Chiefs rebuilt to challenge ‘hungrier’ Lakers
Losing 2017 MSL final sparked need for change as Six Nations transformed its roster to take another shot at Mann Cup
Six Nations Chiefs GM Duane Jacobs knew he had to make some changes after his team lost in the 2017 MSL final to the Peterborough Century 21 Lakers.
A number of players who helped the Chiefs win three Mann Cup titles in four years were starting to get long in the tooth. A younger and quicker Lakers team ran the Chiefs off the floor in five games.
A big off-season trade with Oakville marked a change in course and netted sprinter Ian Mackay. The influx of young talent like goalie Doug Jamieson, Brendan Bomberry and Tyson Bomberry and the use of junior standouts such as Austin Staats and Tehoka Nanticoke helped change the face of the team.
Then big trades to acquire Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson and Chris Cloutier helped the Chiefs, who missed the final for the first time in seven years in 2018, make it back this year against Peterborough.
The two teams are deadlocked at 2-2 heading into Game 5 Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Evinrude Centre. Game 6 is Thursday in
Six Nations. If necessary, Game 7 is Sept. 2 in Peterborough.
“It goes back to 2015 and that series we won,” said Jacobs. “I was thinking about making some changes after that season, but when you win the Mann Cup you want to stick with those guys who won. In 2017, it didn’t work out and we had to get younger.
“We had a big team back then and those guys got older and big guys weren’t readily available. So we went out and got some of the best athletes we could.”
He felt Peterborough was younger, faster and hungrier in 2017.
“As an organization, we want to win just like Peterborough and every team,” Jacobs said. “The guys we brought in last year to start the change and the guys we’ve brought in this year have really gelled together. We’re playing a different style and that’s the style I see everybody going to sooner or later.”
A season-ending injury to Staats in the NLL and an injury to another lefty the Chiefs thought was coming from B.C. forced Jacobs to go after Jackson and Cloutier to shore up the left side.
Lyle Thompson, one of the NLL’s premier scorers, was perhaps the biggest addition.
It’s been a bit of an arm’s race with Peterborough who added Mark Mathews, Joe Resetarits, Kiel Matisz and Mike Poulin in trades.
“We watch what other teams do,” Jacobs said. “We’d been trying to get Lyle for a couple of years and were finally able to do it this year. He’s such a great athlete. He can play both ends of the floor and has such tremendous quickness. He’s got all the offensive skill and is arguably the best lacrosse player out there. He does a lot of everything for us.
Not just the scoring part. He does the little things like loose balls. He’s been a major contributor for us.”
The Chiefs have eight players with pro field lacrosse commitments, so they never had a full lineup in the regular season.
“We had 18 regular season games and had 18 different lineups. We were able to come together. I knew we had a good team. I didn’t really know how good we could be and we still don’t.”
Locker-room chemistry is a big part of success, Jacobs said, and it seems like this group has it.
“The locker room is really good,” said Jacobs.
This is the sixth time in eight years the Lakers and Chiefs have met in the MSL final. Each team has three championships in the past six years. It’s become lacrosse’s biggest rivalry.
“We’ve had some battles over the years and it’s really seemed to pick up over the last decade,” said Jacobs. “It’s good for the fans to see some really good lacrosse. Hopefully, we can continue for a few more years.”
Lyle Thompson, seen pressuring the Lakers’ Brock Sorenson on Aug. 18, is one of the new faces leading a revamped Six Nations Chiefs in the 2019 Major Series Lacrosse Final against the Peterborough Century 21 Lakers. The best-of-seven series is deadlocked 2-2 and continues Tuesday, at 8 p.m. at the Evinrude Centre.