Peterborough Lakers (2) vs. Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks (3)
Season series: 1-1
Peterborough and KW only faced off twice this season. Traditionally, Peterborough and KW are not rivals; Peterborough’s more interesting games seem to come against Brampton, Brooklin, and Six Nations. However, KW is a team that has scared the Lakers over the past two seasons. In 2013, KW won the season series 3-1, and this season the two teams split their meetings. Peterborough is stacked with super stars, while KW is a young, energetic team that wants its first taste of success in the MSL. The series is bound to be entertaining, and potentially heart-attack inducing for Lakers fans as the Kodiaks would love nothing more than to knock off the powerhouse Lakers. The Kodiaks have the drive, but the Lakers experience will wear down the Kodiaks quickly.
The Lakers have the more recognizable names, with Mark Steenhuis leading the scoring this season with 83 points. He was followed by Shawn Evans with 51 and Aaron Wilson with 46. As a team, they scored 199 goals over just 18 games. Cory Vitarelli, Josh Gillam, Scott Evans, John Grant, Matt Crough, Adam Jones, and Chad Culp are all capable of contributing to the scoring. The Lakers don’t count on just a couple of players to create their offence – they let everyone get a chance, and this will help them over the less experienced Kodiaks.
Ryan Benesch led the Kodiaks with 54 points, followed by Corey Fowler (34) and Jamie Rooney (29). The team as a whole mustered 153 goals, with a lot of secondary scoring coming from young gun Luke Laszkiewicz. The loss of Dhane Smith was a detriment to the team scoring, however the Kodiaks had a late season surge despite the loss and cannot be counted out. Mike Melnychenko didn’t contribute a lot after coming over from the Redmen, but he always has success agains the Lakers.
Lakers captain Scott Self has won five Mann Cups with the team and will look to lead them to his sixth. He and Darryl Gibson are two of the steadiest defensemen in the MSL, and KW will be hard pressed to get any goals by them. The Lakers defense is complemented by young players like Mart Farthing, Robert Hope, and rookies Nick Weiss and Riley Quinlan. If the Lakers can get the Sorensen brothers back from injury during the playoffs, it will be a huge boost to the defense corps. Both Brock Sorensen and Nick Weiss are capable of scoring highlight reel transition goals.
Mitch Wilde and Craig England led the Kodiaks defense in scoring, and helped their goaltenders to a team total of only 154 goals against this season, only one more than the Lakers 153.
After giving Tyler Carlson the reins the previous two seasons (calling in Mike Thompson in the 2012 Mann Cup), the Lakers upgraded their goaltending this season, adding Matt Vinc, a three time NLL Goaltender of the Year and winner of three consecutive Champions Cups. Vinc has yet to win an Mann Cup and its something he would love to add to his resume. Carlson has proven a capable backup this season while Vinc was at the World Championships, but he has yet to prove he can compete in the post season.
Some may say that the Kodiaks downgraded in goal after trading Mike Poulin to the Redmen in exchange for Steve Fryer. However, Fryer has proven himself more than capable for the Kodiaks, playing in the absence of Dillon Ward, who was also in Denver this summer playing for Canada. Both Fryer and Ward have had big games and made some big saves in key victories this season.