New Westminster- For the first time since 2012, the Peterborough Lakers are the Mann Cup champions; as they overpowered the New Westminster Salmonbellies 14-10 in game 6 of the Canadian National Men’s Lacrosse Championships.
Friday night was do or die for New Westminster, as they knew there was no tomorrow and tried to force a deciding game seven. Peterborough had dropped the first two games of the series but won three games in as many nights to get the first shot at hoisting the 107 year old trophy.
Five years ago, the Lakers last won the Mann Cup in similar fashion falling down 2-0 to the Langley Thunder before winning the next four games. Friday, they were looking to repeat history and Shawn Evans was doing his part in the opening period. As the teams alternated goals through the first twenty minutes, it was Evans’ hat-trick goal with under four minutes to play in the period, that would give the Lakers a 5-3 lead.
A two goal deficit meant it wasn’t exactly time to panic for New Westminster, but they couldn't afford to let the veteran Peterborough team gain any early momentum. That didn’t happen. Evans got his fourth of the night thirty seconds in, starting a three goal run over the first four minutes. Kevin Crowley would get his first to try and stop the bleeding but every time the Bellies would score, the Lakers had an answer. “It was a grind,” said Lakers Head Coach Mike Hasen after the game, “New West gave us all we could hand and more.”
Peterborough extender their two goal lead from the first to five and were twenty minutes away from the 15th Mann Cup title. Mitch Jones would get his second of the game ninety seconds into the third and there was life for New Westminster. Jones finished the night with six points, giving him a series high and propelling him passed Evans and Josh Sanderson for most points in a Mann Cup with 39. It unfortunately would come in a losing effort.
After Adam Jones restored the five goal Peterborough lead, Logan Schuss and Crowley scored four of the next five and there was life in the Salmonbellies, who had been fighting upstream all game long. With five minutes left and trailing by just two, New Westminster did all the could to not give up another goal but when Evans scored his fifth of the night, the Salmonbellies had only one option.; fire everything at the net.
Evan Kirk, ended the night with 47 saves, and was at his best late in the final seconds as New Westminster set up the 6on5 shooting gallery. When Lakers’ captain Robert Hope slammed home an empty net goal with 1:40 left, the celebrations were on.
Hasen, who has won the Mann Cup both as a player and a coach, enjoyed being able to see some of his top players, win their first. “I’m proud of V (Matt Vinc) for finally getting to raise the cup. Dickson carried us at times and Jones as well.
“But 88 (Shawn Evans) is a big game player and came through for us at that moment when we needed him.” Evans would be named the Mike Kelley Award winner as the series MVP. The Peterborough native picked up his 5th Mann Cup title and finished the series with a team high 30pts.
This series pitted two great defences do everything they could to not give way to an abundance of talent on both teams. If they series had gone to a seventh and final game, we could easily have seen Schuss (33pts), Crowley (32), Evans, Adam Jones (29) and Dickson (27) break the 34pt record that Mitch Jones did. Those six guys put on an absolute clinic on scoring productivity.
For the Salmonbellies, it’s never easy to watch your opponent celebrate on your own floor but they left it all out there in front of their home fans. They have nothing to hang their heads about. This was a team that not many gave hope to in this series and in the end, they were full value all series. They represented themselves, their organization, the city of New Westminster and the WLA with class and dignity. With all the history that surrounds Queens Park Arena and all the legends that walk those halls every game, it truly would have been nice to see this group pull it off. Alas, the elusive 25th Mann Cup remains but a dream for the most storied lacrosse club in the world. This lose hurts now and will sting for quite some time. The good thing is, most of them were playing in their first ever Mann Cup, so the lessons learned will be ever valuable down the road and they will be back.
But for now, the 107th Mann Cup Championships will rein from Peterborough for the 15th time.