The Canadian Box Lacrosse season just came to a close last weekend with the conclusion of an epic Mann Cup final. In a dramatic seven-game series that included four overtime games, the Brampton Excelsiors defeated the New Westminster Salmonbellies. There were a number of Washington Stealth stars playing in the Mann Cup, and leading up to the biggest series in Canadian lacrosse, other Stealth players enjoyed fantastic seasons north of the border.
But before we look at some of the individual statistics, let’s enter the classroom for a brief overview of Canadian Box Lacrosse. The structure of Canadian Box Lacrosse is a relative unknown to the average American lacrosse enthusiast, so here is a little breakdown to help:
NLL players who also play box lacrosse in Canada play in the Senior A division (there are also Senior B, Senior C, Junior A, Junior B and Junior C divisions). In Senior A, there is the Western Lacrosse Association in British Columbia(WLA) and Major Series Lacrosse in Ontario(MSL).
The WLA consists of seven teams in British Columbia: Burnaby Lakers, Coquitlam Adanacs, Langley Thunder, Maple Ridge Burrards, New Westminster Salmonbellies and Victoria Shamrocks.
The MSL also has seven member organizations: Barrie Lakeshores, Brampton Excelsiors, Brooklin Redmen, Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks, Peterborough Lakers, St. Regis Indians and Six Nations Chiefs.
The teams in each league play an 18-game regular season schedule. Each round of the playoffs is a seven-game series, with the champion of each league facing off in the Mann Cup Finals. The WLA playoffs is two rounds, with the top seed facing the fourth seed and the two seed facing the three seed. MSL playoffs consist of three rounds, with six teams squaring off. The top two seeds receive a first round bye, while #3 plays #6 and #4 plays #5.
The Mann Cup is also a seven-game series, played in one city, which alternates between British Columbia and Ontario. It’s a seven game series unlike any other seen in sports. All seven games are hosted by one team. This season, all seven games were in New Westminster. For nine days, the visiting team stays in a hotel and deals with a snoring teammate. The visiting team rides a bus everywhere and eats out at restaurants. Meanwhile, the home team sleeps comfortably in their own beds and eats home cooked meals. The home team gets the comfort of family and friends surrounding them as they prepare to play each night. Imagine the World Series being like that. It would change the complexion of the series. Yet, those are obstacles teams have faced in Canada for decades. It’s just one of the elements of the Mann Cup that makes it a fascinating event. It could be broken down in a 5,000-word article. We’ll save that for another time.
Hopefully, that gives you a sense of the Canadian Box Lacrosse season, now let’s look at how the Stealth players and coaches fit in.
The Victoria Shamrocks finished first in the WLA regular season standings. The Shamrocks Head Coach is Stealth Defensive Coach Art Webster. They feature Stealth forwards Rhys Duch and Luke Wiles and defenseman Curtis Hodgson. Duch followed up his 09 NLL Rookie of the Year campaign with 84 points (43g, 41a) in 18 WLA games. That total was good for second in the WLA and resulted in a second team All-Star nod. Wiles was also a WLA second team All-Star, after finishing with 75 points (38g, 37a) in just 16 games.
The Shamrocks lost in the first round of the playoffs to the fourth seeded Coquitlam Adanacs. Stealth players Peter Veltman, Andrew Biers, Steve McKinlay and recent Portland Dispersal Draft pick Brad MacDonaldare on the Adanacs roster.
The WLA representative in the Mann Cup finals was the New Westminster Salmonbellies, who finished second in the regular season standings. Led by the Stealth goaltending tandem of Tyler Richards and Matt Roik, the Salmonbellies did not lose a game in the WLA playoffs. Richards and Roik were the top two goaltenders in the league, with Richards joining Duch and Wiles on the second team All-Stars. Richards posted a league best 7.55 goals against average and .824 save percentage in ten games. Roik was second to Richards with a 7.71 goals against average and third in the WLA with a .802 save percentage in eleven games. Newlyacquired Portland Dispersal Draft pick, forward Peter Morgan and recently signed defenseman Wade DeWolff are also members of the Salmonbellies squad.
In MSL, Stealth captain Colin Doyle led the Brampton Excelsiors to a first place finish in the regular season standings and ultimately the Mann Cup Championship. Doyle was third on the team in scoring with 61 points (18g, 43a) in just twelve games played. His point total was also good for eighth in MSL. In terms of points per game, Doyle was second in the league with 5.08 points per game.
Doyle and the Excelsiors won their second straight Mann Cup, both against New Westminster. Last year in the Mann Cup played in Brampton, the Excelsiors swept the series. That was not the case this year. Doyle lead the 2009 series with 12 goals. His shorthanded goal with 55 seconds left in the first overtime proved to be the game-winner in the decisive game seven victory. He scored that goal on Stealth teammate and friend Tyler Richards.
The Stealth were represented well in Canadian Box Lacrosse this summer. Despite squaring off against Stealth teammates all summer long, the boys will be back to wear the Red and Black together, working towards the franchise’s first Champion’s Cup in the NLL come May 2010.