The 2015 Canadian Lacrosse League regular season, was arguably the best one the league has seen. With three teams finishing 4-4, the league showed tremendous parity between the teams, with every game having an impact on the standings. While the Barrie Blizzard have emerged as the team to beat going into the Creators Cup Playoffs, the Ohsweken Demons, Durham Turfdogs and Southwest Cyclops should not be taken lightly. Both the Cyclops and Turfdogs have beaten the Blizzard, while the Demons, the lone team not to beat Barrie, have taken games off of both Southwest and Durham. Last season’s champion Niagara Lockmonsters will not have the opportunity to defend their crown as they were the lone team eliminated from the 2015 playoffs.
(1) Barrie Blizzard Vs. (4) Southwest Cyclops
In the first semi-final we have the top seeded Barrie Blizzard taking on the fourth seeded Southwest Cyclops. Now the Cyclops have struggled as of late after captain Mike Burke was signed by the Colorado Mammoth around the mid-season mark, however the Cyclops split the season series with Barrie, taking the opening game of the 2015 season by a score of 13-11, before dropping an 8-7 decision to Barrie on their home floor.
Barrie is hot right now as they ride a five game win streak into the 2015 CLAX playoffs. They have arguably the league MVP in goal in Angus Dineley as he continues to be as stingy as ever. Dineley has played his way into consideration for NLL duty, as he’s excelled between the pipes for Barrie. If Dineley isn’t the league MVP, one could argue those honors should belong to Mike Teeter. Teeter leads the Blizzard with 34 points in six games, and is coming off a nine point performance in the season finale. Teeter’s nine point performance on the final day of the CLAX regular season vaulted him into the league scoring lead, three points ahead of Southwest’s Dan Keane. While Teeter is the offensive leader, the Blizzard are arguably the deepest team offensively, boasting the likes of Caleb Wiles, Shane Scott, Mike Mawdsley, Dustin Caravello and Brad Levick. With that being said the Blizzard defense is equally sound, playing a tenacious, in your face style of play, while boasting quick, athletic players with tremendous transition ability. The Blizzard are hard to shutdown as they can play any style of play and excel at it.
Meanwhile Southwest got off to a hot start this season, but since have cooled, riding a three game losing streak into the playoffs. Nonetheless the club still boasts a ton of young talent offensively, with Vancouver Stealth draft pick Dan Keane leading the way. Keane finished 2nd in CLAX scoring with 31 points in eight games, taking over as the Cyclops go to guy when Mike Burke left for the NLL. The Cyclops are smaller up front and with Barrie’s physical style of defense, they could be in trouble. The likes of Eric Pitre, Ryan Serville and Kyle Childerhouse will really need to crash and bang inside to open up space for the smaller offensive threats in Dan Keane and Brady Heseletine. Jay Preece was stellar in goal for Southwest all season, but he to has come back to earth in recent weeks, and if he is unable to give the Cyclops a decent effort in goal, this one could get ugly fast. Preece has always been a streaky goalie, if the Cyclops get the good Preece this weekend, they could steal the game from Barrie.
Look for the Barrie Blizzard to narrowly slip past the Southwest Cyclops in a tough, hard fought, low scoring game, as I expect both goaltenders to be at their very best this weekend.
(2) Ohsweken Demons Vs. (3) Durham Turfdogs
This weekend will mark the third time in four weeks that these two teams will do battle. The clubs split the season series, with Durham squeaking out a come from behind victory at home, while the Demons picked up a 13-11 victory on their home turf at the ILA. Both teams have fought bouts of inconsistency this season, but both also have the talent to put together a solid 60 minutes of lacrosse. Durham comes into the playoffs riding a bit of a high, as they won two of their past three games, while Ohsweken went 2-3 in their last five, and ended the season with an embarrassing loss to the Barrie Blizzard.
Ohsweken, as mentioned is coming off a tough loss to Barrie to end the season. While they were without a top offensive gun in Wayne Van Every, his presence likely wouldn’t have mattered as the usually strong Jake Henhawk, simply did not have a strong game between the pipes for Ohsweken. With that being said, elite goaltenders rarely have back to back poor showings, so expect to see Henhawk at the very top of his game come this weekend. Ohsweken’s lineup has been all over the place this season, but with it being playoffs, expect them to ice their very best lineup. With offensive weapons such as Chris Attwood, Wayne Van Every, Torrey Van Every and Roger Vyse occupying spots in the lineup, the Turfdogs will need to be very weary of leaving guys with to much room offensively, as each of the aforementioned offensive guns need little to no space to find the back of the net. If Ohsweken can find some strength on defense and has their offense clicking, they are hard to stop.
Durham, comes into the playoffs playing some of their best lacrosse of the season. Kevin Croswell performed well last weekend against Southwest and the Turfdogs hope he can ride that momentum going into the playoffs, as goaltending has been the Turfdogs glaring issue all season. The addition of Mack O’Brien has really pulled together the team defense and allowed Durham’s transition game to improve. If Captain Mark Farthing is able to return to the line up the Turfdogs defense and transition game gets that much stronger. Offensively the Turfdogs are hopeful leading scorer Jesse Guerin can return from a concussion this weekend, as he’s be absent from the lineup the past two games nursing the injury. If he can go the Turfdogs can be equally as potent as Ohsweken, if not Durham will rely on the likes of Geoff McNulty, Josh Wasson, Tim Bergin and Dylan Goddard. If John St. John can keep his pace going, and one of Nic Grasby or Coady Adamson really step up this week, look for the Turfdogs to be a handful.
This game will come down to goaltending, I believe both teams are very closes as far as offense, defense and transition go, however Ohsweken holds the distinct advantage in goal. But with Durham’s Croswell coming off a hot performance and Ohswekens Henwark coming off a poor performance, its possible the script has flipped in goal. Expect this one come down to the final minute of play. I like Durham here as they’ve been hot as of late.