By Sam Laskaris

Members of the Brooklin Lacrosse Club and Peterborough Lakers are going to be seeing quite a bit of each other in the coming weeks.

The Major Series Lacrosse (MSL) rivals kicked off a pair of home-and-home games on Wednesday in Whitby, which will complete their regular season schedules.

The regular season comes to an end for both squads on Thursday as the Lakers will host Brooklin in an 8 pm match at the Memorial Centre in Peterborough.

The two clubs will then also square off in a best-of-seven MSL semi-final series, which is expected to begin as early as Monday.

That means Brooklin and Peterborough could potentially end up playing nine straight games against each other.

“I’m already sick of them,” Brooklin veteran defender John LaFontaine said on Wednesday after his squad defeated the Lakers 13-10 in a match staged at the Iroquois Park Sports Centre in Whitby.

LaFontaine isn’t expecting many surprises in the playoff series against Peterborough.

“We know what they have and they know what we have,” he said. “And I think it’s just going to come down to who wants it more.”

Despite the fact they already know they will be squaring off in the MSL semi-finals, the final two regular season contests for both squads do have some meaning.

Brooklin and Peterborough are still jostling for second and third place in the standings.

With Wednesday’s triumph, Brooklin improved its record to 6-4-1 and moved into second place, one point ahead of the 6-5-0 Lakers.

Thus, Thursday’s outing in Peterborough will decide which squad will have home-floor advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

- Photo by Michael Laskaris

The Six Nations Chiefs, who finished atop the MSL standings with an 8-3-1 record, will face the fourth-place Cobourg Kodiaks (2-10-0) in the other best-of-seven semi-final.

LaFontaine would love to see his squad win again on Thursday.

“It means a lot,” he said of home floor advantage for the playoffs. “More so against them. They’re going to pack their arena. It’s a tough place to play. So, if we get that little bit of an advantage, we’ll take it.”

As for Brooklin head coach Jason Crosbie he doesn’t believe where the matches will be held in the Brooklin/Peterborough series will be a major factor.

“It’s just a bench thing,” he said. “That’s about it. They’re comfortable in their barn and their benches and how they run off the benches. We’re comfortable here with our benches.

“They’re not going to be worried about home-court. They play a certain way. They play hard and they’re a good team. But we’re a good team as well. I think we’ve proved that throughout the year and it’s going to be a battle.”

If Wednesday’s contest is any indication, the upcoming playoff series could potentially also be a physical and nasty one. A total of five players were ejected from the match for their indiscretions.

“That’s just lacrosse,” Brooklin forward Connor Kearnan, who had a game-high seven points (four goals, three assists) said of the aggressive play. “It’s just the Peterborough/Brooklin rivalry and it’s been going on for years and I’m sure it will never change. It’s just part of lacrosse and we all embrace it. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Kearnan also likes the fact his squad is one that needs to be taken seriously this season.

“We’re proving that we’re a team that can be reckoned with,” he said. “We’re right there with the best of the best and we’re proving that.”

Members of the Brooklin club don’t seem to be the least bit fazed competing against the Lakers, who won three consecutive national Mann Cup championships from 2017-19. The Canadian championship was not awarded in 2020 or last year because of the pandemic.

“We’ve got a youthful group in there, a lot of guys that are hungry,” Kearnan said. “(Peterborough) is a veteran team. We’re young and we’re hungry and we want to win every time we’re out there. I think we’re going to ride off of that going into the playoffs.”

LaFontaine, who is 32, is pleased to see Brooklin, a franchise which was rebuilding in recent years, enjoying success in 2022.

“It’s weird looking down the end of the bench,” he said. “I’m the old guy. It feels like I’m the old guy too. But we’ve got a lot of young talent and a lot of heart in that room and I’m happy to be a part of this group.”

Crosbie believes his charges have been sending messages to league opponents throughout the season. And they did so again on Wednesday versus the Lakers.

“You’ve always got to make sure they understand we’re not going away,” he said. “We’re going to fight until the end. We’re a resilient group. We’re a young group but we’re resilient and we’ve got a lot of character. We’re going to keep fighting and keep going.”

Like Kearnan, Dyson Williams also scored four goals for Brooklin on Wednesday. Luke Pilcher netted a pair of goals while Ryan Lanchbury, Austin Murphy and Ryan Barnable provided singles.

Lanchbury also picked up five assists while Murphy had three helpers.

Meanwhile, Riley Hutchcraft made 35 saves and picked up the W between the pipes for Brooklin.

For Peterborough, Kiel Matisz had a hat trick while Carson Moyer chipped in with a pair.

Matt Gilray, Shawn Evans, Holden Cattoni, Taite Cattoni and Keaton Zavitz had the other Peterborough goals.