MANN CUP 2019 – A Statistical Review

The 2019 Mann Cup championship series is over and the Peterborough Lakers defeated the Victoria Shamrocks four games to one.  For the Lakers, it is their third consecutive Mann Cup victory.

Winning the series in five games might suggest Peterborough had their way with Victoria.  The numbers presented below reveal just how close the series was.

Game Scores and Goal Differential

The game scores were:

Game 1: Victoria 13 – Peterborough 6

Game 2: Peterborough 12 – Victoria 10 (Overtime Game)

Game 3: Peterborough 9 – Victoria 8

Game 4: Peterborough 8 – Victoria 6

Game 5: Peterborough 7 – Victoria 5

Over five games, the teams each scored 42 goals and allowed an equal number of 42 goals. No apparent edge for either team.

The obvious fact is the closeness of the game scores.  Three of the Lakers’ four wins were by two goals (including one in overtime).  The other Peterborough victory was by one goal.  The lone win by Victoria was a resounding 7 goal victory

Goaltending statistics

This Mann Cup series was blessed with spectacular goaltending.  The MSL veteran Mike Poulin and WLA newcomer Peter Dubenski were phenomenal throughout the series, rarely giving up a soft goal and routinely making outstanding saves.  As the numbers reveal, Dubenski was the busiest of the goalies given that he faced an average of 57 shots per game compared to the 45 shots per game Mike Poulin of the Lakers saw.

Poulin played every single minute (307 minutes and 46 seconds) backstopping all four wins for the Lakers. He faced a total of 226 shots (45 per game), made 185 saves (37 saves per game) and was scored upon 41 times while recording a goals against agverage of 7.99 and a save percentage of .819 (82%). For his success, Poulin was the recipient of the Mike Kelley Award as the Most Valuable Player of the Mann Cup series.

Victoria’s Peter Dubenski was a major reason the Shamrocks won the WLA.  He was the WLA playoff MVP.  His numbers were equally impressive as Poulin’s.  Dubenski played 281 minutes and 55 seconds, faced a total of 283 shots (57 per game), made 241 saves (48 saves per game) and was scored upon 42 times while recording a goals against average of 8.94 and a save percentage of .852 (85%). 

The Shamrocks other goaltender Cody Hagedorn saw limited action playing 24 minutes making 17 saves and giving up zero goals.

Specialty Teams – Advantage to Peterborough

Specialty teams can be the difference between winning and losing a game and/or series.  Peterborough scored 11 times in 26 power plays for a 42.3% success rate.  Victoria scored 10 times on 27 power plays for a 37% success rate.

In regards to team success while killing penalties – once again, the Peterborough team was more efficient than Victoria.  The Lakers gave up 10 goals while short-handed 27 times in the series for a penalty kill success rate of 63%.  In comparison, Victoria gave up 11 goals while short-handed 26 times for a penalty kill success of 58%.

Face-offs – Possession of the Ball

This was an aspect of each game of the series that Peterborough dominated.  Over the course of the series, the Lakers won 71 of 101 face-offs for a 70% success rate.  Winning 7 out of 10 draws means significantly more times Peterborough had immediate possession of the ball.

Swings in Momentum

Lacrosse is known for its changes of momentum.  It is not uncommon to be trailing by 2 or more goals and recover with a goal scoring run to take a lead.  Swings in momentum were common in the 2019 Mann Cup series. Without detailing every period of every game (your eyes would likely glaze over with such detail), there were countless swings in momentum in each and every game.  Teams took turns in having runs of scoring two or three goals in short time spans.  Such momentum swings in lacrosse keeps fans on the edge of their seats - Always giving hope their team can recover and come back.  Or conversely, result in head shaking disappointment – How could our team lose when it appeared, they had control of the game?

Leading Individual Scorers

The Lakers’ Shawn Evans scored 6 goals and added 14 assists for a total of 20 points to lead all players.  Line-mate Kyle Buchanan also scored 6 goals while notching 12 assists for a total of 18 points and second place in the Mann Cup scoring.

The next closest point producers were three members of the Shamrocks -  Tyson Gibson (15 points – 5 goals; 10 assists);  Chris Boushy (14 points – 8 goals; 6 assists) and Connor Robinson (14 points – 5 goals; 9 assists).

