The six-team Great Lakes Division enjoyed a great battle for the top spot in 2017, but it was a repeat result for one lucky team.
The Michigan Bucks cemented their place atop the Great Lakes Division for the fourth consecutive season, finishing above second-place K-W United, though neither team was able to claim the PDL Championship for the division.
Here's a closer look at the Great Lakes Division Season in Review.
Photo by Cincinnati Dutch Lions
Record: 5-6-3, +1 GD
Great Lakes Division Finish: 4th
MVP: Zues de la Paz - 0.91 GAA, 77.4 save percentage
In the difficult Great Lakes Division, the Cincinnati Dutch Lions just barely found themselves on the wrong side of .500 with their 5-6-3 record. The Dutch Lions were up and down through the opening half of the season, winning two and losing four in alternating fashion in their first six matches. The team found a good form over their next four, winning three of four to boost themselves back into the playoff hunt. However, the last four matches wouldn’t go as planned, as three draws and a loss would keep them from postseason contention. Offensively, the team had a slightly below-average season, finishing with 17 total goals. Jesse Dingjan led the team in attack, scoring four goals and recording two assists to lead the team in both categories. Following closely behind were Austin Smythe, Ryan Melink and Samson Sergi, who each contributed three goals to the Dutch Lions offensive output. Defensively the team were far more impressive, allowing only 16 goals over their 14 matches. In goal, Zeus de la Paz was a wall, making 41 saves on 53 shots on target and allowing only 12 past him for a 0.91 goals-against average.
Photo by Dayton Dutch Lions
Record: 4-7-3, -12 GD
Great Lakes Division Finish: 5th
MVP: Michael Yantz - 1.27 GAA, 83.7 save percentage
The Dayton Dutch Lions had a similar season to their identically-named Cincinnati rivals, with offensive struggles and a better defense leading to a sub-par season in the Great Lakes Division. The Dayton Dutch Lions started their season a bit better, with two consecutive wins to open the season, including handing the Michigan Bucks their sole loss in their 2017 campaign. The next three would prove more difficult, however, as three straight losses derailed the good start. There were signs of finding their form again as they then took two of three immediately thereafter, but it wouldn’t last. Dayton would draw or lose its last six to drop them down the table and ultimately into fourth place in 2017. The team had a very difficult time in attack, managing only 10 goals on the year. Glenn van Geldorp, Kurt Raney and Cameron Philpot, each of whom played all 14 matches, were the only players to score multiple goals. Defensively the story was better with an acceptable 22 goals allowed over 14 matches. In goal Michael Yantz did everything he could to keep Dayton in contention, making an astounding 82 saves for an 83.7 save percentage. While 16 goals did get past him, Yantz was good for an impressive 1.27 goals-against average.
Photo by Derby City Rovers
Record: 1-11-2, -23 GD
Great Lakes Division Finish: 6th
MVP: Yudai Tashiro - 2 goals, 1 assist
The Derby City Rovers struggled through a difficult 2017 season, having issues in attack and defense to ultimately wind up in sixth in both categories and in the standings overall. The team managed to start the season with some positives, drawing their opener against the West Virginia Chaos and beating the Cincinnati Dutch Lions in their fourth game. However, the win over the Dutch Lions would prove to be their lone victory of the season, as the team would go winless over its last 10. The 0-9-1 record would drop the team down to dead-last, though their lone draw in that span came against the Michigan Bucks, a shocking result for the eventual division-winners. Much of the team’s issues came from a lack of production, as the Rovers managed only eight goals over the 14-match season. Yudai Tashiro, with two goals and an assist, and Ahmed Osman, with two goals, were the only players to score multiple times in 2017. The story wasn’t much better defensively, as the team allowed a division-high 31 goals. Chandler Gaunce and Braeden Luna split most of the time in goal, allowing 12 goals apiece with each keeper having a goals-against average of over 2.0.
