The 2015 OLA Senior “B” season is rolling along in its early stages, as the defending champion Six Nations Rivermen currently sit atop the standings. However the 2015 Presidents Cup host St. Catharines Saints sit with a perfect 6-0 record. The Brooklin Merchants have had an excellent start to the season, after a disappointing effort in 2014, while Owen Sound, Oakville and Norwood have each picked up two wins, leaving just Wallaceburg winless early on.
1. St. Catharines Saints (6-0)
Last Week: 9-7 W vs Wallaceburg, 10-5 W vs Wallaceburg
The St. Catharines Saints continued their undefeated season this past weekend as they made a trip into Wallaceburg, for back to back games against the Thrashers on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The Saints offence has been rolling early on this season, as they’ve put up the second most goals in the league, and boasts the likes of Chris Attwood, Dan Keane, Joel Matthews, Jordan Critch, Dylan Llord and Geoff McNulty up front. Meanwhile their defense and goaltending hasn’t been to shabby either, as their physical, athletic defense has done a number on opposing offenses, while the goaltending tandem of Grant Crawley and Jake Henhawk have a combined goals against average of just 6.50. Saturday night’s win in Wallaceburg marked the return of Joel Matthews, which only strengthened the Saints offense, and while he did put up a goal and two assists, Jordie Daradick actually led the Saints offensively with four assists. On Saturday night Geoff McNulty would explode for six points, on three goals and three assists. The Saints are simply the top team in the league right now, as they’ve twice disposed of the defending Champion Six Nations Rivermen, arguably the only team who has the depth and skill to challenge them this season.
2. Six Nations Rivermen (6-2)
Last Week: 8-3 W vs Oakville
The reigning OLA Senior B Champion Six Nations Rivermen have been nearly perfect this season, with the exception of two straight losses to the St. Catharines Saints to open the season. Since then the Rivermen have rattled off six straight victories and look poised to give the Saints a run for the regular season crown, despite the two early season loses. Six Nations is extremely skilled up front, as Roger Vyse has now also joined a cast that already boasted the likes of Cory Bomberry, Wayne Van Every, Delby Powless and Holden Vyse. With such talent in Six Nations at all levels of lacrosse, the Rivermen are benefiting from a solid core of Junior A and B players making the jump to Senior, while the back to back Mann Cup champion major team, continues to sign NLL All-Stars, which in turn forces young up and comers from Six Nations like Jake Crans, Rodd Squire, Wenster Green, Ian Martin and Zach Williams to toil in the Senior B ranks for a couple seasons of “development”. Defensively the Rivermen can be intimidating, as they have a lot of size, physicality and toughness. Tory Gardner, Murray Porter and Logan Kane are three of the more physically intimidating defenders in the Senior B loop, an they can be trotted onto the floor at the same time with the Rivermen. Guys like Isaiah Kicknosway, Jake Crans, Mike Miller, Wenster Green and Travis Elvin are also all regular contributors to the Rivermen d-core, showing their depth. Chase Martin is currently carrying the torch in goal for Six Nations, going 5-2 with a sparkling 5.72 GAA. This past week the Rivermen defeated the Oakville Titans 8-3 on the road, with Roger Vyse leading the club offensively with a goal and three assists.
3. Brooklin Merchants (4-1)
Last Week: 13-4 W vs Owen Sound, 10-6 W vs Ennismore
After a very uncharacteristic 2014 season that saw the Merchants win just 1 game, the Merchants seemed have overhauled the majority of their roster, and coaching staff as former Clarington Green Gaels coach Joel Johnson takes over the reigns, along with former Brooklin Redmen defender Brad Reed. The coaching change and roster overhaul has certainly sparked the Merchants as they currently sit third in the standings after wins over Owen Sound and Wallaceburg in the first week of the season, and Owen Sound and Ennismore this past week. The Merchants are getting solid contributions all over the floor, as the goaltending trio of John Chesebrough, Lukas Cooke and Neil Roberts have combined for a sparkling 6.20 goals against average, while the defense has allowed a league low 31 goals against with veterans Cory Upshaw, Daryl Jackson and Brandon Turner anchoring the defense. Up front the addition of Dylan Goddard has really helped the Merchants offense, as his 20 points in five games currently leads the team. Both Brad and Brock Levick have returned to the Merchants this season, and have picked up where the left off, as Brock is averaging just under 3 points per game, while Brad is just over 2 points per game. With such good Whitby Warrior and Clarington Green Gaels teams in the Durham region, the Senior clubs in the region are benefiting. The Merchants have seen the likes of Mike Triolo and Mike Cudmore suite up for them this season as they look to be splitting the season between Major and Senior B. The Merchants have also had Redmen draft picks Kyle Whitlow and TJ Sanders in the lineup this season, both of them recording multiple point games in their debuts. Saturday June 13 against Six Nations should give us a better read on what the Merchants are all about in 2015.
