The slumbering giant has awoken. For the first time in the 2012 Mann Cup the Peterborough Lakers produced the kind of performance that made them the favourites heading into the series. The result was a 14-10 win that gave Peterborough its first win of the series, cutting the Langley Thunder’s lead to 2-1 and buoying the spirits of a Lakers fan base that had been growing restless after a pair of losses to open the team’s pursuit of its 14th Mann Cup championship.
Langley enjoyed the lead after the first period for the first time in the series, taking a 4-3 lead into the intermission. Peterborough pulled Tyler Carlson after he gave up three goals on the first seven shots he faced and Mike Thompson immediately made a huge save on a two-on-one to give the Lakers a boost which helped them come back to lead 7-5 with a couple of minutes left in the second. Peterborough’s mid-period run of three straight goals started when Scott Evans found the far corner while being checked to the ground on a delayed penalty.
The momentum swung back to Langley when Cory Vitarelli was called for high-sticking on a play that could be used as an instruction manual for how you should lay a hit on the forecheck. The Thunder took advantage of the opportunity on that and another ensuing power play when Athan Iannucci buried two goals on shots from the high slot to tie the game after two periods.
It looked like trouble for the Lakers when Langley opened the third goals from Lewis Ratcliff and Alex Turner. The Lakers then ran off six straight goals. The explosion erupted from a somewhat unlikely source. Jordan MacIntosh had been a healthy scratch in game two after being ineffective through much of the MSL finals and the first game of the Mann Cup.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” MacIntosh said after the game. “I was struggling. I haven’t been scoring. The coaches let me know that they were sitting me and it added some fuel to the fire. Tonight I was just sticking my shots in and that first goal, I think that’s the most pumped I’ve ever been after a goal. That was just a big monkey off the back.”
MacIntosh also scored the fifth goal of the run that led to the Lakers victory. He said they followed a simple imperative to find the surge. “Urgency. We couldn’t lose. You can’t go down three-nothing. Urgency. We just dug deep, stayed out of the crap. That was big. No penalties. We retaliate, they’re calling it, they score on the power play. We stay away from it, we go down and we score. It’s pretty simple.”
John Grant, Jr. was also a key contributor. He scored a hat trick and added an assist a night after leaving the game in the closing minutes and heading to the hospital with a flare-up of the back pain that has dogged him over the last few years. He was moving gingerly at times during the game and was in obvious discomfort afterwards, but he produced an inspirational effort on the floor.
“He’s my hero,” MacIntosh said. “He’s been my hero since I was ten years old. He’s amazing. I got to spend quite a bit of time with him the last couple of days [travelling together to the Duel in Denver Saturday night] and just seeing the way he prepares for games, still, at his age is pretty amazing. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Shawn Evans had a goal and five assists for Peterborough. Chris White, who has had an outstanding series defensively, also brought some offence. He perfectly executed a difficult touch pass through two defenders on a fast break to set MacIntosh up for one of his markers and added two more assists in the game.
Iannucci was Langley’s player of the game with four goals and an assist. Lewis Ratcliff (1g, 4a) and Garrett Billings (5a) also had strong nights for the Thunder in the offensive zone. Tor Reinholdt and Alex Turner each chipped in two goals and an assist. Reinholdt is having a breakout series, showcasing his speed, skill and lacrosse smarts to play a big role at both ends of the floor.
Rob Van Beek continues to stand out for the Thunder defensively and Ian Poole was a force both in the faceoff circle and in his own zone. Langley captain Matt Leveque said his team isn’t worried at all after the Lakers were able to pick apart their defence during the crucial third-period stretch.
“We just lost our composure for a sec, we had a couple of mental breaks and they capitalized,” Leveque said. “It’s a game of runs. They got their run at a perfect time. We just have to play our systems. Play Thunder lacrosse. We let them dictate to us in the third period, we got into their style and we paid the price for it. We’ll come out next game and we’re just going to stick with our game.”
Langley coach Rod Jensen said it was no surprise to see Peterborough recover from the four-goal Thunder run that put them up 9-7 early in the third. “They did what I actually expected them to. They elevated their game, picked each other up and showed why they’re the number one seed in the Mann Cup.” Jensen has been portraying his team as underdogs but he clearly believes they can win the series.
To do so, they’ll need to regroup and get back to playing the intense but intelligent game that characterized their play through the first two wins. “The old bar has swung,” Jensen said. “I did say if we did get up 3-0, even as good as they are…they could come back but it would be pretty tough. Now it’s our turn to see what we’re made of, check out our injuries, make sure we’re fresh, have a good day off tomorrow and be ready to go Wednesday.”
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