Photo by K-W United FC
Record: 9-4-1, +18 GD
Great Lakes Division Finish: 2nd
Playoffs: Lost in Central Conference Semifinals
MVP: Wesley Cain - 4 goals, 4 assists
K-W United FC enjoyed a stellar 2017 season that ultimately concluded with them in second place in the Great Lakes division and in the PDL playoffs. The team actually dropped its first match against the Michigan Bucks, but would quickly make up for it with a string of seven wins, five of which came via shutout. It appeared that K-W United were on a fast-track for a division title after that run, but the team’s final six matches wouldn’t go as planned. Over that span, the team went 2-3-1 and found themselves unable to keep pace with the Bucks, who would go on to win the division. K-W United did make the playoffs, but would fall in the Central Conference semifinals to the eventual PDL runner-up Thunder Bay Chill. Offensively and defensively, the team firmly established themselves as one of the best in the division, scoring a division-high 31 goals and trailing only the Bucks with just 13 goals allowed. Wesley Cain led the way in attack, scoring four goals and assisting four others. Sameer Fathazada also put together a notable season, scoring a team-high six goals and recording two assists as well. In goal, Dayne St Clair and Scott Levene split time, with each posting a very impressive goals-against average of under 1.0.
Photo by Michigan Bucks
Record: 10-1-3, +22 GD
Great Lakes Division Finish: 1st
Playoffs: Lost in Central Conference Semifinals
MVP: Drew Shepherd - 0.67 GAA, 84.1 save percentage
The 2017 season couldn’t have gone much better for the Michigan Bucks, as their 10-1-3 record was good enough to leave them alone atop the Great Lakes Division as champions. The Bucks put together a very consistent season, only once going two weeks without a win when they took two draws from Chicago FC United and the Derby City Rovers. Their three wins over K-W United FC proved to ultimately be the difference in the division, as a few swings in those results could’ve seen their opponents take the top spot. The team wouldn’t keep their good run going in the playoffs, however, as they fell in the Central Conference Semifinals to the Des Moines Menace. The Bucks were the best offensive and defensive team in the division, with 31 goals scored and an incredible 9 goals allowed over 14 matches. In attack Jacob Bevan led the team with seven goals and one assist over 13 appearances. He was joined by Austin Ricci and Andre Landell, who both provided five goals and one assist each. Jared Timmer led the team with seven assists, followed closely by Tom Owens with six. In goal, Drew Shepherd was unbelievably impressive while playing the majority of time in net, allowing only seven goals for a 0.67 goals-against average and an 84.1 save percentage. Anthony Mwembia was no slouch in the remaining time, allowing just two goals in three appearances for a 0.80 goals-against average.
Photo by West Virginia Chaos
Record: 7-6-1, -5 GD
Great Lakes Division Finish: 3rd
MVP: Eddy Milien - 8 goals, 3 assists
The West Virginia Chaos started slowly in 2017, but showed the power of battling through and closed out their season on a very high note to climb to a third-place finish. The team opened their first five matches in below-average form, going 1-3-1 in that span with the lone win coming against the Cincinnati Dutch Lions. While not a good start, it would improve slightly over the next five matches as the team went 2-3-0 including back-to-back wins over the Dayton Dutch Lions and Tri-Cities Otters. The last four matches would prove to be the highlight though, as the team won all four in succession to close out their regular season. Though finishing just shy of the playoffs, it was a performance of which the Chaos could be proud. The team was fairly good on the offensive end, with its 22 goals trailing only the Bucks and K-W United FC. Eddy Milien led the team on that end, with eight goals and three assists to contribute to half of the team’s total. Jesus Ibarra, with five goals and two assists, and Kevin Nadeau, with three goals and one assist, also contributed in a big way. Defensively the team struggled, allowing a second-worst 27 goals. Kieran Harrison started in net the majority of the time and performed admirably, posting a 1.83 goals-against average while maintaining an 80.5 save percentage. His 91 saves were good for top in the division.