It didn’t take long for the Cobourg Kodiaks to see the Peterborough Lakers as their arch-rivals.
The two MSL teams played each other this weekend for the first time since the Kodiaks move from KW. The teams combined for 163 penalty minutes in two games. It wasn’t quite WLA levels of stupidity (nobody fought off the floor), but each game had moments as the teams got used to each other.
The Lakers won 15-2 on Thursday in Peterborough, and 15-7 on Sunday in Cobourg, and the intensity of each game was out of this world. KW and Peterborough were never rivals – not like Peterborough and Brooklin or Six Nations, or even Brampton in years gone by – but familiarity breeds contempt. The Kodiaks have a number of former Peterborough minor players and even five former Sr. Lakers on the roster. Now that they’re so close geographically, it only makes sense for the teams to hate each other. That’s how it is in sports. It doesn’t help that the Kodiaks are young and wanted to make an impression on the league’s perennial all-star team.
“It’s major lacrosse and they have a lot of good guys on their squad, and so do we,” said the Kodiaks John St. John. “We have a lot of good guys on our squad too. Just knowing that fact we played a lot more intensely. You have to play even harder when you’re playing the superstars in the league.”
Thursday’s loss was demoralizing. Kodiaks assistant captain Pete Rennie said the team knew they had to move on quickly to prepare for Sunday on home floor.
“The first game we wanted to put the behind us pretty quick, it was a real tough one,” he said. “Tonight we were a lot better on both sides of the floor. They’re a tough team to beat. They have a deep lineup and we’re a young team and we’re just trying to outwork teams.”
Head coach Jamie Dubrick was pleased with his team’s effort despite the loss.
“We come here to work,” he said. “These guys know the only way we’re going to beat teams, especially right now, is to outwork them and have higher intensity and out battle them and beat them. That’s what it is. That’s how we’re going to do it and I think we played awesome tonight.”
There was a lot of slashing and roughing on Thursday and several major penalties handed out for unnecessary roughness. It was odd to see two teams so unfamiliar with each other involved in such a physical game. Things were tamer on Sunday – until the second period.
Teams will point fingers at each other when it comes to assigning blame to the hostilities. The reality is, both teams have agitators and they all just clashed on the floor. In the heat of the game though, everyone always believes they’re in the right.
Here are the facts.
On a play that went largely unnoticed, Tyler Roche got away with an elbow to the head of Josh Gillam.
On a Kodiaks possession late in the second, Broedie Birkhof and Stephen Hoar got tangled up cross checking each other – a typical lacrosse situation. However, Birkhof grabbed hold of Hoar and threw him to the ground and landed several shots to Hoar’s head and upper body. Birkhof then ripped Hoar’s helmet off despite the refs having already intervened and continued to throw punches at Hoar’s bare head. Birkhof received five minutes for fighting, five for instigating, a game misconduct for instigating, and a second game misconduct for two major penalties. Hoar was given two minutes for roughing, which incensed him, and he had words for the referees. Hoar did not play in the third period.
In the third, Rennie was pushed from behind by Lakers rookie Jake Fox. Rennie went hard into the floor on his elbows and knees but was able to return. Rennie later cross checked Mark Steenhuis late in the game and Fox grabbed his facemask in retaliation, which sent them both to the box.
Lakers defenseman Chad Tutton wasn’t overly impressed with the Kodiaks physical presence.
“They have a couple new guys out there that aren’t the smartest lacrosse players,” he said frankly. “I don’t really think they deserve to be out there and acting like that but what can you do? You just have to roll with the punches, literally. [Birkhof] went after Hoar and he’s not feeling too hot now. You never like to see that. It’s not good for the game.”
Tutton said the Lakers handled the rough play better than on Thursday.
“There was a little bit of chippiness in the beginning but I think we handled it well,” he said. “We tried to stay out of it for the most part. We have them two more times this season so we think it’s going to be the same kind of rough and tumble lacrosse.”
Meanwhile, the Kodiaks were less than impressed with the refereeing. Besides the penalty calls, replays showed the Lakers to be in the crease on at least three of their goals.
