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Mann Cup: Early Season Review

The NLL and NCAA has come to an end, the MLL and LXM are in full swing, and box lacrosse in Canada starting to gain momentum heading into the dog days of summer. College seniors have graduated, and are beginning to matriculate, not only to MLL rosters, but Senior Box teams as well.

Many professional players are busy bouncing around the United States and Canada playing both in the MLL and in Canada. There is great lacrosse being played from all across Canada, and the Senior A Club teams are clamoring for a early season lead on the long road to the coveted Mann Cup.

From the top down, both the WLA (Western Lacrosse Association) and the MSL (Major Series Lacrosse) leagues are tight, and it is still early season so it literally is anyone’s game. This is the best time for Senior lacrosse because both NCAA players and NLL players are beginning to make their way back onto the floor and lineups are in a constant flux.

I’m going to break down some of the top contenders for the Mann Cup this season, but I’m going to do it a little differently. Rather than split it WLA vs. MSL I’m going top teams overall from both leagues. The difficult part is, I started this article two weeks ago, and when I sat down to finish it last week, I literally had to redo most of the list. It’s frustrating but a testament to how close the Mann Cup race truly is. Now we’re a week later and things have changed some more.

Here is a look at the top Senior A teams vying for the Mann Cup, as of last week:

1) Victoria Shamrocks (WLA 5-2)

It’s hard for me to fathom how the Shamrocks have managed to lose two games this season; they are loaded from top to bottom with talent. Victoria loaded up their back door this off-season and it has payed off. The Shamrocks sit atop the WLA standings with a 5-2 record, but have lost their last 2 of 3 games.

No reason to fret though, the Shamrocks have one of the top offences across Canada. Cory Conway (5-27), Scott Ranger (16-14), and Corey Small (14-15) are the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ranked scorers in the WLA respectively.

The good news is Victoria shouldn’t have too many roster problems with players doubling-up in the MLL. A fully-rested and healthy Victoria squad is scarier than the new movie The Purge that just came out in theaters. This team is going to make a deep run into the WLA playoffs and is the heavy favorite to compete for the Mann Cup. The best news of all? Matt Vinc is coming off a career-year in the NLL and he hasn’t even touched the floor yet this summer; talk about a mid-season morale booster.

2) Brooklin Redmen (MSL 4-1)

The Redmen are having a great season so far and have posted some great wins over Peterborough and Six Nations. However, most recently the Redmen dropped their first game of the season to Peterborough on the road. It will be interesting to see where Brooklin will go from here and how they will respond to their loss.

They have a tough stretch of games coming up but I think they’re going to get back on a run. Shawn Williams is the 2nd overall leading scorer in the MSL, and Gavin Prout is hitting his stride in Brooklin after having a disappointing season in the NLL. Kiel Matiz had a phenomenal rookie campaign in the NLL and Brooklin should lean on the young forward to get some major points this summer.  He has already mounted 10 in 4 games – decent numbers but we should see Matiz towards the top of the scoring list at the end of the season if Brooklin wants to continue to have success.

3) Six Nations Chiefs (MSL 4-1)

The Chiefs were within reach of making it to the Mann Cup last year but fell short in the playoffs. This year’s squad has reloaded and is looking to make another splash in the MSL playoffs. The bulk of Six Nation’s offence has returned including Champion’s Cup MVP, Cody Jamieson. However, the real story is Craig Point who was crucial in the NLL playoffs, coming on late in the season. His high-level of play has transferred to the summer circuit. He is Six Nation’s leading scorer with 24 points in 5 games, good for 4th in all of the MSL.
The downside for Six Nations is Stephen Keogh’s struggles have carried over from the NLL. Upside, a ton of vetran talent in the likes of Colin Doyle and Roger Vyse. Downside, players like Keogh, Jamieson, Smith are all playing for the Hamilton Nationals in the MLL this summer as well. Lots of games, lots of bruises, lots of ice bags, lots of miles.

