It’s getting to that point of the season where a fella may look back at a particular 1-goal loss back in May or June and regret a blown assignment on defense. Or the post he hit on an open look. Or the soft goal he gave up on short-handed situation. Yeah, it’s that tight in the Major Series and the Western Lacrosse Association as the big boys are starting to see the light at the end of that regular-season tunnel. And the thing about the way races are shaping up this season, both loops have a real shot at having new regular-season champs for the first time in along time.
Langley is in the WLA’s driver’s seat with 20 points and could give the WLA a champion not named the Shamrocks or the Salmonbellies for the first time since 2003. And in Ontario, Brooklin’s 1-point lead could change in a heartbeat but if it holds down the stretch, MSL will have a champ other than Peterborough or Brampton for the first time since 2004.
But it’s not like winning the regular season title guarantees anything. Because once the playoffs start, it’s a whole new ballgame. Last year’s Mann Cup finalists – Brampton and Langley – each finished in third place in their respective leagues.
But before we get there, we’ve got to get through here, and here right now is a regular season that’s coming down the home stretch. Here’s a primer for the weekend.
Five games are on the schedule for this weekend and make no mistake, there are going to be some jacked up teams on the floor. With 6 teams within 7 points of each other, and 5 of those teams within 3 points, the weekend will do a fine job in separating the pack. The team with the best chance to do the most damage is Nanaimo, which plays 3 games in 4 days. It started last night with a loss to New Westminster, creating a 4-way tie for second place and keeps Nanaimo 3 points behind Victoria, Coquitlam, New West and Burnaby, each of whom have 16. Nanaimo still has a golden opportunity to gain ground with a Saturday game at Coquitlam and a Sunday game at home against Burnaby. The T-men are 2-0 against Coquitlam this season and 0-1-1 against Burnaby … And speaking of Burnaby, the Lakers play 2 games this weekend, hosting Coquitlam tonight before heading to Nanaimo on Sunday. The Lakers beat Coquitlam 11-10 in OT on June 22 … Victoria plays twice this weekend as well, starting with a home game tonight against last-place Maple Ridge before traveling to first-place Langley (20 points) on Saturday. With 2 losses already this season to the Thunder, this will be Victoria’s last shot to cut into Langley’s lead. More pressing, however, is guarding against a letdown tonight. “We’re banged up and we’re sore and we won a big game, but (today’s) game will make our season very difficult if we don’t win. Maple Ridge has only pride to play for and sometimes those are the hardest teams to play,” coach Bob Heyes told the Times-Colonist.
The big games for Ontario’s top circuit, at least for playoff positioning and important points, were Thursday night. Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Six Nations (17 points) did its part to keep its name in the running for the regular-season title with a big 12-7 win over Peterborough (16 points). The victory gives Six Nations the 2-game season-series sweep. The loss means Peterborough can finish no better than second place, and it has a first-round playoff (best-of-5) date with Ajax … The other game was Brooklin’s 11-7 win over Brampton (12 points), which keeps the Redmen at the top of the circuit with 18 points while Brampton’s second straight loss also was its fifth loss in 7 games. A victory for Brooklin over Kitchener-Waterloo in Wednesday’s season finale will clinch first place overall for the Redmen to give them their first regular-season title since 2004 … There are 3 other games for the weekend and 2 of them involve Ajax so the tilts probably won’t have much to do with positions in the standings unless the Rock can beat Kitchener-Waterloo tonight or upset Six Nations on Saturday … If K-W can win tonight’s game against Ajax, then turn around and beat a slumping Brampton, which it’s done twice already this season, it could push the Kodiaks into fourth place and ahead of Brampton.
The semifinals are underway and 2 games are set to be played this weekend but nothing can be clinched, so it’ll be pretty quiet. Coquitlam and Langley play Game 2 of their series on Sunday and a Coquitlam victory will give them a 2-0 series lead. To do that, the Adanacs will need a better start than they had in Game 1 when Langley built an early 5-1 lead before the Adanacs rallied. “I thought we responded quite well,” Coquitlam coach Neil Dinsdale told Coquitlam Now. “We played great in the third and talked about it between the second and third. We have to stay out of the penalty box, play great on ‘D’ and execute better on the offensive end.” … In the other semifinal, New Westminster is at Delta for Game 1 on Saturday. “Going into it we have a lot of confidence, but we’re not cocky. We know we’re young and we have a lot of stuff to prove,” Delta coach Shaun Springett told the Delta-Optimist.
Alberta Junior A
The start of the playoffs has been on hold since a complaint was lodged against the Okotoks Raiders by the other 3 teams in the circuit, the Jr. Miners, Jr. Eclipse and Jr. Mountaineers. The complaint centered around Okotoks apparently using 4 players from out of province. League rules state that 2 players are the max allowed. The Canadian Lacrosse Association ruled on the complaint and issued an undisclosed fine, which the Raiders are appealing. There will be no forfeits and the Raiders can play 2 of the 4 players once the playoffs begin.
Ontario Junior B
It’s semifinals time here as well and both series kick off this weekend. In the East, top seed Akwesasne opens Saturday night at home against the No. 2 Green Gaels, with Game 2 to follow on Sunday, also at Akwesasne. The interesting thing about this series is that should it go the full 5 games, the final 3 games would be played at Clarington … In the West, No. 1 Six Nations opens against No. 5Wallaceburg tonight, at Six Nations. Game 2 is Sunday in Wallaceburg.
Ontario Junior C
The Cornwall Celtics, who finished with a league-best 26 points, are ready to rock and roll in their first-round playoff series against the last-place Gloucester Griffins. Cornwall won all 4 regular-season games against the Griffins by a combined 54-12, the first 3 games coming by a 43-5 margin as they twice held Gloucester to a single goal in games. “We managed to keep everybody healthy (last Saturday), and there were no suspensions or anything like that, so we’re ready to go,” coach Shawn Lauzon told The Standard Freeholder. Game 1 of the East Division series is Saturday, with Game 2 set for Monday … The other East Division series — Kingston vs. Brockville — opens Sunday at Brockville with Game 2 scheduled for Monday in Kingston. If a Game 3 is needed, it’s Thursday at Brockville, which won 3 of the season’s 4 games in the regular-season series … In the Central Division, the Peterborough Lakers swept the Mimico Mountaineers and move on to play second-place Whitby in the second round. Game 1 is Tuesday night in Whitby.
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