The Peterborough Century 21 Lakers may have been paying tribute to their 2017 Mann Cup win on Thursday night, but the 10-8 win over the Brampton Excelsiors showed that they’re very much ready to move on to actively defending their title, rather than just exalting in it. As in Monday’s season opener, it was the newcomers on the roster who made the most noise.

Corey Small led all Lakers’ scorers with three goals and an assist. Andrew Suitor went 7-10 on faceoffs, and Doug Buchan made 52 saves. Tyler Gaulton and Jordan Stouros played steady defense, Chad Tutton jumped in to help a shorthanded left side, and Dan Michel scored twice and added two assists. Michel, the former Jr. Lakers captain, was protected by the senior team upon his graduation last season, but played his first year with the WLA’s Nanaimo Timbermen when the Lakers couldn’t give him a roster spot. He’ll split time between the Lakers and the Ennismore James Gang this summer.

“[Our lineup] will be a work in progress for a while,” said head coach Mike Hasen. “Guys will filter back in and out. [Tutton] did a good job up there and [Michel] got rewarded being a call-up as well. He’s gonna get a good opportunity here for the next few weeks. He was in there banging around and he was listening to what TK was telling him.”  Small was happy with his first game in his new home arena, and glad he could contribute on the scoresheet. Two goals 58 seconds apart in the first period erased a 1-0 deficit, and his hat trick goal in the third period proved to be the game winner. “I’ve always been the type of player that scores in bunches so it’s not uncommon for me to get two in a row then get shut out for a period,” he chuckled. “Hopefully I can spread those out a little more. I want to come in and be able to produce here because that’s the reason they brought me in.”

Under the championship banner, through 40 minutes, the Lakers and Excelsiors played nothing but stingy lacrosse. After Small got the Lakers rolling, Shawn Evans found Michel on Brampton’s doorstep to put the Lakers up 3-1. Michel made a concerted effort to avoid the crease as he tucked the ball past Nolan Clayton. Later, Kyle Buchanan ran in undefended to put a jumper past the goalie. Brampton scored with two seconds left to cut the Lakers’ lead to 4-3. Peterborough scored the only two goals of the second period. Jake Fox tiptoed around the crease for his second goal of the season. Michel’s second goal of the game came as Evans successfully implemented a hidden-ball trick.

Buchan held the Excelsiors to three goals through the first 40 minutes, an impressive start for the onetime Oakville Rock net minder. With Buchan in net, you’d hardly know that 12 regulars were missing from the lineup from the way the team is playing, especially the defense, who is making the goalie’s job easier. “The defense is great – they’re fast, physical and mean,” he said. “They’re adapting to the way I play. They’re doing anything - blocking shots, getting loose balls, all the key things that come big in playoff time.”

Indeed, it was the Lakers’ defense – and ensuing transition game – that was the difference late in the game. Trailing 6-4, the Excelsiors scored two goals in five seconds – the second right off a clean faceoff win by Drake Bennett – to tie the game at 11:29. Nick Weiss then said “I can do that, too,” and won the following faceoff and scored his own goal to put the Lakers back on top. Mark Steenhuis scored a bouncer on a long pass from Robert Hope to redeem himself after running into the crease on a shorthanded rush.

Small said the team already has confidence and that made an impact late in the game. “If they get two, it doesn’t mean we can’t get two,” he said frankly. “Weisser did a good job getting that first goal coming back on the faceoff right away and that makes a big difference for us. Instead of two goals compounding into three or four we shut it off right away and got one right away.” Buchan breathed a sigh of relief when Weiss scored. “They quieted the crowd,” he said of the Excelsiors’ quick goals. “A weak goal off the faceoff, that was on me, but Weiss was there to pick me up. The fans were there to pick me up and so was the offense, they picked me up with a couple big goals late.”

Held goalless for nearly 117 minutes of play, Evans finally scored his first of the season into the empty net to give the Lakers some insurance. Phil Caputo and Bennett Drake each had a pair of goals for Brampton. Captain Mike Burke contributed five assists. Clayton made 45 saves in a losing effort. The Wiser's player of the game was Small, while Steenhuis picked up the 180 Hunter defensive player of the game honour.

The win moves the Lakers to 1-1 on the young season as they head into a home-and-home next week with the Six Nations Chiefs, who the Lakers defeated in five games last season to earn their berth in the Mann Cup.

(printed with permission of Anna Taylor - Peterborough Lakers reporter)