MSL: Kodiaks a surprise entry in league’s top three teams

It’s hard to believe we’re already a month into the 2019 Major Series Lacrosse season, but we are. The season’s biggest surprise is the emergence of the Cobourg Kodiaks, who sit in third place as of this writing. The defending Mann Cup champion Peterborough Lakers are in top spot, with the Six Nations Chiefs in second to nobody’s surprise. The Oakville Rock are right behind them in fourth with the Brampton Excelsiors toiling in their usual fifth place. Also a surprise is the 0-7 record of the renamed Brooklin Lacrosse Club in last place.

Today, we look at the MSL’s top three teams. Tomorrow we’ll focus on the bottom three.

Kevin Orleman of the Cobourg Kodiaks. June 23, 2019. (Photo: Anna Taylor)

Cobourg Kodiaks

After a loss to Peterborough on Sunday, the Kodiaks fell to third place after spending some time at the top of the standings for the first time. The Kodiaks had finished in last place in each of their prior three seasons in Cobourg. Last season was their best with two wins and two ties to go along with 12 losses. Now, we’re looking at a whole new team. Their play this season has been hungry and energetic and it showed most in wins over Oakville and Peterborough.

“I believe our early season success is an all-around team effort and due to buying into a system and changes in the culture,” said owner, general manager and assistant coach John Webb. “Head coach Jamie Dubrick wants to play a fast, in your face style and with the speed and skill on our roster, we’re able to do that.

“Kevin Orleman has been outstanding in net and is probably the best goalie in the league right now. Our transition game has been extremely fast with Joey Cupido, Scott Dominey and Colton Armstrong leading the way. Bringing in Scott Johnston and David Brock has added experience and leadership for young guys like Jackson Nishimura and Steph Charbonneau. Up front, Mike Triolo and Brandon Robinson create a lot of space for guys like Ryan Lee, Kyle Killen and Ben French. That allows us to present a balanced offence to give different looks.”

Defender David Brock of the Cobourg Kodiaks is chased by Peterborough’s Cory Vitarelli. June 23, 2019. (Photo: Anna Taylor)

The Kodiaks didn’t lose much this season, choosing to add players to a solid core that has been around since day one with players like Cupido and Triolo leading the way. Davide DiRuscio is not back with the team which means that Orleman has full control of the net and has proven to be one of the league’s best in the early going. He’s backed up by Kevin Croswell, who likely won’t see much, if any, time. Stay at home defenders Scott Johnston and recently signed David Brock are anchoring the defense.

But let’s get to their offense. The Kodiaks added ALL stars like Mark Vradenburg and Cameron Simpson as depth players, while also acquiring star-in-the-making Cam Milligan from Peterborough. Milligan and Kyle Killen, another Peterborough native unable to crack the hometown lineup, are a dangerous duo on the floor. The Kodiaks are led in goals by rookie transition man Scott Dominey, who is having a breakout season after graduating from the Jr. A Orangeville Northmen.

Cobourg Kodiaks’ Mark Vradenburg. June 23, 2019. (Photo: Anna Taylor)

The offense is supported by the likes of Cupido, Doug Utting, Steph Charbonneau and Colton Armstrong on transition. That’s arguably the best transition unit in the league. Armstrong’s strong ALL campaign saw him become a regular with the Rochester Knighthawks mid-season, while Charbonneau led the Philadelphia Wings’ defense in scoring.

Cobourg always presented with a can-do attitude despite knowing their competition was stronger, but this season brought about a newfound confidence shared by every player on the team. The other five teams in the league should no longer look at them as underdogs.

“The atmosphere around the team is positive. Starting 5-2 is a great morale builder, especially after struggling our first three seasons in MSL,” Webb said. “Winning in this league is very difficult because every team in this league is so strong. Beating Peterborough in their rink on June 13 gave us a big confidence boost because we realized that we can compete with any team.”

Even in their most recent game, Sunday’s 8-4 loss to the Lakers, the Kodiaks pushed the pace. After a bad first five minutes, they limited the Lakers to only four more goals in the remaining 55 minutes. They had more shots and kept their opponents on their toes with lots of power play and transition chances.

No longer the new kids on the block, the Kodiaks are looking to make some noise in the playoffs this August.


Six Nations Chiefs

The Chiefs will be one of the MSL’s top teams again and have started strong with a 5-2 record. Their only two losses came against Peterborough, against whom the outcome is always a tossup, and surprisingly, Brampton, whom they lost a close 9-8 game to. The Excelsiors built an 8-1 lead in the second period but the Chiefs came back with four and three goal runs, broken up only by Jordan Dance’s game winner. Nine times out of 10 the Chiefs would complete a comeback attempt like that and that’s what makes them perennial contenders in the league.

However, they’re never content to stand pat and acquired Lyle Thompson and the rights to his brother Miles during the offseason. Neither brother ever showed interest in playing for the Brooklin Lacrosse Club, but with the Chiefs’ Indigenous connections and their brother Jeremy the Chiefs’ primary faceoff man, it makes sense that Lyle would want to play for them. He’s already making an impact, sitting third in scoring behind Randy Staats and Cody Jamieson, and delighting fans in Ontario who rarely get to see the superstar play in person.

Another superstar in the making, Tehoka Nanticoke, was called up from the Jr. A Arrows for last week’s game versus Brooklin and recorded one assist. Nanticoke is a standout attackman at the University of Albany and expected to be a very high pick in the 2021 NLL draft.


Peterborough Lakers

Peterborough Lakers captain Robert Hope. June 23, 2019. (Photo: Anna Taylor)

The Lakers are the defending Mann Cup champions. They sailed through their first four games of the season like a well-oiled machine. That ended being to their detriment though, as complacency set in, leading to a pair of losses to Oakville and Cobourg that dropped them to third place. Nobody was happy after a 17-4 drubbing at the hands of the Rock and a close 12-11 loss to rival Cobourg, who the Lakers have dominated in recent years. After team meetings the club came together for 13-8 and 8-4 wins over Brampton and Cobourg. They’ll look to keep the momentum going with two more games this coming week against Brooklin and a third meeting with the Kodiaks, who have been the number one team to push the Lakers this season.

Holden Cattoni leads the team with 13 goals and Shawn Evans leads in points with 33. Joe Resetarits and Kiel Matisz have fit seamlessly into the offense, while Mike Poulin has proven to be a great goaltending partner for Matt Vinc.

Every player on the Lakers is committed to returning to the Mann Cup for a third year, and the team has adopted the slogan “3Pete” for the season.

“Mann Cup or bust,” says defenseman Chad Tutton.