assists.
It wasn't just the youngsters producing for Brooklin, though. Veteran Derek Hopcroft and uber-veteran Shawn Williams each chipped in a goal and 3 assists.
Matt Spanger, Mike Burke, Mike Teeter, Tyson Bell and Phil Caputo responded for Brampton, who outshot the Redmen 45-42 but didn't get many quality chances against a stout Brooklin defence.
Shanks and Lintner were sharp. Jackson played a wily game, often sitting back near the half boards and picking his targets with crisp passes as players cut into open space. And Ryan Keenan, another Warriors junior grad, had an excellent start to his first full MSL season. Keenan, who is expected to be a first-round pick in this year's NLL draft, looked very good. He was taking hits to make plays and did a good job of working both inside and outside.
“It's nice,” Lintner said of getting back on the floor with his former Warriors mates. “We've played together before. It's nice to get out there with them again. We play against each other all winter time and it's good to finally be back on the same team.”
Defensively, the Redmen had a strong team performance led by the Hossack brothers. Graeme, the second overall pick in the NLL draft last year and one of the league's top rookies, may even have been outplayed by his younger brother Matt, who joined the Redmen this year after finishing his Warriors career and should be a high pick in a very strong defensive draft in September.
Quintan Martin got the start between the pipes for Brampton and the Excelsiors junior grad did a good job in his first MSL game. He faced a seemingly endless series of breakaways in the second period and stopped about five in a row before anyone finally managed to beat him.
Brampton had trouble getting inside or creating quality scoring chances at the other end, and when they did Zach Higgins was equal to the task of stopping them, making 40 saves to earn his first win of the season.
The Excelsiors were missing key forwards Dan Dawson, Daryl Veltman, Joe Resetarits and Tyler Fereira. That left them with players more familiar with going out the back door taking significant offensive reps, including Connor Sellars and Tyson Bell.
The latter, fresh off a standout rookie season with Calgary in the NLL, had a fantastic debut game in MSL. Bell was aggressive and effective defensively and regularly used his speed to push the ball up the floor, often staying for offensive sets where he looked right at home. Brampton's first pick, third overall in January's MSL draft, did more than enough to justify his high selection.
Brooklin eventually dominated all facets of the game, including the faceoff circle. Graham Bergsma was credited with 14 wins in 18 draws. “He did very good tonight,” Redmen head coach and GM Wayne Colley said of Bergsma. “He's one of our protected Sr B players now because I made a deal with some other guys and moved them, so now he hops up to the show and he's very excited about even getting the opportunity to play here and he showed tonight he played well.”
Both teams are right back in action tonight. Brampton heads home to take on the Six Nations Chiefs while Brooklin makes the trek up the 115 to face the Peterborough Lakers. Both games start at 8pm.