Now that the Mann Cup has finished, we can wrap up the real lacrosse season with a nice and neat bow. 2011 was the gift that kept giving in Ontario and one that will be tough to top for it's competitiveness at all levels.
The MSL had 4 quality teams and it looked like we might have our first year in 10 without Peterborough vs Brampton. The star-studded Lakers eventually pulled it out in Game 7 over Six Nations and the Excelsiors slammed the door on Brooklin after starting down 2-0 in the series to set up the inevitable. But this time it was the rebuilt squad from Brampton that upset the Lakers to earn a trip to BC. In BC they exerted their defensive will on the host team and won the Mann Cup in 5 games.
The Jr. A league was the most wide open it has been in several years. Whitby and Six Nations were the pre-season favourites but the rebuilding Northmen ran off a serious winning streak to finish first overall. After first round sweeps, the second round set up Whitby vs Nations and Oville vs Peterborough. The Warriors and Arrows series turned on the most improbable comeback victory by Whitby (The half-second miracle as we dubbed it). The Lakers got down in a big hole vs Orangeville before riding the hot goaltending of Tye Belanger to force a Game 7 at the Bunny Barn. Sadly all good fairy tales have an end and the Northmen eeked out a Game 7 W and headed to face Whitby for all the marbles. The final series was marked by some excellent play and wild momentum swings. Whitby won Game 3 on the road to force the pressure which the Northmen handled with great aplomb to force Game 7 back in the friendly confines of Tony Rose. With a trip to Okotoks on the line (will I ever say that again??), Zack Higgins played inspired in the net for two periods to keep his team close. A great third period by Whitby allowed them to secure the 1 goal victory and their boarding passes to Calgary. At the Minto Cup things looked dire after Coquitlam handed the Warriors their lunch in the round robin and also took game 1 of the Best of Three final. Zack Higgins again would provide the difference as he and the unhearalded Warriors D corps shut down Coquitlam in Game 2 and 3 to bring the Minto Cup home to Whitby.
The Jr. B season saw 4 teams seperate themselves as the season wore on. Halton, Six Nations, Elora and the Gaels all met up in the divisional finals. Halton's D shut down the high flying Gaels in the East but Elora could not repeat their 2010 upset of the Rebels who won the West. In the Ontario Final it was a back and forth affair with the Rebels winning Game 4 on the road and Game 5 at home to secure their trip to Saskatoon. In Saskatoon they ran roughshod over their preliminary group before facing a strong Calgary Mountaineers team in the final. In a high scoring contest you take the Nations and they didn't disappoint with a 14-11 victory and the Founders Cup title.
In Minor you saw a tightly contested Midget A Qualifier which saw one unlucky team head home without qualifying after putting together an above .500 record. Ontario swept the Minor Nationals winning Peewee with ease and taking Bantam and Midget in hotly contested matches before a partisan crowd at the Lax Festival.
The only National title not won this yearby Ontario? The Sr. B President's Cup won by St. Regis over the Snake Island Muskies (our favourite name in lax).
The question now? Is this the best season for one province in the history of the game?