The first week of Canadian summer ball finally arrived but with it came a lot of uncertainty for the early part of the Major Series Lacrosse season. With such a late end to the NLL season, every team in the MSL had to rely on patchwork rosters built from Jr. A and Sr. B call-ups. Some senior players are still in the NLL finals; some just need more time off after a long (and getting ever-longer) pro season. The Six Nations Chiefs didn’t even have a full lineup against Brampton. Most teams won’t have their full rosters until the end of June, once the playoffs are over and the pros have taken some time off to rest. The newcomers took advantage of their opportunities – Todd Kozak led Oakville in the season opener, Nolan Clayton debuted in goal for Brampton and Jeff Swift scored an overtime winner for Peterborough. Each team played two games over the first week and things turned out exactly how they did last year. Six Nations and Peterborough are at the top of the standings with Brampton and Cobourg at the bottom.
Oakville 13 @ Cobourg 5
Now is the time of year when the sophomore Kodiaks should be taking advantage of depleted teams, because, despite a slightly beefed up roster, they still don’t possess the same level of talent as the top four. Unfortunately, they were unable to do so in their first two games (and are losing 9-2 to Brooklin as I write this – make that 10-2). They are now 0-10 at home since moving from KW.
In the MSL season opener, the Oakville Rock led 4-1 after the first, 7-4 after the second and outscored the Kodiaks 6-1 in the final frame. John St. John and Windsor Jr. B grad Logan Holmes had two goals each for the Kodiaks, who added three more Peterborough minor grads to their roster this season in addition to veterans like Pete Rennie, Matt Crough and Riley Campbell. Joining the Kodiaks are Cole McWilliams, Colton Armstrong (free agents) and draft pick Dylan Hutchison. The Kodiaks also signed Doug Utting, a face-off guy who played with the Peterborough Timbermen in the ALL this past winter. Captain Joey Cupido will miss time with an injury so Rennie has taken over as captain.
The Rock were led by field player Connor Fields (ironic?) and part-time player Todd Kozak with five points each. Brett Hickey chipped in four points as one of Oakville’s only six pro players in the game. Toronto Rock rookie Latrell Harris played his first senior game as a call-up although he will return to the St. Catharines Athletics junior program as he still has three years of junior eligibility left.
Peterborough 11 @ Oakville 10 – OT
Oakville added Stephan Leblanc for this game but allowed some other vets to sit. The lack of big names didn’t matter with Wesley Berg and Brett Hickey combining for seven goals. Steve Fryer took the loss as Nick Rose took the night off.
Evan Kirk started for the Lakers and was solid in the first, second and overtime after a shaky third allowed the Rock to erase the Lakers’ 8-5 lead. He and Matt Vinc will split time in the Lakers goal again. Shawn Evans, Holden Cattoni and Turner Evans all had two goals for the Lakers, who also featured a host of call-ups with several players on the IR to start the season. Sr. B player Josh Gilray got to make his MSL debut alongside his younger brother Matt, a Lakers rookie. Sr. B player Jeff Swift scored the winner for Peterborough at 4:14 of overtime.
Cobourg 3 @ Six Nations 14
For the first time in a long time, the Six Nations Chiefs had nobody named Smith in their lineup. They’re missing a few guys to injuries but the Chiefs have such a strong lacrosse system they’re competitive no matter who is in their lineup. Brandon Miller back in goal was also a blessing for the Chiefs as he missed last summer due to hip surgery. Ryan Benesch led with eight points. The Chiefs scored all 14 of their goals in the first two periods, believe it or not. After going up 14-2, they seemed to take it easy on the little guys.
In fact, the highlight of this game was the rematch between Cobourg’s Broedie Birkhof, already leading the league in PIMs, and Chancy Johnson (who likely won’t see much time with the Chiefs), two familiar combatants. Birkhof’s fights are usually ill-timed but a heavyweight bout like this one brings more cheers than eye-rolls.
The Kodiaks managed just eight goals over their first two games and look to be in tough again this season to get many wins. Not being able to compete with teams at this early stage of the season is concerning.
Brampton 10 @ Brooklin 11 – OT
Nobody was hit harder than the Brooklin Redmen by the late NLL playoffs, missing Mike Poulin, Kyle Matisz, Shayne Jackson, Mark Matthews, Adrian Sorichetti, Kyle Rubisch, John Lafontaine, Curtis Knight, Chris Corbeil, Matt Hossack and Ryan Keenan. That said, their call-ups all came from the Durham area and have been playing together for years, meaning a seamless transition to the senior game, especially against a Brampton team that hasn’t been able to compete for a few years. It levelled the playing field and made for a heck of an overtime game.
Orangeville Northmen grad Nolan Clayton had an impressive debut in Brampton’s net. Mike Burke, Tyler Ferreira, Quinn Powless and Phil Caputo led the Excelsiors with four points each.
Brooklin 9 @ Peterborough 14
Curtis Dickson made his season debut after missing 2016 due to a sports hernia. He made an immediate impact for the Lakers, scoring two goals and two assists and working well with new teammate Kyle Buchanan. Jr. Lakers captain Jake Fox added two shorthanded goals and call-up Nick Finlay played well defensively. Despite missing 11 players, Brooklin was very good in the latter half of the game and gave the Lakers a run for their money, coming within three goals before the Lakers scored a couple of empty netters, one with two seconds left that sparked a near line-brawl.
Reilly O’Connor and Dan Lintner combined for seven of the Redmen’s nine goals. Lukas Coote has been backing up Zach Higgins’ in Poulin’s absence but hasn’t yet been called on in relief.
Six Nations 14 @ Brampton 11
Brampton did very well for themselves this week, putting up 21 goals. They were probably hit the least hard by the extended NLL season although have yet to get captain Sandy Chapman back after his season with the Toronto Rock. Caputo and Matt Bennett led with four points each while Clayton stopped an impressive 64 shots. Playing just your second game against the firepower of the Chiefs has to be scary but the rookie did well.
The Chiefs only had 15 runners but Miller’s 47 saves gave them an advantage. Despite only leading by two goals, the Chiefs let up in the third (unless, as they did the same against Cobourg, there is an issue that needs to be addressed) and only scored one goal, while shutting out the Excels. Jordan Durston and Pat Corbett had six points each while Craig Point, Ryan Benesch and Wayne VanEvery had five.