Well, as usually happens in Peterborough when the Lakers don’t win the Mann Cup, critics call for the coaches to blow up the team and make big moves. Comments have already floated around online suggesting that executive members resign, or that the team trade their biggest star in Mark Steenhuis.
Settle down everyone. The Lakers were 20 minutes away from hosting a national championship. Maybe the fact that the Lakers lost is less a reflection on how poorly they played and more about how well the Six Nations Chiefs played. Only one team could host that Mann Cup and it could have been either team. 20 minutes. That’s how close those teams were in terms of talent and desire.
Certainly, the Lakers season was surrounded in controversy, all of which has been well document. But when it comes down to it, distractions in the background didn’t hinder the Lakers.
The players on the floor put everything they had into every game and rewarded their large fan base with exciting play, as they always do.
Even if the Lakers had not forfeited their three wins at the beginning of the season, they still would have finished in second place behind Brooklin, so really, the season worked out the way it was supposed to. With a new coach holding the reins, there were some growing pains that are now out of the way, and fans should expect to see no mistakes next season.
First year head coach Joe Sullivan was pleased with the season as a whole, although he recognizes that there is work to be done to get the Lakers back into the national championship.
“We played through some adversity,” Sullivan said candidly. “The coaching staff, the players, everybody. The three game changeover, going from first place to second place because of a botched call, going into the playoffs, we weren’t even supposed to make the playoffs and we get to the MSL final and take the defending champions to gave seven I think is an awesome thing. Everybody played well but it’s just going to take a couple things more.”
Sullivan said that the team was in the mix to trade for Jeff Shattler, who starred for the Chiefs all season after the Brampton Excelsiors sent him to Six Nations.
“At one point Shattler was a guy that we actually went after in a trade and it was that much of a difference, if we could have got Jeff when we got Matt (Vinc), maybe he’s the difference maker for us,” Sullivan said. “We just need a little bit more depth and a little bit more youth. The idea of next season is to go and find that youth and re-energize ourselves because I don’t think we’re too far off.”
Fans can only imagine if Shattler had been on the Lakers side during the MSL final. A little more offense wouldn’t have have hurt at all, and Sullivan recognizes the need to bring in more support for the core forward group.
“Our defense is not our issue, our offence is,” Sullivan said. “Our defense, you look at it this way, for forty minutes in the final game we only allowed three goals. If we can’t shut down, really the way I look at it is the offence went stale. We weren’t able to get any pressure off the defense. So yeah, they look smarter and younger and faster but when I look at our defense, that’s not our issue, our issue is going to be offensively, trying to find some speed, find some size in the offseason.”
Realistically, the Lakers had a great season. In nine regular season games, they hosted 28,655 fans, and another 20,244 in seven playoff games. They raised money for Kawartha Food Share and Five Counties Children’s Centre. Mark Steenhuis was named the league’s regular season MVP. The fans will be back next season, and the season after that, as long as the Lakers play exciting lacrosse.
Captain Scott Self always takes care to acknowledge the fans after the season ends. “We knew it was going to be a packed house for game seven and we feel very fortunate to play here,” he said. “It’s just an awesome experience and we would have loved to have won the final for the fans. I can’t say enough about the support we get all year.”