In terms of goals scored by individual players, Chris Boushy and Chris Wardle from Victoria each netted 8 goals. Peterborough’s Shawn Evans and Kyle Buchanan found the mesh 6 times each.

Who were the shooters?

Not surprisingly, the Mann Cup leading point getter Shawn Evans of Peterborough took the most shots with 46 (9.2 shots per game).  Second was teammate Holden Cattoni (40) and Kyle Buchanan (32).  Victoria’s Casey Jackson led the Shamrocks with 33 shots followed by team-mate Connor Robinson at 32.

Penalty Minutes Leaders

There was plenty of physical action in this series.  Players flying about hitting the surface was a common sight.  The most penalized players in this Mann Cup were Peterborough’s Chad Tutton with 15 minutes and Victoria’s Greg Harnett and Ben McCullough with 10 minutes each.  The Lakers’ Bryce Sweeting was also assessed 10 minutes in penalties. This Mann Cup series had no fights, plenty of hard hitting, but no fisticuffs.

Concluding Comments

Statistics can be interesting and insightful to examine, particularly when analyzing the outcome of a sporting event.  The numbers provide evidence often proving what the fans felt they observed.  For example, watching games in this series, it was obvious Shamrocks’ goaltender Pete Dubenski was facing more shots than Mike Poulin.  Or given Shawn Evans led the Mann Cup scoring, it is not surprising that he took the most shots.

The more insightful information that might escape the average fan is the raw data related to specialty teams.  The Lakers were more successful than the Shamrocks (42% vs. 37%) on the powerplay.  Given the teams had similar opportunities on the powerplay (Peterborough 11 and Victoria 10), it is this close margin of success that means the difference between winning and losing.

A similar case can be presented regarding penalty killing success – Peterborough had a 63% success rate killing off penalties whereas Victoria was lower at 58% - not a huge difference, but in a series where the margin of victory in three games for Peterborough was 2 goals and in the other victory only 1 goal, the difference between the two teams while killing penalties is significant. 

The one area of the series where Peterborough dominated was face-offs with the Lakers winning 70% of the face-off.  This meant more opportunities for Peterborough to score.  Having possession of the ball creates offensive chances, along with knowing the other team cannot score, when your team has possession of the ball.

Unfortunately, loose ball data is not available.  It is often believed, the team that wins the majority of loose balls usually wins the game.  It truly is about possession.  The best defence is possession of the ball.  If team A has the ball, team B cannot score.

The one aspect of this Mann Cup where the numbers are exceptionally close is goaltending statistics.  Pete Dubenski had a better save percentage than Mike Poulin (85% vs. 82%).  However, Mike Poulin had a better goals against average (7.99 vs. 8.94).  And that number is critical – based upon the individual goaltender’s goals against average - Victoria scored 8 goals a game, compared to Peterborough’s 9 goals a game.  It cannot be any closer than that.

Again, statistics may seem frivolous to some.  Very meaningful and useful to others.  A well-known sports cliché is that “statistics are for losers”.  The outcome of this series would support the opposite.  The data provides vital evidence of why the Lakers were victorious - they won more face-offs; took more shots; had more players scoring; were better on the power-play; better on the penalty-kill; and gave up less goals and scored just a wee bit more than Victoria when it mattered – essentially 9 goals to 8 per game (8.94 goals per game vs. 7.99) resulting in winning the series.

Statistics aside and the information they uncover – this series had incredible pace and constant entertaining action which is what fans want.  Certainly, the Victoria fans were disappointed and the Peterborough fans pleased with the final result.

Walking the corridors of the Q Arena after each game Victoria lost, the disappointment in the faces of the Shamrocks’ fans was obvious.  For the Victoria coaches, their persistent belief and public outcry they were shortchanged by the referees does not bear fruit.  The teams had almost equal number of powerplays.  Statistically, the reality is - Peterborough dominated the face-offs and were more efficient on the speciality teams.  Something statistics cannot account for - Peterborough had a wealth of experience on their roster.  The 2019 Victoria Shamrocks are a very good lacrosse team.  However, the Peterborough Lakers are better, perhaps only marginally better, but better.