At the last minute, I decided to sit down and write this, and there were only about 4 hours until game time. Well, better late than never I suppose. I’m just a lacrosse addict. I can’t help myself. Contrary to popular belief, the lacrosse season is far from over. Yes, the MLL recently came to a close, but box lacrosse in the Great White North rolls on.
The Mann Cup is the championship series of senior box lacrosse in Canada. The winner of the Western Lacrosse Association (WLA) plays the winners of the Major Series Lacrosse (MSL). The winner of the Mann Cup has the right to call themselves the best senior team in Canada, and it is an honored tradition that dates all the way back to 1932. This year the series is between the Langley Thunder of the WLA and the Peterborough Lakers from the MSL.
Key Mann Cup Players:
Peterborough: John Grant Jr., Mark Steenhuis, John Tavares
Langley: Garrett Billings, Lewis Ratcliff, Shayne Jackson
Breaking Down The Offense:
Langley Thunder: Without a doubt, the Thunder have some big time scorers up front. Lewis Ratcliff and Athan Iannucci are the biggest threats scoring 4.8 and 3.5 points per game respectively. These two players will be the go-to guys for the Thunder, and have to score points if they want to win. Shayne Jackson will play an important complimentary role to Ratcliff and Iannucci.
Jackson is no slouch, averaging 2.6 points per game, while netting 5 man-up goals this season. The biggest story here is Garrett Billings. The crafty vet has only played in 7 games this season (18 being the total number of games played), but has managed to put up a massive 33 points, with 26 of those being assists. He is coming off a huge NLL season and could be the deciding factor for the Thunder. If Billings manages the offense, and can set up his teammates the Thunder may be able to win this thing.
Peterborough Lakers: When you are talking about offensive potency, look no further than the Lakers. The top three leading playoff scorers for the Lakers are Shawn Evans, John Tavares, and John Grant Jr. They have scored 50, 43, and 39 points respectively (John Grant put up 39 only in 9 games). Those are 3 big names, and equally big players that Langley must stop in order to win. But those aren’t the only players that the Thunder must be wary of – Cory Vitarelli is another big name scorer that will help support the big 3.
Mark Steenhuis will be pushing the floor in transition and that can often lead to goals. John Grant Jr. is the biggest threat for the Thunder, but his body will be pushed to the limit as he plays 3 games in 3 days. Jr. is playing in his first game tonight, flying to Denver to play for team Canada, then flying back to play in the next game of the Mann Cup series. I am not saying Jr. is only human – as he has proven that he is not – but that is a lot of travel and lacrosse in 3 days, and he has been blanked once already this season.
I give a slight advantage to the Lakers in this category – Too much fire power for the Thunder to stop.
Tackling The Defense:
Not nearly as many stats available to work from here, but I’ll do my best!
Langley Thunder: If were going straight statistics here, the Thunder averaged 6.6 GA in the playoffs this year. That is a remarkable number in any league. The Lakers only managed an 8.1 GAA in the playoffs. Statistics would say that Langley has an advantage, but I believe the better scoring offenses were in the MSL this year not the WLA so one can not rely solely on statistics.
The Thunder dropping their regular season GAA from 8.9 to 6.6 does has some relevance though. It means that their squad is playing strong, solid defense through their championship run. No team wants to run into a hot defense, or a goalie for that matter. If Brett Mydske, who won WLA defensive player of the year, and Nik Bilic can lead the defense – they have a shot at winning it all.
Peterborough Lakers: The Lakers’ defense is coming off of a great series win over the Six Nations Chiefs. The Chiefts boast a high-powered offense that carried them to the MSL finals only to falter against the Lakers’ stingy defense. Peterborough has a handful of strong, shut-down defenders. Brad and Scott Self are two defenders that build a proverbial wall on the back end of the floor. Andrew Suitor is a big name player that will likely draw the toughest defensive assignment. Mark Steenhuis is an animal and one person that I would not like to see in a dark alley after midnight. The Lakers defense will have to rise to the occasion, as they did against the Chiefs, if they want to win the Cup.
The defense comes down to who can play better team defense. This is another close call, but I give the Lakers the upper hand here. They have too many mean and angry looking guys coming out the back door not to be the best.
Let’s Move To Transition:
Both teams love to push the ball. That is the way box should be played and will be fun to watch. Peterborough acquired a bunch of young players that fit the mold of transition guys. Jamie Lincoln and Jordan MacIntosh are two young players who excel at both ends of the floor and can really run and gun. Langley Thunder have Joel McCready and Tor Reinholdt who can push the ball but also play shut down defense.
I can’t really decifer who will have the advantage here. I give Langely just the narrowest margin of advantage here only because they love, love, love, to push the ball and they do it better than anyone else.
The All-Important Goaltending:
Langley Thunder: Brodie MacDonald is the last line of defense for the Thunder, and you can’t ask for anyone better. MacDonald is an absolute monster. He tops off near the 6-7 mark, and with all his pads on he looks remarkably like Megatron. Good luck trying to score on this guy, he is only giving up an average of 6.0 goals a game in the playoffs. The only downside to Mac-a-tron is that he young (only 22), and I’m not quite sure how he will show against the top-notch scorers in the east.
Peterborough Lakers: Tyler Carlson hasn’t been anything less than stellar this season for the Lakers, especially in the playoffs. He went a remarkable 12-1 in the playoffs and has only 7.88 GAA. Carlson has stood on his head at times this season, but has also suffered at moments. I expect he will bring his A-game against the Thunder. Carlson stands a good 7 inches shorter than his counterpart, but has a slightly better defense in front of him. We know who’s taller… but who is wider?
Another category that is too close to call, but I’ll give the nod towards Langley. Mac-a-tron takes up a lot of space in net and if he gets hot, the Lakers could be in trouble. Plus that nickname is pure gold.
The general consensus seem to be that people want Langley to win but they think Peterborough will end up winning. I am not, in any way, a Peterborough fan nor a Langley fan. I always like rooting for the underdog, but I followed Peterborough all season long. No one likes a flip-flopper so I’m going with Peterborough in 7. Most people are going with the Lakers in 5 but I think Langley will put up one hell of a fight and the series will come down to game 7. Who doesn’t love a good 7-game series anyways?
Every game of the best-of-seven final will be webcast live by JVI Productions. You can purchase the games at http://www.webcast-sports.com/ for $10 each. (Thanks to Stephen Stamp for this information.)