4. Oakville Titans (2-4)
Last Week: 8-7 W vs Owen Sound, 8-3 L vs Six Nations
The Oakville Titans are tough team to get a read on early on as they’ve picked up their two wins over Owen Sound this season, and dropped games to Ennismore, St. Catharines and Six Nations twice. However in saying that lets remember Ennismore and Six Nations where the two teams in the league final last season, and St. Catharines is currently 6-0. The Titans have been in every game, and lost to only the very best the league has to offer. While the 2-4 record isn’t exactly something to write home about, the upside with the current Titans roster is intriguing and they should start to put together a string of wins sooner rather then later. Offensively the club is led by Todd Kozak, who has put up 13 points in six games. Oakville has added Travis Bland, Reed Board, and Jon Mason, to the offensive fold this season, all having produced fairly potently at the Senior B level in seasons past. However still the Titans have struggled offensively this season, only once reaching double digits in goals. The offense has a ton of new parts this season, so a slow start makes sense, however if this trend continues on, it may become an issue. In goal the tandem of Ian Duffy and Craig Wende has been excellent for Oakville, as the pair has combined for a 8.67 goals against average. Defensively Eric Crepinsek, Matt Pelkey, Mark Runciman and Chris Buswell will continued to be looked upon to lead the back end.
5. Owen Sound North Stars (3-5)
Last Week: 13-4 L vs Brooklin, 8-6 L vs Oakville
Owen Sound has continuously showed us over the years, they start slow and end strong. That may be the case again in 2015 as the North Stars have kicked off their campaign with a 3-5 record, however they do hold wins over Brooklin and Ennismore twice, to strong squads. Owen Sound also seems to be in transition some with their roster, as we no longer see the big name NLL guys coming out to play for them, we more or less see a roster filled of hometown players or players from the surrounding areas. Travis Szabolcs leds the North Starts offensively early on this season with, 9 goals & 13 assists for 22 points, while Rob Milnes who sits second in scoring has just 11. The lack of depth offensively is hurting Owen Sound early on, as the teams in front of them both in the standings an power rankings, simply have more fire power. Defensively Owen Sound has exactly been sound either, but they’ve done enough to pick up wins, and at the end of the day, the two points is what matters right. Don’t expect Owen Sound to sit back and stay content with their roster, they like to shake things up and bring guys in, if the losses mount, you can expect to see some new names in Owen Sound pretty quickly.
6. Ennismore James Gang (2-5)
Last Week: 10-6 L vs Brooklin
After reaching the league final last season, things looked bright for the Ennismore James Gang this season, as they looked to build on that near championship run. However things haven’t exactly got off to the start they’d like, as the James Gang has dropped four straight games to go 2-5, after opening the season with a 2-1 record. The roster is fairly similar to last years, that saw them lead the league with a 14-2 record, however the discipline and commitment simply hasn’t been there. Ennismore does have a ton of skill up front, with Josh Wasson-McQuigge leading the way and Alex Henderson following closely behind. Chad Evans and Justin Kulla continue to produce, as they have over the years, while Jason Mainer is racking up a point per game in his four appearances. Mac O’Brien leads the Transition game for the James Gang, as he must get 10 breakaways a game from his ability to read the play and get a jump on ball watching offensive players who don’t react to shots in time. Pete Rennie and Brock Boynton lead Ennismore’s defense, while the return of former NLL tough guy Daryl Welsh has added some more toughness, size and grit to the back end. Cole Murray and Ryan Masters have been splitting time in the James gang goal, however Murray has much better numbers this season early on. These next two weeks will really determine if the Ennismore James Gang sinks or swims.
7. Wallaceburg Thrashers (0-6)
Last Week: 9-7 L to St. Catharines, 10-5 L to St. Catharines
New City, New Name, New Season. The Wallaceburg Thrasher (formerly the Sarnia Beavers) came into this season, with some expectations to improve on their brief playoff run last season. Unlike most teams the Wallaceburg Thrashers have an NLL goalie as their starter, as Tye Belanger tends goal for the Thrashers. His presence in goal gives the Thrashers defense the confidence to play aggressively, take chances in transition and the players just no the can count on Belanger in goal, and that goes along way with a winning club. However keeping the ball out of the net isn’t the biggest task for the Thrashers, its putting it in, and putting it in, in the clutch. Wallaceburg struggles with their depth offensively, as after Kyle Childerhouse, Colin McDowall, Shane Morlock and Clint Lamarsh, the Thrashers lack the big name scorers. As you can see, the upper tier teams have depth in goal, on the back end and offensively, that’s things the bottom tier teams like Wallaceburg are struggling with early on. Wallaceburg is by no means an easy out, they’re consistently in every game they play and will continue to battle all season long, however it looks like they may be in a dog fight for the final play spot in 2015.