There was just one ‘upset’ in the first round of the OJLL playoffs – the fifth seeded Toronto Beaches knocking off the fourth seeded Oakville Buzz in four games. Even then, can you call the advancement of a team that made the Minto Cup last season an ‘upset’? The other three teams, all higher seeds, advanced via sweep.
And so sets up the best-of-seven series between the Burlington Blaze and Mimico Mountaineers and Toronto Beaches and Orangeville Northmen. Here’s a look at both series, with the ways each team will win, and our official InLax predictions.
(2) Burlington Blaze vs (3) Mimico Mountaineers
These teams have historically played tight matchups, including both Burlington victories this season (9-7 on May 27 and 16-12 on June 4). But they’ve also shown a genuine dislike for one another. Not only did the second meeting feature 28 combined goals, but it also had 135 combined shots on goal.
It’s a very different looking Blaze team, however, since the Mountaineers last saw them. Sure, there are trades at the OJLL deadline every year, many involving top named players. But it’s been quite some time since players traded have had such a major impact than Deacan Knott, Ben Trumble and Zack Thompson.
Since the trade, Burlington finished the regular season 8-2. Much of that is due to Knott’s performance between the pipes, but Thompson and Trumble have filled gaps as well. Is Knott enough for the Blaze to win?
Burlington wins if …… their offense outplays Mimico’s. Finn Thomson will get a lot of the attention in this series. Don’t forget about the goal-scoring prowess of the righties Braedon Saris and Alex Marinier. Saris played just seven games, but still scored 12 goals. Marinier was amongst the league leaders with 49. And then there’s Will MacLeod who can score from the left side, as he did 31 times (that’s 92 of Burlington’s 206 goals). They need to outplay the likes of Thomson, Justin Lee, Lucas Dudemaine et al, especially on special teams.
Mimico wins if ……. (speaking of) their special teams can control Burlington’s. Of Mimico’s 224 goals scored in the regular season, 54 were with the man advantage. That’s just over twenty-four per cent of their goals, second only to Peterborough’s 41 of 162. It’s an impressive number, but even more impactful when you consider Mimico’s 45 power play goals against ranked third most in the OJLL behind only Six Nations and Kitchener-Waterloo. Expect physical play in this series, and expect penalties. Mimico needs to win the inevitable special teams battle to win this series.
Prediction! We predict you’ll regret it if you miss any of this series. Burlington are on a roll and appear to have all facets of their game working at the right time. Last season Mimico was swept by Burlington in the first round (the first 8 over 1 sweep in almost 70 years). The argument can be made the Mountaineers have a bigger chip on their shoulder, but Burlington is thinking beyond this series. They believe they should’ve made last year’s Minto Cup and will do whatever it takes to get there.
Burlington in a very tight, physical, all out war 7
(1) Orangeville Northmen vs. (5) Toronto Beaches
Prediction ….. Orangeville will lose a game in this series. Ok, so the prediction came a bit early. We’re fans of history too, and what the Northmen have done and are doing is impressive. But this matchup pits two of the top offenses in the league against each other. Consider six of the top eight points getters, three of the top four goal scorers and five of the top six assist-men in the league are in this series.
Joey Spallina has fit in perfectly with Koleton Marquis and Liam Matthews.
Greg Palmer has been the perfect setup man for Matt Collison and Willem Firth.
Andrew Kidd has the possibility to match Chris Origlieri save-for-save.
So, who will come out on top?
Toronto wins if ……. they minimize errors. It will take near perfect lacrosse to put the only blemish on the record of the Orangeville Northmen. No room for errant passes, no room for over-and-back violations, no room for mental mistakes. With the majority of players back from last season, and a great goaltender in Andrew Kidd, head coach Riley O’Connor will have preached everything the Beach Boys need to know to win. Now it’s up to them to stay perfect.
Orangeville wins if ……. they remain disciplined. The Horn Heads play an aggressive, take-no-prisoners style of defence, which lead to them being the most penalized team in the OJLL. That very same defence paired with MVP candidate Chris Origlieri can bail them out of penalty trouble. But they can not bail them out of injuries or suspensions. It’s not the aggressive defence that will hurt Orangeville, it’s the extra, over the top emotion and aggression. Look no further than last year’s battle with the Whitby Warriors. There were flashes of it in the Six Nations series this season too. Every Northmen is valuable in their role on Rusty Kruger’s bench – too valuable to not be there.
(Real) Prediction! If Toronto is to advance back to the OJLL Finals they’ll need to win at least once at Tony Rose Arena, a place the Northmen have not lost since July 15 of last season – Game 2 of their first round series against the Oakville Buzz. As the games get bigger, so does the crowd and atmosphere at the Bunny Barn. There’re winnable games for the Beaches in Pickering, but not in Orangeville.
Orangeville in 5.