Peterborough is the peach when it comes to lacrosse in Canada.
The Ontario city won its 17th Mann Cup national Senior A lacrosse championship, and third consecutive, on Wednesday night at The Q Centre.
The Lakers defeated the Western Lacrosse Association-champion Victoria Shamrocks 7-5 in Game 5 to win the best-of-seven 2019 Mann Cup series 4-1.
It is Ontario’s 13th Mann Cup title in 14 years, a run interrupted by only the Shamrocks in 2015. So this was sweet revenge for the 11 members of the Lakers still around from the 2015 team.
The Shamrocks’ quest to hoist the Mann Cup for the 10th time, in the 70 years of franchise history, was denied. They were left to wonder how such a promising start to the series — a blowout Game 1 victory followed by a three-goal lead late in the third period of Game 2 — turned so suddenly on them.
Credit the Lakers. This is a seriously good team and a deserving three-time national champion. Peterborough won all the small but critical battles, especially on faceoffs and loose balls. Once the tide turned, they never let it revert back to Victoria. Any time Victoria was able to put together a surge, Peterborough answered — and almost instantly.
Peterborough veteran Shawn Evans had two goals Wednesday to advance further into second place on the Mann Cup career points list with 177, behind only all-time leader John Tavares’s 203 Mann Cup points.
“It never gets old,” Evans said.
“There were so many ups and downs this season, but we kept pushing. And Victoria did a great job. That is a great Victoria team and these are great Victoria fans.”
Both goaltenders were outstanding. Pete Dubenski, the WLA playoff MVP, made 47 saves in goal for Victoria. Mike Poulin made 39 saves for Peterborough and was named the Mike Kelly Award winner as 2019 Mann Cup MVP.
“What an honour this is when you see all the great names who have won this award in the past,” said Poulin.
But he said the award should have gone to the upstart Dubenski, who fashioned the comeback story of the year in lacrosse, after rising from playing Senior B last season.
“What that kid [Dubenski] did this season was unbelievable,” said Poulin.
Chris Wardle, Larson Sundown, Tyson Gibson, Graeme Hossack and WLA rookie of the year Chris Boushy scored for Victoria in Game 5.
The score was 6-5 when a highly questionable, and petty considering the circumstances, penalty call for interference against Victoria allowed Peterborough to score on the power play at 15:30 of the third period for the insurance goal. The officiating was a source of verbal outrage for the Shamrocks the entire series.
“I’m extremely disappointed for our guys,” said Shamrocks GM Chris Welch.
“They were not given a chance [by the refereeing]. This was beyond the worst officiating. It was a disgrace. A national championship showcase deserves better. But full credit to Peterborough. They are deserving champions and are a class organization from top to bottom.”
The Shamrocks, already without scoring stars Jesse King for the Mann Cup and Rhys Duch, out all season, took further blows when offensive-threats Tyler Pace and Casey Jackson went out in Tuesday’s 8-6 loss and veteran sniper Chris Wardle on Wednesday with a reported broken wrist after a two-handed slash.
Snipers Josh Fagan and Cole Pickup drew in and indeed provided a pick-up with some sparky play. But in the end, there was simply too much firepower missing from the Victoria line-up to have much of a chance against a big, strong, fast — almost complete — Lakers team.
Even if the Shamrocks did manage to extend the series past Wednesday, it was hard to see how they would have pulled out games six and seven. They simply ran out of bodies and steam.
Peterborough’s 17 Mann Cup championships is second only to the New Westminster Salmonbellies’ 24.
The Lakers completed the first Mann Cup threepeat since the Six Nations Chiefs from 1994 to 1996 and the fourth since the Mann Cup became a national competition in 1926. The record is four consecutive Mann Cup wins, set by Peterborough, from 1951 to 1954. The Lakers will chase that next year.