CLax Power Rankings: Week Eight

Week 8 of Canadian Lacrosse League action was certainly an interesting one, as the Durham Turfdogs, who had been struggling as of late, knocked off the powerhouse Ohsweken Demons, while the Barrie Blizzard dropped the last place Niagara Lockmonsters to claim sole possession of first place in the Canadian Lacrosse League. In the last couple weeks Barrie has really emerged as CLAX’s top team, and this past week’s 11-6 domination of the Niagara Lockmonsters proves the Blizzard are the Championship favorites heading into the final two weeks of the 2015 season. Meanwhile the loss to Durham by the Demons drops them into a tie for third place with the Turfdogs, and with a Friday night rematch between the two teams at the ILA, whoever wins will clinch a playoff spot heading into the final week of the season. Niagara’s loss sees them fall two points behind the final playoff spot in the Canadian Lacrosse League. The Lockmonsters need a win against Barrie this Sunday to keep their miniscule playoff hopes alive. With just two weeks to go in the Canadian Lacrosse League regular season, the battle for playoff position has reached a boiling point.

#1. Barrie Blizzard (4-2)
Last Week: 11-6W over Niagara

With their win this past weekend, the Barrie Blizzard are now on a three game win streak, and playing their best lacrosse of the season and at a perfect time, as the playoff are right around the corner.  This past weekend the Blizzard used a strong second half to defeat the much improved Niagara Lockmonsters by a score of 11-6. The Blizzard outscored Niagara 7-2 during the second half of play, and that was ultimately the difference in the game, as the teams ended their first half of play with the game tied 4-4. The diminutive Mike Teeter continued to excel offensively this past week, picking up 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points, to lead the Blizzard’s offensive attack. Caleb Wiles made his return to Canadian Lacrosse League action this past week. Wiles picked up 2 goals and 1 assist for 3 points in the win. Shane Scott, Mike Mawdsley and Mike Gillan also had strong efforts offensively for the Blizzard in Sunday’s win. Angus Dineley continued his excellent play between the pipes for the Blizzard. Dineley now sits with a GAA of 9.00 and a save percentage of 0.760. Dineley is the front runner for Goaltender of the Year in the Canadian Lacrosse League, and is a main reason why the Blizzard are excelling this season. With the Niagara Lockmonsters heading into Barrie this weekend, they will be fired up looking to keep their playoff hopes alive, if Barrie want’s to maintain their first overall seed they are going to need another strong effort throughout the lineup.

#2. Southwest Cyclops (4-3)
Last Week: Bye

Southwest had the bye this week, and it couldn’t have came at a better time, as the Cyclops had lost two straight. First falling to the struggling Niagara Lockmonsters by a score of 12-6 on February 15, and then dropping a narrow 8-7 decision to the Barrie Blizzard on February 21. Despite the back to back losses, the Cyclops still find themselves 2nd in the CLAX Standings, and second in the power rankings. The Cyclops have arguably the most overall depth in the league. They boast two strong netminders, a deep defense and everyone they throw out on offense can score. They have the ability to light you up offensively and shut you down defensively. Will inconsistency may be an issue at times, throughout the lineup, the Cyclops are team you would hope to avoid in a first round playoff matchup, as if they get hot at the right time, they are very dangerous. With leading scorer Mike Burke leaving the team to join the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth, the Cyclops will need a new leader to step up. Vancouver Stealth draft pick Dan Keane leads the Cyclops in scoring with 31 points in 7 games; he and Jordan Critch have been likes out offensively this season. But someone else will need to step up and provide the secondary scoring needed to win games. Look for Dylan Webster to be that guy, more touches offensively should help him thrive.

