Jr. Shamrocks draw Salmonbellies for opening round of playoffs

Victoria Shamrocks enter as the final seed in the Jr. A lacrosse playoffs

Victoria junior Shamrocks player Conrad Chapman

Game 1: Saturday, July 14 at Queen's Park Arena - Start Time 5 p.m.Game 2: Sunday, July 15 at Panorama Arena - Start Time 5 p.m.Game 3: Tuesday, July 17 at Queen's Park Arena - Start Time 5 p.m. (If necessary)

Coach Larry Smeltzer wants to believe his team will come together in the playoffs.

The Victoria Shamrocks are the sixth and final seed to qualify for the B.C. Junior Lacrosse League postseason, drawing the third-place New Westminster Salmonbellies.

“(Hockey’s) Los Angeles Kings were the final seed and they (won the Stanley Cup),” Smeltzer said.

“Are we the Los Angeles of our league? We just need to come together at the right time.”

The stage is certainly set, as the Shamrocks will open the first-round series on the road against the Salmonbellies, 5 p.m. at Queen’s Park Arena on Saturday.

New West won all three meetings this year, 9-7 at Bear Mountain Arena, and 12-4 and 10-9 at Queen’s arena.

“It’s funny, we didn’t beat (New West) but we still hoped we would get them (in the playoffs),” Smeltzer said. “We feel they felt they were lucky to beat us. And the games are more predictable from our perspective.”

There is a lingering expectation that the core of this Shamrocks team, which won the 2010 provincial intermediate-A championship, will one day make a similar run at the junior A level.

But time is running out, as the core of the squad is 20 years old, and next year will be its last.

The team is talented offensively, second overall in goals scored with 209. There’s also been a series of tweaks to Smeltzer’s old-is-new-again system. To start the season, all players were responsible for offence and defence, as Smeltzer moved away from the current trend of the day, which is to lean heavily on specialized players. Instead, he emphasized fast breaks and taking advantage of the other team’s line changes.

The fast break has continued, but the Rocks now use a hybrid system of sorts.

“Sometimes we change it up period to period, and sometimes parts of (the new) system are quite hidden,” Smeltzer said. “But we’re tied for the most short handed goals (21), goalie (Cody Hagedorn) has 20 assists, and we’ve scored lots of goals on the breakout, so it’s there.”

The Shamrocks ended the regular season with a 14-11 road loss to the first-place Coquitlam Adanacs on Sunday.

Coquitlam put the Shamrocks under the gun from the start with a 7-1 lead in the first period. It looked like the Shamrocks had already lost when Brody Eastwood scored a hat trick and the Rocks stormed back to outscore the Adanacs 7-3 in the second period. The Adanacs’ lead slipped to 10-9 in the third period before they scored four more.

“It’s not uncommon for us, and we’re beyond panicking because of it, though sometimes we get in trouble,” Smeltzer said.

It’s not ideal, but isn’t from a lack of preparation, the coach added.

It also happened in the Rocks last game in New West. After two periods, New West led 9-4. The Rocks scored five goals in the third period and New West scored once to win the game.

“As the season went on we’ve pulled it together, and if we play our game plan we’ll be fine,” Smeltzer said.

Adam Brown, Brody Eastwood and Devon Casey finish the season as the sixth, seventh and ninth overall scorers in the league, respectively.

Transition player Jesse King will miss the first round of the playoffs with Team Canada at the under-19 world field lacrosse championships in Finland, July 12 to 21.