No one likes being the road team in the Mann Cup. First there’s the cross country flight, then there’s a lacrosse game, then there’s the hostile fans, and that’s if your entire team can book the time off work in time (right 2011 Brampton Excelsiors?). When you’re the Langley Thunder, couple all of the above with the fact you’re headed to a province no BC team has won a Championship in since 1986 AND the team you’ll face when you get there is a who’s who of lacrosse super-stars in the Peterborough Lakers and the task could seem daunting. However, Langley has a great lacrosse team and they aren’t playing for the Mann Cup by accident. That’s a fact British Columbia lacrosse fans have known all season. It’s also a fact Ontario fans figured out pretty quickly on Friday night.
One of those aforementioned superstars is a man who is having a season for the ages. Fresh of being named NLL MVP and winning an MLL title with the Chesapeake Bayhawks, John Grant Jr focused his attention on the Mann Cup and got Peterborough scoring twice, the first of which came on the powerplay. Within a minute, Joel McCready would answer one of the goals to cut the lead in half. After Mark Steenhuis scored, it was less than sixty seconds again before Alex Turner would answer for Langley. Grant would complete his hat trick and Kyle Sorenson would score shorthanded to end the first with a 5-2 lead.
Whatever was said in the Thunder dressing room at intermission worked because Shayne Jackson scored thirty-nine seconds in, and it would be Athan Iannucci twenty-four seconds later that would pull Langley back to within one. McCready’s second of the night tied things up just under four minutes into the second, and Kerry Susheski would give the visitors their first lead of the game at 6:57. Following the goal, Mac Allen took exception and was given a five minute major for roughing for his physical play. The hit drew a scrum and Chris White was also flagged for high sticking.
In our Three Ways to Win segment earlier this week, we said that Peterborough had to control their discipline if they wanted to have success. As this play showed, they still haven’t figured this part of their game out, and, as it has so many times this season, it bit them as Turner’s second of the game pulled Langley ahead by two. Grant’s fourth would get one back but it was answered within thirty seconds by Lewis Ratcliff. After a 6-1 second period in favour of Langley, the Thunder turned the tables and took an 8-6 lead to the rooms.
The final period was one of back and forth momentum as Peterborough opened the scoring, but was answered not once but twice. With two Thunder players in the box, Tracey Kelusky scored the first of two goals for Peterborough to tie things up. However, the Lakers’ two goal run would be answered by a two goal run from Langley, and the two goal lead was restored. Just before the final five minutes, Shawn Evans put one home to pull Peterborough back within one. But in the final minute, Rob Van Beek would seal the deal. Shawn Evans would score off the ensuing faceoff but it’s as close as the Lakers would get as they drop an exciting game one, surprisingly, by a score of 13-12.
Also in our Six Ways to Win segment, we discussed how more than just Garret Billings, Lewis Ratcliff and Athan Iannucci needed to show up for Langley. The trio did put up six, four and six points respectively, but Langley also saw support from Joel McCready in the form of a hat trick, and another three points from Alex Turner (two goals, one assist) and Kerry Susheski (one goal, two assists) (Writer’s note: coincidentally enough, these were the players we eyed to do more in the series. Hmmmm …). The final point for Langley was for Brodie MacDonald to outplay Tyler Carlson. Carlson only saw thirty-three shots on the evening, but came away with just twenty saves. MacDonald, meanwhile, was peppered with fifty shots, a trend he can expect throughout this series, and saved thirty-eight of them for the win. Oh yeah, and he added three assists.
It was expected that Peterborough would run away with the series, and they very well may still. The win on Friday, however, proves to Ontario (fans and players alike) what BC has known all year: this Langley club knows how to win games. If they can continue to take it to Peterborough and get them behind the eight ball, as was seen in the second period, that’s where the Lakers run into issues. You have to believe, though, if this is going to be a tight, last goal wins, grind it out series, the edge still lies with Peterborough. However, it was a wake up call on Friday night.
Game two goes Sunday at 7pm (yes, 7pm) and can be viewed via pay-per-view webcast at www.webcast-sports.com.