It’s getting exciting, and complicated. Canada’s 2 series of the big boys — Major Series Lacrosse and the Western Lacrosse Association — are gearing up for the best kind of lacrosse: Playoff lacrosse. In Ontario, the fields are set and the playoffs start tonight. Out West, it’s anything but settled. Heading into the final weekend of the season, only 1 playoff berth has been clinched, by the Langley Thunder. Four more teams are grouped within 2 points of each other, battling for the final 3 spots and 1 of those teams — Coquitlam, Victoria, Burnaby or New Westminster — will head home this weekend without a playoff invite. So technically, it’s not playoff time yet for the WLA, but try telling that to any of the 4 teams heading into a do-or-die weekend. Your weekend primer, after the jump.
Playoffs get underway this weekend and the Brampton Excelsiors and Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks will play 2 games of their best-of-5 series. Game 1 is tonight in Brampton and Game 2 is Sunday in Kitchener. This could be an interesting series as the teams split their 4 games in the regular season, which included a K-W win at Brampton early in the season. The Excels are the defending Mann Cup champs, while the Kodiaks, who have been an MSL playoff team every season since 2006, are looking to advance through the first round for the first time … In the other series, Peterborough and Ajax also will play twice this weekend with Game 1 tonight in Peterborough and Game 2 Sunday in Ajax. Not much is expected here as Peterborough won all 4 regular-season games against the Rock, including the last 2 meetings by scores of 21-4 and 15-3 … The Brooklin Redmen have a first-round bye for winning their division title, but veteran Shawn Williams says winning a regular-season title and winning the playoffs are 2 different worlds. “The Peterboroughs of the world, the Bramptons of the world, they are still there for a reason,” Williams told DurhamRegion.com. “Regular season is one thing, but it’s when there’s a seven-game series and everything is on the line, that’s where we’ll see.”
The first-round playoff schedules:
K-W at Brampton, Friday, 8 p.m.
Brampton at K-W, Sunday, 7 p.m.
K-W at Brampton, Monday, 8 p.m.
Brampton at K-W, Thursday, 8 p.m.
K-W at Brampton, Friday, Aug. 3, 8 p.m.
Ajax at Peterborough, Friday, 8 p.m.
Peterborough at Ajax, Sunday, 7 p.m.
Ajax at Peterborough, Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Peterborough at Ajax, Thursday, 8 p.m.
Ajax at Peterborough, Friday, Aug. 3, 8 p.m.
There are 6 games on tap for the final weekend of the regular season and most eyes will be on Langley and/or Coquitlam. It was an interesting middle of the week as the Thunder protested their weekend loss to Victoria, but it was denied by the WLA. That kept the Thunder at a WLA-leading 22 points with 1 game left, but second-place Coquitlam (20) can still win the WLA title even though it lost last night to New Westminster. If Langley wins tonight at Burnaby, the WLA crown belongs to the Thunder. Coquitlam can still win the title with a Langley loss tonight and a win Saturday night at home to Burnaby. In that scenario, the Adanacs and Thunder would each finish with 22 points and 11 wins, but Coquitlam won the season series with Langley, 2-1 … Either way, the WLA will have a champ not named New Westminster or Victoria for the first time since 2003, when Coquitlam won it … Victoria, tied with Burnaby for third place with 18 points, has a home-and-home with Nanaimo and can clinch a playoff berth with 1 victory. “My goal is to make sure the team is fully aware that we are in charge of our own destiny,” coach Bob Heyes told the Times Colonist … The Salmonbellies, who haven’t missed the playoffs since 2004, aren’t out of the woods just yet. Last night’s win over Coquitlam kept them in the race and they’re tied with Victoria and Burnaby in third place with 18 points. It’s a complicated scenario, but New West needs help to get into the playoffs and they’ll know what’s up before they close their season Sunday night at Maple Ridge. New West lost the season series to Victoria, so the best scenario is for Burnaby to lose tonight to Langley. That would mean the Lakers can finish with no more than 9 wins. New West already has 9 wins so all it would need is to win that Sunday game in Maple Ridge to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot via the tiebreaker of most wins in the regular season. If it comes down to a second-tier tiebreaker — head-to-head competition — the Salmonbellies lose out because Burnaby won the season series, 2-1.
