Shamrocks host Game 1 in WLA final tonight in Colwood
It took four games to do it, but the Victoria Shamrocks finally put away the pesky Burnaby Lakers in their Western Lacrosse Association playoff semifinal.
The Shamrocks begin their WLA title defence Wednesday night (Aug. 24) at The Q Centre against the Maple Ridge Burrards at 7:45 p.m.
In front of a large crowd at The Q Centre on Sunday night in Colwood, the defending Mann Cup champion Shamrocks took an 11-4 lead into the third period, but escaped with a 14-11 win.
“Burnaby is an outstanding team and we knew that going in,” said Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes after the game. “We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break.”
Shamrocks stalwart Cory Conway led the attack with three goals and five assists on the night to earn the game’s first star honours. Afterward he gave kudos to Burnaby for making the Shamrocks work hard for every victory they achieved.
“They’re a well-coached team; they’re hungry and they never went away,” he said. While pointing out that goaltender Adam Shute came up with some big stops at key times for Victoria on Sunday, the Lakers’ Zak Boychuk was equal to the task the last few games. “He comes up big when he gets confident.”
Shamrocks captain Corey Small noted that Burnaby is a club with all the right pieces in place to contend in years to come, adding, “They’ve got a bright future, that team.”
Having faced elimination and emerged with a win in three straight games, the Lakers showed in the third they would not go quietly.
Down 11-4 to start the third period, Burnaby scored five of the next six goals to pull within three at 12-9 with seven and a half minutes still to go. Faced with having to overtake a veteran playoff team, the Lakers played much of the last half of the period with goaltender Zak Boychuk pulled for an extra attacker and the strategy paid off with three straight goals.
Victoria transition player Ethan Garland made the Lakers pay by popping a shot into the empty net to make it 13-9 at the 14:13 mark, but Chris O’Dougherty scored just 34 seconds later to cut the lead to three again.
The teams battled hard for the next few scoreless minutes and Shute, who finished with was large in net for the Shamrocks until Conway broke free and found the empty net in the final minute to make it 14-10.
Rhys Duch and Corey Small added two goals and three assists each to help power the Shamrocks’ offence. Call-up Braylon Lumb continued his solid play, scoring twice as did Jeff Shattler, while Tyler Burton and Chris Wardle had a goal apiece.
Josh Byrne had seven points to lead the Lakers, on a goal and six assists, while Eli McLaughlin had the hat trick. Robert Church finished with six points on two goals and four helpers and Scott Jones also scored twice. Other goals came from Matt Beers and Tyler Digby.
Heyes said the seven-game battle with the Lakers was good preparation for the final against Maple Ridge, who eliminated New Westminster in five games and clinched with a come-from-behind 11-10 win last Wednesday.
“They’re focused,” he said of his players, who are a bit beat up but ready to go. “It’s going to be a great series.”
Here’s the schedule for the Western Lacrosse Association final between the Victoria Shamrocks and Maple Ridge Burrards:
Game 1 – Wed. Aug. 24 in Colwood, 7:45 p.m.
Game 2 – Fri. Aug. 26, Maple Ridge
Game 3 – Sun. Aug. 28, Colwood, 6 p.m.
Game 4 – Tues. Aug. 30, Maple Ridge
Game 5 (if necessary) – Wed. Aug. 31, Colwood, 7:45 p.m.
Game 6 (if nec.) – Fri. Sept. 2, Maple Ridge
Game 7 (if nec.) – Sun. Sept. 4, Colwood, 6 p.m.
Home game tickets for the final series are on sale at the Shamrocks team office at 120-967 Langford Pkwy., or online at victoriashamrocks.com.