With hundreds of fans still lingering around The Q Centre, drinking in the jubilation of the Victoria Shamrocks’ ninth Mann Cup lacrosse win and first since 2005, Karsen Leung gave a shoutout to his team’s supporters.
“We fought so hard through the series; we’re exhausted; but just having these guys here getting loud it helps out so much,” he said after scoring twice in the Rocks’ series-clinching 12-6 win over the Peterborough Lakers in game six Friday. “We look forward to playing in front of these guys all the time. It’s a special feeling right now.”
Leung, one of a number of Shamrocks players who learned the game as kids in Greater Victoria, dedicated the win to the whole Victoria community.
“Ever since we were in Mann Cup 2013 (in Colwood), everyone’s been pushing me, pushing our team to keep going, keep going. And this is it, we finally did it.”
Up against a tough Lakers squad that wouldn’t go quietly – Peterborough trailed 4-0 after one and 5-1 in the second Friday but pulled within two, 6-4, by the end of the period – a fired-up Shamrocks team came out guns blazing in the third.
Jesse King scored his seventh and eighth goals of the series, 30 seconds in and at the 4:45 mark to make it 8-4, and team captain Scott Ranger added to the lead 32 seconds later.
While the Lakers’ Turner Evans returned the favour less than a minute afterward to cut the gap to 9-5, Peterborough never really recovered from the early onslaught and the Shamrocks’ defenders and transition players clamped down further.
“Our defence has really been the core of our team, I think, throughout the whole year, King said after receiving a huge hug from his dad, Lorne. “Seeing them battle is just amazing and I like to return the favour once in a while. I think they enjoy that as well so I just try to feed off them.”
Fellow attacker Dan Dawson, who earned his sixth Mann Cup title and piled up a Cup record-tying eight assists on the night quarterbacking the offence, said the Shamrocks responded well to the Lakers’ mid-game threat.
“They were answering — they got within three goals, and then got it within two, it was a scary thing,” he said. “So our transition, our defence won us that Mann Cup, no doubt.”
Dawson, who heads to New York this week to captain Team Canada at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, had a huge smile on his face as he cradled four-month-old son, Theo, and watched his teammates share Cup time with each other and their families.
“It’s a young group we’ve got. (I’m) reflecting; when they grab the Cup over their heads, that’s what it’s all about. Seeing the joy and the excitement in the guys raising the Cup for the first time, it never gets old.”
While the Rocks appeared to have more energy than the Lakers down the stretch Friday, Peterborough head coach Mike Hasen didn’t make excuses for his team.
“Our guys were ready for this tonight … That’s what the Mann Cup is, it’s a grind and both teams have to go through it,” he said. “(The Shamrocks) came out with a purpose and a pop in their step and we did our best to match it, and at the end of the day we came a little bit short.”
Corey Small scored a game-high three goals, added an assist and was awarded the Mike Kelly Memorial Trophy for his efforts as Mann Cup most valuable player. He led all players with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in the six games.
Also scoring for the winners were Daryl Veltman and Rhys Duch, and defenders Bradley Kri and Tyler Hass. Other goal scorers for Peterborough were Curtis Dickson, Brad Self, Mark Farthing, Scott Evans and Chad Tutton.
Victoria outshot the Lakers 45-37 on the night, with the Rocks’ Aaron Bold and Peterborough’s Matt Vinc going the distance.
The building of a champion
The management of the Victoria Shamrocks, along with head coach Bob Heyes and his staff, set themselves a goal last fall after losing a second straight Mann Cup final to the Six Nations Chiefs.
They looked at what past Cup winners had in common, what their team already had going for it and what it was missing, with the idea of building a roster that could not just compete for the Cup, but go all the way.
They accomplished that in spades this season, winning the Western Lacrosse Association regular season and playoff crowns and downing the Peterborough Lakers 4-2 in this year’s Mann Cup.
Along the way they went 12-2 in the post-season, outscoring their opponents 151-96.
“We brought guys in who could help show us the way, Dan Dawson, Rory Smith, Matt Roik; those are guys that have been there and they can show us the intricate parts of what it takes,” Heyes said Friday after his players captured the club’s ninth Cup.
“You bring in guys who are hungry: a Steve Priolo, a Daryl Veltman; guys who played their whole careers probably never ever thought they’d get a chance to be here and they’ve done it. Then you take a Jesse King, who was a star two years ago for two games in the Mann Cup, and then couldn’t play last year for us. Then this year he made the sacrifice and the commitment to come and play here for the whole year. He had offers to do other things but he wanted to win a Mann Cup, so it’s great.
“All these guys committed, sacrificed the time to be here. It’s a great place to play; we take care of them but it’s outstanding … It takes a lot to put this team together, but I think there’s going to be a focus to be a repeat and to do it, but it’s a long road to go, a long road.”