Mere days before the halfway point of the Major Series Lacrosse season, both the Six Nations Chiefs and the Kitchener/Waterloo Kodiaks are where many expected them to be in the standings. Kitchener has been in a number of games but has just two wins sitting them two points up on last place Ajax. Meanwhile, strong all year the Chiefs have but one loss on their record (6-5 to Brampton who had Anthony Cosmo between the pipes) to sit them first overall by two points, with a game in hand on the tie for second between Brampton and Peterborough.
Seven days ago, the pair played battled in Kitchener where Six Nations came away with a 10-7 victory. The Chiefs avenged their earlier loss to Brampton on Saturday, but the meeting last week was the last time the Kodiaks took the floor. Both teams will be fresh, and looking for a win. For Six Nations, to stay atop the leaderboard; for Kitchener, not just to avenge their loss but also to prove they belong with the top teams in the league.
While Kitchener has yet to face Brooklin, they have seen Six Nations (twice already), Peterborough and Brampton. While the Kodiaks have yet to defeat the two former teams, they embarrassed the latter (Brampton Excelsiors) 10-4 earlier this season. In that game Jay Thorimbert was untouchable at the faceoff dot. When your team starts on defence consistently it is hard to score. For the offensive powerhouse Six Nation Chiefs, this could be the key to keeping them off the scoreboard: keep them off the floor! Offensively, Brendan Thenhaus has been the guy to this point for Kitchener. Watch for him to improve on his three point a game pace (twelve points through four games).
Also key in the game, and all season, has been the play of Evan Kirk. Kirk had his coming out party this season in the 2012 NLL season as he sat either atop, or amongst the goaltending leaders in every goaltending statistic. This season in MSL is no different. Despite his 2-2 record, Kirk boasts a 7.68 goals against average and a 0.826 save percentage. These totals are fourth and first amongst MSL goaltenders respectively.
One of the goalies ahead of him in GAA will be his likely counterpart tonight, Mike Poulin. The NLL goaltender of the year picked up at the beginning of the MSL season where he left off in May. Poulin has started all six games for Six Nations posting the second best goals against average in the league (7.50) and the fourth best save percentageÂ (0.783). Poulin has played more than any player (goalie or otherwise) in the league being between the pipes for every minute of the Chiefs season. With these two gentlemen going head to head, save for save this evening, don’t be surprised if neither team scores ten. Heck, the winning team may only need six.
One Chief looking to prove this writer wrong (if you can pick just one) will be Roger Vyse. Vyse sits second in team scoring behind, who else, Colin Doyle. The most surprising stat is that Roger Vyse leads the all-star studded roster in goals with nine (through six). The nine goals account for part of his fifteen points. On a roster that includes Doyle, Rhys Duch, Craig Point, Cody Jamieson and Stephen Keogh Roger Vyse leads in goals. Granted not all the above have played in all six games due to Hamilton Nationals commitments, but not only should fans be watching for Vyse to continue putting goals in the net, but also keep an eye on the rest of the roster as they look to get it going.
Logic, and previous game results, suggests this game will be a lopsided victory in favour of the Chiefs. However, don’t forget both sides have great goaltending and numerous players who can score. But also consider the Kodiaks are currently scoring at a rate of 9.0 goals per game, while the Chiefs are scoring at a rate of 9.1 goals a game. No, the prediction isn’t that Six Nations will win by a tenth of a goal. The prediction is don’t be surprised if this game is closer than expected. Perhaps, maybe even the Kodiaks have a chance to take this on home floor.
They’ve come close against the “big teams” already this year. A win tonight will go far in Kichener’s quest to be included with the top teams in terms of recognition and consideration for wins.