“We got beat by more than just Peterborough,” Dubrick said. “The refs were absolutely embarrassing tonight and anybody watching the game can see that. Is it frustrating, yeah. It’s tough when you’re playing against a team like Peterborough and then that happens too.”
Looking at the MSL scoring leaders, the Kodiaks have one in the top 20 in Matt Crough. Switch the list to PIM leaders, and you’ll see more Kodiaks – eight, actually, in the top 20, including Birkhof in the lead with 94 – a 54 point lead over second place. Not being able to keep up on the scoreboard is frustrating and it shows in those stats.
“As a team we started out playing really well and then we just got into a lot of penalties and started yelling at the refs and lost focus,” St. John said. “We come out working hard every game and all of a sudden we shut it off for a period and the third period we’re trying to kick it back on and by that time it’s a little too late. It has to come from within. Everyone has to pick each other up and play hard and get a couple goals or a spark with a fight or something. Turn the thing around and start going.”
Despite the loss the Kodiaks were in slightly better spirits Sunday, knowing they put up a good fight and improved their game from Thursday.
“Doing the home and home with the Lakers and having a little bit of rivalry is great,” Dubrick said. “We went up there and didn’t play our game. Coming back here, we played awesome. The guys played awesome tonight. It’s a tough one for us.”
“[It sucks] losing two games like that back to back but we get [the Lakers] a couple more times so hopefully we’ll win those games,” Kodiaks alternate captain Pete Rennie said. “We have a couple of Peterborough connections on our team. We’re a young team in the league and we’re trying to prove ourselves. There’s no better way to do that than to outwork a team like Peterborough. We’re trying to come every game and outwork teams and make sure they know that we’re not just going to roll over because we’re losing.”
Rennie and Crough were traded from the Lakers in January. They’re both getting way more playing time in Cobourg as the Kodiaks top defenseman and forward, respectively, and Rennie even wears the A, but being traded from your hometown team isn’t something you get over quickly.
“You want to beat the team that traded you,” Rennie said. “You always want to come back and prove [they were wrong for trading you].”
In two games this week, the Lakers outscored the Kodiaks 30-9. When they meet again next month, the Kodiaks will hopefully have Davide DiRuscio back from a shoulder injury. You can’t fault Rance Vigneux at all for either of the losses, though. The Lakers are an all-star team. Everyone in the league knows it.
“Rance has been unbelievable,” Rennie praised. “He’s stood on his head for us the last few games and you can’t really ask much more than that. We have to help him out a bit. We left him out to dry a few times, but we have another game this Thursday, hopefully we can be better then.”
The Kodiaks started hot, outshooting the Lakers 4-0 and taking a 1-0 lead on a power play. Matt Crough ripped a sidearm shot past Matt Vinc. Shawn Evans tied the game off the bench 20 seconds later. The Kodiaks then scored a pair from Mike Triolo on an overhand shot and Derek Searle on a fast break. The Lakers took the lead on a trio of power play goals: Josh Currier accepted a cross crease pass from Adam Jones before Cory Vitarelli accepted a cross crease backhand pass from Evans. Adam Jones went low on Vigneux and Jake Fox bounced a shot past Vigneux for a two goal lead before Mike Woods scored on a transition two on one with Chad Cummings.
Evans opened the second period scoring. Brad Self then scored on a two on one with Nick Weiss, and Josh Currier scored shorthanded for an 8-4 Lakers lead. John St. John got one back for Cobourg, ripping a shot from the top of the circle before Vitarelli scooped up a rebound. Turner Evans also picked up a rebound goal at 19:51.
In the third, Chad Tutton quick sticked the ball by Vigneux on the Lakers eight minute power play from Birkhof’s majors. Tyler Roche picked up his first MSL goal four on four on a transition play. Fox tiptoed around the crease to double up the Kodiaks 12-6 at 12:18. Mark Steenhuis put a shot over Vigneux’s left shoulder less than a minute later. St. John got one back for the home team but Steenhuis completed the third period hat trick with goals at 16:01 and 19:47, the last goal coming as he fought off four defenders to leap across the crease.