The OLA Senior A ranks, more commonly known as Major Series Lacrosse (MSL), has reached the halfway point of their season. Traditionally the league has been two teams – Brampton and Peterborough. The past few seasons Brooklin and Six Nations have been inching into contention and both feel it’s their time. All six teams, however, have one goal on their mind. With the MSL winner hosting the Mann Cup, everyone wants to be there at the end of August. With that in mind, it’s time to check in with each of the six teams and see how their season has shaped up.
(Writer’s note: teams ranked on order in the standings at the time of this writing, prior to games on or after July 3rd, 2012)
1. Brooklin Redmen, record to date: 5-2
Shawn Williams isn’t on pace to have the 120 point year he amassed in 2011, far from it. But he is still the Redmen leader with thirty-eight points. Derek Hopcroft has been his wingman again this year with twenty-five points. The rest of the team is a supporting cast save for goaltender Aaron Bold who has played in every game for Brooklin so far this season. The Redmen are an energized team, partially driven by what their Junior As did last year but also driven by their close finish last year. They were eliminated by Brampton, who went on to win the Mann Cup. With the Junior A Warriors hosting the Minto Cup in the same building, Brooklin wants nothing more than to have the Senior A trophy awarded in their barn as well. They’re off to a great start, but their faults haven’t been during the regular season. The true test will come in the playoffs.
2. Six Nations Chiefs, record to date: 5-2
What a team this Six Nations club is fielding this year. Perhaps their only criticism may be they are too good, and as a result have lost a number of games to the Hamilton Nationals this season in that the bulk of their scoring power plays for both teams. Despite as roster that includes Cody Jamieson, Stephen Keogh, Colin Doyle, Craig Point and Rhys Duch amongst many others, the Chiefs have still scored the third lowest number of goals in the league with sixty. Behind them are just the Brampton Excelsiors who have struggled, and the Kitchener/Waterloo Kodiaks who are eight back, but also have played one less game. Much of the reason they are still tied for top spot has been the play of 2012 NLL Goaltender of the Year Mike Poulin. Poulin has played every minute of Six Nations’ season so far, and has been outstanding. If the offense can’t get going, he will be called upon as the season progresses.
3. Peterborough Lakers, record to date: 4-4
This is not a typo; Peterborough sits third in MSL standings. When their stars have played, they’ve put up numbers, but Scott Evans and John Grant Jr have missed four games each (Evans missed three to suspension) and Tracey Kelusky has missed two. Grant still has twenty-two points in those four games played, however, so imagine what would happen had he played all season. That will give you a bit of an idea what he will do come the post-season when, it’s assumed, he will be playing every game. Look out! The Lakers have scored at an astonishing 11.25 goals a game clip, leading the MSL by a fair margin. However, they’ve also surrendered sixty-nine (or 8.625 per game), fourth in the league. Goaltending has been a clear issue this season, which is why Angus Goodleaf was traded away earlier this week, and Tyler Carlson brought in. Carlson and Kevin Croswell are decent, but they’re not the Aaron Bold, Mike Poulin, Anthony Cosmo (Brampton) or even Evan Kirk (Kitchener/Waterloo) that other teams have. They have scored goals well this year. It appears they will have to continue to do so.
4. Brampton Excelsiors, record to date: 4-3
Somehow the Brampton Excelsiors continue to win games. This despite scoring an average of just over six goals a game, while surrendering almost nine. The biggest factor is simply team chemistry. It’s been clear Brandon Noble isn’t ready for his turn in the spotlight. Neither is the plethora of youngsters they’ve had to rely upon, save for maybe Michael Burke. For a player to qualify for OLA playoffs, they must play a minimum of six games in the season. Brampton is doing enough to have their top players reach that mark, but it’s been rare this season to see all the big guns in uniform on the same night. With each team making the post season, the playoff version of the Excelsiors will look different than the regular season version. Or so Brampton fans hope.
5. Kitchener/Waterloo Kodiaks, record to date: 3-3
When hardly anything is expected of you, it’s fairly easy to exceed expectations. But that’s the situation Kitchener finds themselves in. Last season, Ajax and Kitchener watched as the rest of the teams distanced themselves from the bottom feeders. This season, however, the Kodiaks sit just one win back of Brampton in the overall standings. Much of this record is thanks to the play of Evan Kirk. Even given his team’s fifth place seeding, Kirk could be a candidate for league MVP. Other than the breakout netminder, no one player has stood out for Kitchener. Four players are within five points including Jamie Rooney, Brendan Thenhaus, Jason Mainer and Brandon Ivey. Joey Cupido and Jesse Gamble are one point back. Clearly Evan Kirk is the leader between the pipes, but besides that, this has been a team effort. While the big boys atop the standings struggle with chemistry, Kitchener has it figured out, which could provide problems once the post-season hits.
6. Ajax Rock, record to date: 1-8
They sit last in wins, points, average goals scored and average goals surrendered. Not much has gone right in Ajax this year, save for the play of Jesse Guerin. Guerin has seventeen goals on the season (the team has sixty-four) with forty points, good enough to lead the league, although with an extra game played. Tyler Carlson and Tye Belanger drew straws to see who would (or wouldn’t) start for Ajax, but with Carlson joining the Lakers it looks like it will be Belanger from here on out. Ajax still has a lot of work to do. They’ve scared a few teams so far, but not much more than that. They may squeak out another win before season’s end, but anything more than that is asking too much from this club.
Be sure to continue checking ILWT all season as we will take you through the regular season, playoffs, and of course the Mann Cup.