#3. Ohsweken Demons (3-3)
Last Week: 12-11L to Durham

Despite narrowly dropping a 12-11 affair to the Durham Turfodgs the Demons still remain a step above Durham in the power rankings. Ohsweken has simply shown more consistency throughout the season. While the teams both sit with identical 3-3 records, in watching Ohsweken you see stronger defense, better ball movement and goal scoring ability at the offensive end, and most importantly stronger, more consistent goaltending. The Demons where without potent offensive start Chris Attwood this past weekend, and one could argue his addition to the Demons lineup would have been the difference in this past weekends one goal loss. The game between Ohsweken and Durham was really a game of runs, a back and forth affair, where the Turfdogs simply had the last lengthy goal scoring run of the game. Jake Henhawks and Brandon Styres split time in goal, as for the first time this season the Demons goaltending had an off game. That happens in lacrosse, and moving the Demons should be just fine in goal. Roger Vyse had a strong offensive performance this past weekend, racking up 4 goals and 2 assists for 6 points. Vyse looked great offensively, showing off his powerful and accurate shot, and slick playmaking skills. Wayne Van Every continued scoring at a potent pace as well, as he picked up another 4 goals in the loss. Both Wayne Van Every and Roger Vyse could easily be toiling in the NLL this season. Friday night Ohsweken will host the Durham Turfdogs, with the winner securing a spot in the Canadian Lacrosse League Playoffs.

#4. Durham Turfdogs (3-3)
Last Week: 12-11W over Ohsweken

Heading into Saturday afternoons matchup with the Ohsweken Demons the Durham Turfdogs had lost two straight games, and looked ripe for the picking. However the Turfdogs showed a lot of heart and determination, coming back to defeat the Ohsweken Demons by a score of 12-11 this past weekend. Durham found themselves down numerous times during Saturday’s game, and whenever they looked to make a comeback, the Demons would instantly respond offensively. However a four goal run split between the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth was what the Turfdogs needed to get a head and pickup the victory, as they held on in the dying seconds to pick up the two points. Kevin Croswell was better in goal for Durham this week, although 11 goals against would still not be considered elite goaltending. While goaltending may end up being the Achilles heal of this team, if they are able to get timely goaltending that may be enough to win on many of nights. Jesse Guerin led Durham offensively this past weekend, picking up 7 points on a goal and 6 assists. Guerin leads the team in scoring, with 30 points in 6 games, which places him second in league scoring behind Southwest’s Dan Keane. Nic Grasby and Geoff McNulty also had strong offensive games for the Turfdogs, while recently signed transition player Mack O’Brien shined in his season debut, picking up 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points. The Turfdogs can clinch a 2015 playoff berth with a win over the Ohsweken Demons on Fridayat the ILA in Six Nations.

#5. Niagara Lockmonsters (2-5)
Last Week: 11-6L to Barrie

After defeating the Durham Turfdogs 15-10 on February 22, the Lockmonsters pulled into a tie for the final playoff spot in the Canadian Lacrosse League, and looked to have finally found the effort at both ends of the rink, needed to pick up wins on a consistent bases. However this past weekend, they where shut down offensively, and unable to keep the ball out of the back of their net, as the Barrie Blizzard defeated them by a score of 11-6. Niagara now drops to 2-5 on the season and a loss this weekend will officially knock them out of playoff contention. Missing in the playoffs would be a massive fall from grace as the Lockmonsters are the defending Canadian Lacrosse League Champions, and despite some roster turnover, they do still have a very strong roster. Doug Buchan took the loss in goal for Niagara, as the club continues to rotate netminders looking to find some consistency in goal. Corey Fowler and Dylan Llord would lead the Lockmonsters in scoring this past weekend, as both players picked up a goal and 2 assists for 3 points. Mark Vradenburg continues to put up points, as he picked up 2 goals in the loss, and now has 14 points in 7 games this season. The troubling thing about Niagara this season has been their defense, the team continuously gives up double digits in goals against on a game by game bases. Even in wins the club is giving up 10 or more goals. If the Lockmonsters want any chance at sneaking into the 2015 CLAX playoffs they need to shape up at the defensive end of the floor.