Lacrosse fans in for treat with WLA final

Shamrocks, Salmonbellies both play ‘high-octane’ game

Victoria Shamrocks players don’t have to be reminded that the Western Lacrosse Association final, kicking off Friday (Aug. 14) in Colwood, will have a far different tone than the series they just finished off.

Having seen his team wage a “war of attrition” in sweeping the Maple Ridge Burrards, Shamrocks’ head coach Bob Heyes looks forward to playing the New Westminster Salmonbellies for the right to host the Mann Cup championship.

“We’re going to be playing skill against skill,” he said Tuesday, after the league announced the schedule for the best-of-seven final. “There’ll still be some good playoff lacrosse battles, but it’s going to be more skill and speed out there … We know it’s not going to be a cakewalk. We’ve got to adjust to a different style of play and make sure our focus is back on that high-octane offence.”

Starting with a rare 6 p.m. game tomorrow at The Q Centre and playing subsequent games Monday (Aug. 17) in New West, next Wednesday at home and Friday back on the mainland, the regular season champion Shamrocks face a Salmonbellies team that has won nine straight after sweeping Langley 4-0 in the other playoff semifinal.

One of those wins was a 9-7 decision over Victoria at Queen’s Park Arena back on July 23, the last time the teams met.

The ’Rocks beat the ’Bellies in the semis last year, but that was their first playoff matchup since 2008, when powerhouse New West lost just one game all year then was swept by Brampton in the Mann Cup.

The current versions of the Shamrocks and Salmonbellies have similarities, Heyes said. Both are fast and have many weapons to keep opposing defenders on their toes. But the Shamrocks, with five-time Cup winner Dan Dawson in the lineup and a core of talented players who battled for the Cup in 2013 and 2014, have a big-game edge, he said.

“I definitely think we have the experience when it comes to playing for championships,” he said, noting Dawson’s leadership added a critical piece to the puzzle. “We know what it takes to get out of the west. I’d say that’s the biggest advantage that we have.”

The ’Rocks won the league at 14-4 and took two of three games against New West (12-6, second) this season. Victoria was easily the top-scoring team in the WLA with 217 goals, while the Salmonbellies were mid-pack with 158.

Individually, Corey Small won the WLA regular season scoring title with 79 points, four more than Shamrocks teammate Rhys Duch in second. Victoria’s Cory Conway (67) and Jesse King (64) were also in the top 10. Dawson, who flew back and forth between here and Brampton, added 34 points in just seven games.

New West’s Logan Schuss (68 pts., fourth) was the lone ’Bellies player in the top 20. However, Keegan Bal, Jordan McBride and Josh Byrne have stepped up their offensive games in the playoffs.

Heyes predicts special teams will play a major role in the series. While these two teams were the most penalized in the league this season, both have elements of unpredictability, with lightning-fast transition players who can create odd-man scoring opportunities.

“New West is going to throw different looks on us on defence. They’re a fast team with a fast transition game and we know if that team outworks us, we’re going to be in tough for sure.”

In goal the teams are also closely matched. Victoria and New West were 1-2 in the league for fewest goals against (139, 144, respectively).

Cody Hagedorn played the most in the ’Rocks three-goalie system this season, posting a league-best goals-against average of 7.61, but Aaron Bold played the majority of the series against Maple Ridge. He went 4-1 during the regular season, with a stellar 5.88 average and .841 save percentage.

New West stalwart Eric Penney, who has played every minute of the playoffs so far, had eight wins and an .829 save percentage this season – both league bests – along with an 8.17 average.

Mark your calendar

The Western Lacrosse Association released the alternating schedule Tuesday for the playoff final between Victoria and New Westminster.

• Fri. Aug. 14: 6 p.m., The Q Centre

• Mon. Aug.17: 6:30 p.m., Queen’s Park Arena

• Wed. Aug. 19: 7:45 p.m., The Q Centre

• Fri. Aug. 21: 7:45 p.m., Queen’s Park Arena

• Sun. Aug. 23: 6 p.m., The Q Centre (if necessary)

• Tues. Aug. 25: 6:30 p.m., Queen’s Park (if necessary)

• Thurs. Aug. 27: 6 p.m., The Q Centre (if necessary)

Just Posted

Horse carriage supporters to rally outside city hall

Owner of carriage company plans rally in response to Coun. Ben Isitt’s motion

UVic science and engineering research gets $18.8 million federal funding boost

Funding for engineering, science, sustainability research

Victoria woman competing for role as Maxim cover model

Winning model gets featured spread in magazine, cash price

Songbirds return to their roost in the West Shore

Tips, such as keeping roaming cats from ruffling any feathers, can attract more birds

VIDEO: Fun without sun: Hundreds enjoy Family Fest on Victoria Day

Families enjoy activities in Veterans Memorial Park

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

Lowry pours in 25 as Toronto moves within two games of NBA Finals

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Christmas morning burglar sentenced on Vancouver Island

Justin Redmond Feusse, 20, sentenced to 240 days in jail for Dec. 25 break-and-enter

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Most Read