BE – PL Game (#2) Report by Radio Free Merritton

story by Gary Gardell, photos courtesy of Tim Prothero

The Peterborough Lakers brought with them just enough wizard magic on Monday night to summon up a remarkable late game rally that forced some overtime, but then in the final analysis, it was the steady and measured play of the hometown Excelsiors that gained all the rewards with a rousing 10 – 8 triumph that evened the 2010 Ontario finals at one apiece. The good mix of supporters of both teams that entered the Powerade Centre on this night may have seemed just like interested spectators at the game’s commencement, but then after couple of hours of emotion-draining drama, they assuredly felt more like full and equal participants in all of these proceedings. Ah, the beauty of sport.

The first possession of the game found no stranger of magic in control of the ball, and John Grant by brute force alone moved his defender back about ten or more feet with a series of shoulder pushes before pivoting into a shot that eluded Anthony Cosmo from close range. The Lakers seemed to have the advantage through much of the early going and at one point held a considerable shots-on-goal margin, but they only managed one more tally in the opening twenty, this one coming from a Scott Evans outside blast near mid-period. Cosmo held the fort strongly and on rapid back-to-back stops against a breaking Shawn Evans and then Mac Allen, brought a loud appreciative cheer. The Excelsiors began to gain something to their attack as the period wound down and Dan Dawson scored on one of his classic, break-free and wave his stick from the rafters move that has immobilized many a goalie. A roughing penalty to Laker Chris White incurred during the post-goal celebrations threatened to add to Brampton’s momentum swing, but some truly astounding ball-ragging by Mark Steenhuis negated that Excelsior opportunity. Score after one period: Lakers 2, Excelsiors 1.

Brampton’s late first period surge carried them well into the second and they tallied a pair each from Kevin Ross and occasional attacker Brodie Merrill. Merrill’s first came on a cross-crease dive that either preceded or followed the shot-clock buzzer, all depending on which side of the arena you were sitting on. And his second came after he ran a perfect Jerry Rice square-out that got goalie Mike Thompson moving around before Merrill found room by the vacated goal-post. Between these were the two by Ross, who has impressive stick skills when he gets in close. The first came after a neat give-and-go and the second after a hard rebound off the back wall. This was Brampton’s period to shine, but the Lakers conjured one marker after a foiled BE breakout presented the ball to speedy Steve Toll at mid-floor. The 1991 double-blue Minto Cupper turned the 2-on-1 into a goalie-freezing, stick-faking opportunity and he tucked it in just as he passed behind the net. Score after two periods: Excelsiors 5, Lakers 3.

A Laker comeback didn’t seem at all to be in the making as Brampton opened up a 7 to 4 lead by mid-period, compliments of a pair by Josh Sanderson while Toll cashed in on a short-handed opportunity. The Petes then capitalized after some rifle passing from Scott Evans at the top, to Grant low on the right, to Shawn Evans low on the left, and then into the net as Cosmo twisted. But time was becoming the visitor’s worse enemy and they trailed 7 to 5 with two minutes left. With the Lakers net vacated, Scotty Evans buried one at 18:15 and hope remained. The Lakers continued to press but Brampton defended well, and a late time-out provided the visitor’s a tactical chalk talk. Whatever was discussed, you’d expect Grant to be part of the equation. But a cross-floor ball feed to Jr. went badly as the ball bounded off the sidewall and well into Lakers’ territory. Joy reigned amongst the BE faithful as Scott Evans and a Brampton player raced far away from Cosmo’s goal and the dying seconds were ticking off. But Evans dove for the rolling ball, and with the one-handed scoop, sent it quickly on its way 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Everyone’s jaw dropped as they watched in amazement this sudden turn of events. Shawn Evans met the ball…the Lakers attacked 4 on 3…Cory Vitarelli became the open shot…and BAM…ten seconds on the clock, and the score was tied at 7. Dejection replaced joy on one side of the arena, the reverse on the opposite side.

The ten minute overtime opened with a Laker faceoff win, and the loud chants of “Let’s Go Lakers” raining down onto the Brampton floor. How would the Excelsiors’ psyche hold up after this abrupt change in fortunes? Grant’s celebratory fist pump after swinging one in from 15 feet out seemed to add punctuation to what already appeared as BE’s ultimate fate. But fate would smile Brampton’s way once again, and it came in the large angular frame of Dan Dawson, perhaps the best player on the floor this night. Dawson gave the Lakers “D” fits throughout with his footwork, his reach, his floor sense, and his courage. And he would break loose to tie it on the power-play at 5:33, and then set up Ross for the winner just a minute-twenty later…incredibly snatching back the victory for the Excelsiors. Dylan Evans would put the icing on the cake in the closing seconds while the Lakers were scrambling for a little more lost magic, and the game would end with the final score; Brampton Excelsiors 10, Peterborough Lakers 8.

Whatever some may be tempted to say about what’s right or what’s wrong with the MSL, whenever you can sit through an evening’s entertainment like this, you leave in full appreciation of what a truly great game this really is. At its best, lacrosse can’t be beaten.

The best of seven series is tied at one.

Please have a look at Gary Gardell’s great web site, chronicling The St. Catherine’s Athletic’s Lacrosse Club at – http://www.athleticslacrosse.com/.

Also, to view some great work of Tim Prothero’s, check out his site at – http://vintagelax.com/

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