Major Series Lacrosse has been dominated in recent years by the Peterborough Lakers and the Brampton Excelsiors. They’ve been mentioned together like Simon and Garfunkel, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Sonny and Cher (for the youngsters in the crowd, this would be Selena Gomez and Justin Beiber). Given the MSL’s division restructuring for the 2012 season, if the two were to meet in the playoffs, it would be in the finals. However, early on this season Peterborough has seen their share of struggles against both lesser opponents and playoff contenders. Meanwhile, Brampton has fallen to Kitchener and narrowly edged Ajax twice, mostly due to a depleted roster, but also the fact they came into Thursday night’s game scoring just seven goals a game.
Even before the game began Brampton was at a disadvantage as they would be missing both Dan and Paul Dawson, Anthony Cosmo and Joe Walters who have all recently been finding their grooves. In his previous two starts Brandon Noble was pulled against Ajax after a dismal performance, but rebounded the following night for his only win of the season. How he would perform, as is the case with most Excelsior goaltenders, would dictate Brampton’s success. Meanwhile, Peterborough dressed a full roster looking for a much needed W after back-to-back losses to Brooklin.
Peterborough would show they came to play early on as they would put four on the board in the opening six minutes. The teams would trade goals throughout the frame, ending with a John Tavares goal with the netminder out with three seconds to play. The Lakers led 7-3 after one. Joe Resetarits got Brampton started in the second but Peterborough would answer off the stick of Jamie Lincoln. Lincoln would answer a Ryan Learn marker later to keep Peterborough’s lead intact. In the second half of the period however, Peterborough would open the floodgates scoring six unanswered to take a 15-5 lead to the rooms. When John Grant Jr opened the third (his third of the night), it spelled the end of Noble’s evening, giving way to Ryan Masters. He would surrender three goals before the final horn to put Brampton out of their misery. The Lakers would win with a 19-5 final score.
Can anyone stop John Grant Jr this year? The 2012 NLL record breaker and MVP led all runners with seven points (three goals, four assists) to give him twenty in just three games. Grant sits one point behind teammate John Tavares (who had two goals and two assists in the game) and nine back of league leader Jesse Guerin. Tavares and Guerin have three and four games in hand respectively. Jamie Lincoln also had a hat trick for Peterborough. Josh Gillam had a solid game with five points (two goals, three assists) as well as a 16-25 record at the faceoff dot. Kevin Croswell needed just twenty-five saves for the win, although he played twenty-nine seconds more than two periods. Mike Thompson stopped all thirteen shots he faced.
The night wasn’t entirely Brandon Noble’s fault. In the first period alone Peterborough showed him twenty-six shots on their way to sixty-seven for the game. John McClure was just 9-25 in faceoffs in this game. This number needs to be better moving forward. The issue all season long has been, and clearly continues to be, team chemistry. Many veterans are taking games off for personal commitments, forcing associated players to dress for spot games. Following this game Brampton’s goal production has dropped to under seven goals a game (6.67 to be exact), and this includes an eleven goal performance. In fact, just seven players have played in all six Excelsior games. Of this group, just two have managed double digit points totals (Joe Resetarits with sixteen, three of them Thursday led Brampton’s output, and Michael Burke with ten).
It’s possible Brampton is simply saving themselves for the post-season. After all, every team will make it in and a player only needs six regular season games to be playoff eligible. However, given the play of Kitchener/Waterloo, Brampton would be wise while the season is still semi-young to gun for top spot and home floor. Currently they are part of a three-way tie with Peterborough and Six Nations for MSL overall lead (somehow). If the trends from Brampton’s early games continue though, this may not be the case come playoff time.