OLA Junior A
It could be all over but the crying for 2 Junior A teams by 10 o’clock tonight. That Six Nations has a 2-0 series lead over Peterborough isn’t all that surprising, given the offensive muscle the Arrows have flexed all summer. Game 3 of the best-of-5 series is tonight at Six Nations and the Arrows are eyeing to finish off the sweep … The surprise, relatively speaking, is the other semifinal series between Orangeville at Whitby. The Hornheads have a 2-0 series lead over the defending Minto Cup champs and could clinch the sweep tonight. The teams split the season series but hadn’t faced each other since the end of May. And while the Warriors were no slouches in going 8-2 in their final 10 games of the regular season, the Northmen came into the playoffs as winners of 11 straight. Still, Whitby coach Derek Keenan liked his team’s Game 2 effort better than the opener and says that’s what it will take if the Warriors are to rally. “It’s far from over,” he told DurhamRegion.com. “If we play like that we’ve got a good opportunity to come back and win this for sure.” … If a Game 4 is required for either one of these series, both are set for Sunday night (at Peterborough and at Orangeville).
It’s a pretty quiet weekend in B.C. as Coquitlam eliminated Langley in one semifinal series and now awaits the winner of the New Westminster vs. Delta series. That answer could come tonight as the Salmonbellies hold a 2-1 series lead, but the Islanders are not going quietly. Delta notched a 14-4 win in Game 3 on Wednesday to avoid elimination and will try to stretch the series to its entirety by winning Game 4 tonight, in New Westminster. A Salmonbellies victory means they’ll play Coquitlam in the B.C. finals for a fourth straight season.
Alberta Junior A
The Jr. Raiders and Jr. Mounties each have 2-0 leads in their respective series. The Jr. Raiders can finish off the sweep of the Jr. Miners in Saturday’s Game 3 in Edmonton. The Raiders are moving forward without the services of top scorer James Delaney and Jordan Daradick, among the players ruled ineligible before the playoffs started because of a rule barring the import of more than 2 players from out of the province. The Raiders are appealing the CLA ruling and are hopeful for their return … In the other series, the Jr. Mounties can finish off the Jr. Eclipse, also in Game 3 on Saturday, in Edmonton.
OLA Junior B
The Green Gaels are on the brink of elimination, down 0-2 to an Akwesasne team that was missing a few of its guns for the U19 games. The Indians should be fully loaded for tonight’s Game 3, but in an odd twist, the No. 2 Green Gaels have home floor advantage for the series because the top-seeded Indians said they had scheduling conflicts with their arena. Of course, the Green Gaels will have to win 3 straight to take advantage of the home floor, but it’s something coach Jason Crosbie and assistant Brad MacArthur have done before with the Gaels, and they believe they can do it again … In the other semifinal, Game 4 between Wallaceburg and Six Nations is set for Saturday night and the Red Devils are on the verge of a monumental upset. The No. 5 seed scored an 8-7 win last night to take a 2-1 series lead against the top-seeded Rebels, who are also the defending Founders Cup champs. Wallaceburg can close out the series with a win Saturday night on its home floor. The last time Wallaceburg was this deep in the playoffs was 2001, the year it defeated Six Nations in the second round of the playoffs en route to winning the Founders Cup.
In the OLA semifinals, Owen Sound, led by NLL Rookie of the Year Adam Jones’ 7 points (4-3) in 2 games, is up 2-0 over Oakville and can wrap up the sweep of that series tonight in Oakville. If a Game 4 is needed, that’ll be played Sunday night in Owen Sound … In the other semifinal, St. Catharines has a 1-0 lead on Brooklin and Game 2 has yet to be finished because the game last Sunday was called at the start of overtime because of unsafe floor conditions. There’s no word yet on when that will be resumed, but Game 3 is scheduled for tonight in St. Catharines … In Quebec, the Vermont Voyageurs, St. Regis Braves and Caughanawaga Indians all opened their best-of-5 series with victories this week and each can extend, or clinch, their leads with games this weekend. Vermont hosts Montreal tonight and is at Montreal Saturday, while the Braves are at Snake Island on Saturday and Caughanawaga hosts Cornwall on Saturday.
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