ALL: Arena League set for championship weekend

The Whitby Steelhawks and Peterborough Timbermen face-off in ALL action on March 3, 2018. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

The Arena Lacrosse League’s second season comes to an end this weekend at Oakville’s Toronto Rock Athletic Centre, where a new league champion will be crowned on Sunday afternoon.

First up are the semi-finals on Saturday. The Paris RiverWolves (2) and St. Catharines ShockWave (3) face-off at 4 p.m. and the first place Toronto Monarchs, who received a bye through the quarter finals, will host the expansion Whitby Steelhawks (4) at 7 p.m. Each is a single-elimination game.

The defending champion Oshawa Outlaws (6) were knocked out of the quarter finals by the ShockWave in a 16-12 defeat last weekend at Children’s Arena in Oshawa. Oshawa scored first but trailed 6-2 by the end of the first quarter. Captain Mike Triolo led the charge with a four-goal effort but didn’t receive enough support beyond two goals each from John St. John and Dylan Goddard. The Outlaws started the season 3-0 but couldn’t recover after starting goaltender Scotty Komer was lost to injury.

Zach Tomkinson of the Oshawa Outlaws. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

Also making first round exits were the Six Nations Snipers (5) and Peterborough Timbermen (7). All three bottom teams actually had identical 5-9 records so seeding fell to goal differential.

The Snipers started the 2018 season terribly, winning only their two games against Peterborough throughout the season before going on a late-season three-game wining streak as Oshawa and Peterborough fell off. Before they hit the floor for their first game, nobody was sure the Snipers would even play this season as they struggled to get commitments from players. They didn’t even have a goalie show up for their game versus Peterborough on February 17 – local Durham Region player John Chesebrough had to be hauled out of retirement for the night. The always dangerous Wayne Van Every, Craig Point and Luke Laszkiewicz led the Snipers in points.

Despite Peterborough’s winning woes, they featured the best goalie in the ALL in Brett Perras, who led the league with a GAA of 11.00. The Timbermen had expected first overall draft pick Kevin Croswell to take charge in goal but after a couple of mediocre performances, Croswell didn’t return to the team and left Perras and Ryan Masters to compete for the starting job. Each had brilliant moments and each struggled at times as they ended up working well as a tandem team. The Timbermen improved on their first season record of 3-11 but still ended up in last place. Joel Matthews led with 26 goals and Mark Vradenburg was an assist-machine, collecting 43 helpers and finishing fifth in the league.

It’s been a great season for the Steelhawks, who knocked out the fifth place Snipers last weekend. The Steelhawks climbed as high as second in the regular season before settling into a middle-of-the-pack routine. Adding the Peterborough Lakers defenceman Mark Farthing midway through the season was an immediate boost to the Steelhawks’ young team, several of whom have been coached by Farthing with the Jr. Lakers or at Trent University. Austin Murphy led the league with 83 points and Cam Milligan was right behind him with 78.

St. Catharines was the sleeper team this season. They stayed near the bottom of the standings until the end when they surprised everybody. Anthony Patterson finished third in goals with 35 and Bryan Neufeld finished fourth with 45 assists but other than that the ShockWave weren’t flashy. They went about their business quietly and now have a real chance to play for the championship.

Dan Keane of the Paris RiverWolves is guarded by Zack Thompson of the Peterborough Timbermen. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

Paris lost both of its regular season matches to Peterborough but finished second in the league and was able to exact revenge in the quarter finals, winning 15-11. Chris Attwood scored four goals for Peterborough but was outdone by a six-goal effort from Bryden Curren, who only had 10 other goals the whole season. The Timbermen had the mental edge of the RiverWolves, especially after they beat them shorthanded in the regular season finale, but head coach Jamie Dubrick was able to calm his team as they overcame a 3-1 first quarter deficit to show Peterborough exactly why they finished in second place. Captain Mike Burke led them in the regular season with 25 goals and 38 assists.

Toronto led the ALL most of the season and featured the number three and four top scorers in Jordan Critch and Dustin Caravello. Critch and Jordan Dance tied for second in total goals scored with 36. The Monarchs added tough guy Broedie Birkhof midway through the season to help protect their leading scorers, but Birkhof lasted just two games, racking up 41 PIMs and a league suspension for cross checking Josh Medeiros in the head. Turned out the Monarchs didn’t need any protection after all as they kept winning regardless thanks to the great play of Craig Wende, who recorded nine wins, and will look to play for the championship on their home floor this weekend.

Past Arena Lacrosse League games can be viewed on YouTube.