These players have to withstand the wear and tear of playing in two league at once, and this is territory where injuries can plague teams. Upside, you have Evan Kirk in net. Positive and negatives all around for the Chiefs this season, I just hope they will have enough juice in the tank come playoff time.

4) Maple Ridge Burrards (WLA 5-2)

Two words, one player – Curtis Dickson. 52 points in 7 games, toasting the rest of the competition in the WLA. If teams can figure out how to slow Dickson they have a shot to win. The Burrards have two early season losses but have been solid ever since, and most recently put up 17 points against New Westminster. Another team that you can squeeze into the eye of the needle that is the top of the WLA standings.

5) Burnaby Lakers (WLA 3-3)

After starting off the season with three straight losses, Burnaby has turned around to win three straight. With two wins over Langley and Victoria – no easy feat. I had to shuffle Burnaby around in my rankings because I had them lower, but after recent events they might be putting together a mid-season run. The secret to their success is hard work, a little bit of luck, and great special teams play. They have the best power-play in the WLA and the third best penalty kill percentage. It will be interesting to see if this team is the real deal over the next few weeks.

The next two or three teams could be all tied for the 6th spot, but I hate even the idea of a tie.  What’s that old saying?  “Tying is like kissing your sister?”  Yeah, no thanks, I’ll go for it all.

6) Langley Thunder (WLA 3-2)

The Mann Cup runners up have another stacked squad this year but these two early season losses caught me by surprise. For the amount of talent that runs out on the floor every night, the Thunder should roll teams, but the lightning hasn’t been striking as well as I thought it would (I’ll give you a cookie if you can guess that reference, hint: music). Both the offense and defense is stacked for Langely – Alex Turner, Athan Iannucci, Shayne Jackson, Garrett Billings and I can go on all the way down the roster.

In my mind, these guys should be close to losing ever, but the sport of lacrosse says you can’t win on a piece of paper alone.  Chemistry is a huge part of box lacrosse and Langley has yet to hit their stride.

7) New Westminster Salmonbellies (WLA 3-4)

Mark Matthews probably won’t be playing an Senior Box this summer, which hurts the sport, especially for American exposure. Fear not, I have found another player that is equally as entertaining to watch – Logan Schuss. Schuss has a outstanding senior season at Ohio State and he has continued to play well.

Originally, the Salmonbellies didn’t think they would get to use Schuss a great deal due to his MLL commitments, but he has made it out west for 4 games so far. What he has done in those 4 games is another story itself – 23 points. Just like Jamieson, Schuss is pulling double duty in the MLL, but Schuss has to fly halfway across the continent where as Jamieson takes a short drive down to Hamilton. Those miles add up quick, but Schuss is a young-gun and should be good to go for playoffs.

OK, I’ll stop talking about Schuss – on to the rest of the Bellies’ squad. Keegan Bal is another player that is coming off a major college season for the DII Lake Erie Storm – the second-leading scorer on the team. Jordan McBride is the leading scorer on the team thus-far with 28. Let’s not forget about the Gajic brothers, who are a group of players you don’t want to be looking at in a dark alley, or a lacrosse floor for that matter. The WLA is so tight, so don’t be shocked if you see the Salmobellies swim up to the top of the standings at one point or another this season.

Honorable Mention: Peterborough Lakers (MSL 4-3)

Last year’s Mann Cup champions are struggling through their early season woes. The Lakers are up and down this season and have yet to hit their stride. Another roster that has some All-Star players playing in both the MSL and the MLL. John Grant Jr. has yet to touch the floor and the same goes for John Tavares. Jordan MacIntosh has only played in two contests but has put up 12 points total. Don’t count the Lakers out yet, they have talent all over their roster including a fresh Tyler Carlson in net.

The best part about Senior Box lacrosse they have a game almost every night and live stats as well as live streams are all over the internet.  Be sure to check them out.  You can follow me on Twitter @connors36 for updates throughout the season and a lot of box chat.  I’ll be back soon to continue with the summer updates and box circuit.