SIX NATIONS – In stark contrast to the past two or three years of lacrosse dominance at all OLA levels of the game, the baton has been passed to the last Six Nations team standing in the 2016 post season, the MSL Pro-Fit Chiefs.
Decimated by injuries to key players, including scoring leaders Cody Jamieson, Steve Keogh, Jordan Durston, Johnny Powless, Randy Staats and others with aches and pains, the remaining Chiefs pulled together to tough-out two very important wins in successive nights.
After winning 10-8 in Brooklin, the Chiefs went on to eliminate the Redmen Saturday night by the score of 9-6 and take another big step towards the Mann Cup representing the OLA.
Together the Chiefs were missing 205 regular season points from their top four offensive assets, but Friday night in Brooklin, tied at two games each of the best of seven series, the Chiefs limped to a 10-8 character win calling upon their bench to fill the holes.
It was thought that the Chiefs would be tired Saturday night at the ILA after pulling off Friday’s big win, but that was not the case. Instead, the Chiefs support staff continually stepped up to pour it on in front of a large Chiefs crowd.
“The guys showed a lot of character missing a lot of key offensive players, but we are a very good team and we have a lot of depth and guys who can fill in and produce and that’s what happened tonight,” said offensive coach and lacrosse legend John Tavares.
He was not sure if or when his top guns will return to the lineup but there will be a few weeks before they make their bid to get back the Mann Cup they won in 2013 and 2014. Last year the Victoria Shamrocks defeated the Peterborough Lakers for the 2015 chalice.
“As long as we have a full lineup of 18 guys, whoever they are, and we get 100 per cent from them, whether it’s Cody [Jamieson] or Brier [Jonathan], or Austin [Staats], it doesn’t matter we have a chance. We’ve got a solid defence and goaltending. We’ll be alright.”
The Chiefs will faceoff against the winner of the Peterborough versus Oakville series Friday night in Brooklin, the Chiefs had to come from behind to take the 10-8 final score.
Brooklin was up 3-2 after the first period with Jordan Durston and Ryan Benesche doing the honours for Six Nations, sandwiched between three Redmen goals. Brooklin extended that lead to 5-2 in the second before Craig Point injected another Chiefs marker.
John Lafontaine scored unassisted for Brooklin at 10:53, but late in the period, Austin Staats and Benesche popped in two within a 22 second span to end the second period with the Redmen leading the Chiefs 6-5.
Before going down with a leg injury, Durston tied the score at 6-6 at 3:16 of the third, but it didn’t stand long as Austin Shanks took the lead back for Brooklin at 6:45.
That’s when the Chiefs opened it up. Durston scored his second of the period followed by Dan Dawson, Craig Point and Brody Merrill put the Chiefs in the drivers seat at 10-7. Kyle Rubisch netted a late goal for Brooklin for the 10-8 final score.
The game went a full 60 minutes without a penalty called on either side.
Durston went down with what appeared to be a serious leg injury late in the game, and did not return. He remained out of the lineup Saturday night.
It was an evenly played first period at the ILA with the Chiefs and the Redmen matching goals to end the first period tied at 3-3. Vaughn Harris, with two, Dhane Smith and Dan Dawson scored the Six Nations goals in the second to capture a 7-3 lead which was trimmed by two late period Brooklin goals to go into the last period with the Chiefs holding a narrow 7-5 lead.
Dhane Smith converted a Dillon Ward lead pass to extend the Chiefs lead to 8-5 Curtis Knight put another one up for Brooklin before Dan Coates put it away at 19:47 in an empty net. Seconds before, Benesch was unsuccessful on a penalty shot.
For Tavares, coming back to Six Nations is almost like coming home after spending a few seasons as a player with the Mann Cup Chiefs of the 1990’s.
“This is one of my favourite places to play,” he said. “I loved playing here and it’s a nice opportunity to be back and coach, especially with a good team here. It’s an honour to have played here for the Chiefs.”