Here is our no muss, no fuss first round playoff preview for the Ontario Jr A league.
#1 Six Nations Arrows vs #8 KW Braves
Expect lots of goals with Dhane Smith (KW) and Johnny Powless (Six Nations) in this series. They finished 1-2 in scoring this season with Smith also leading the league in goals with 61.
Can KW get any scoring beyond their big 3 players? Can Kyle Jackson rebound from a sub-par year to be the dynamic goal scorer he was in 2012? These two questions will go a long way to answering whether the Braves can sneak a victory out of this series.
For Six Nations:
How long will Randy Staats be out of the lineup? Are Josh Johnson and and Brendan Bomberry truly ready to assume more of the scoring load for the Arrows? Against the Braves we will just start finding out about the boys in Orange but we think a positive answer to the second question will be more important for Six Nations' Minto travel plans during the playoffs. (not to discount the impact that a healthy Randy Staats can have to the Arrows)
Best guess result: Arrows in 3 games but all relatively close because of KW's Big 3.
#2 Whitby Warriors vs #7 Barrie Lakeshores
These two teams gave you the opposite sides of the story "A Tale of Two Seasons". Barrie started fast and ultimately settled down into 7th spot by the end of the season. Whitby started slow and then kept winning and winning their way to second place.
Will Whitlow, Craig and Murphy find any room against the suffocating Warriors defense? How will the Lakeshores handle their first playoff action in a few years? Barrie is young and hungry but this may have been the worst possible matchup for them in the ultra-experienced Warriors.
After winning their final 8 games, will Whitby underestimate the gritty Lakeshores? Is O'Connor to Lintner the best high-low pairing in Jr A Lacrosse? The depth and speed game of Whitby gives plenty of teams trouble and look for it to also bother Barrie.
Best Guess result: A testy series but we will take the tested Warriors in a sweep over the kiddie corps in Barrie.
#3 Burlington Chiefs vs #6 Peterborough Lakers
Hands up those of you that thought at the start of the season this could be a playoff matchup AND Peterborough would be the 6 seed? As expected, not many hands up. However it is what we got and what a series to look forward to and our pick as most compelling first round series.
Do they have the horses beyond Turner Evans to score enough goals on the road? Will the playoffs be the beginning of a run or the merciful end to an indifferent season? The Lakers need to control the tempo and slow down the speedy Chiefs in order to have a chance. If they can do it and muck up the game a bit then this becomes a real chess match and it helps to have one of the top 5 players in the league (Evans) on your side.
How long will Bryan Cole be out? Can the Chiefs dictate tempo on the road like they do at home? Cole is a key transition player for Burlington and in their final game of the season he was ejected with a Match Penalty. The longer he is out the more difficult it will be for the Chiefs to push the pace. Burlington finished 8-2 at home this season and scored at will vs the slow it down Lakers in two regular season games.
Best guess result: Peterborough slows down the Chiefs at times but cannot do it full time and Burlington runs to a 4 game victory.
#4 Brampton Excelsiors vs #5 Orangeville Northmen
This is the series that both teams wanted and they got it. This has all the hallmarks of the roughest and nastiest series with plenty of animosity built up over the past 4 years.
Who will provide scoring beyond Rob Hellyer? Is Mike Fournier ready to assume the title as "Northmen Starting Goalie"? Beyond Rob Hellyer, the Northmen have a bevy of solid players but no one that can take over a game when it matters most. They will need inspired performances from the secondary players to have a chance. Fournier will also need to make key saves against the high powered Excelsiors... Orangeville has had a run of really strong goaltending but does it end in 2013?
How healthy is Shane MacDonald? Can anyone survive after playing in the two hottest arenas in Lacrosse? The health of MacDonald will be a real key for the Excelsiors. He played the final 4 games but had minimal impact on the score sheet. Brampton needs him to be near 100% to become truly dangerous on offense. Also if you a fan of either team, bring a fan to the games. You will thank us later.
Best guess result: The Bunny Barn ghosts scare up a Northmen victory in Game 2 but Brampton's offense proves too much and lead them to a 4 game series win.