One more win.
That’s what the Victoria Shamrocks are focusing on, after taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Mann Cup senior lacrosse championship with a 7-5 win in overtime against the Peterborough Lakers on Wednesday at The Q Centre.
Corey Small bagged the ultimate winner 5:16 into the extra frame and Dan Dawson added an insurance marker as the hometown ‘Rocks moved to within one victory of capturing their first Cup title since 2005, when they beat the Lakers on this same cement floor.
Victoria has a chance to do just that tomorrow night (Sept. 11) in game 6, which starts at 7 p.m. If Peterborough forces a series-deciding Game 7, that would be played Saturday starting at 7.
Earlier this week, Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes said he hasn’t been surprised at how close the series has been so far. Speaking about the team’s resiliency, he said this is a different Victoria team than the one that saw early Mann Cup leads become 4-2 series losses the past two years against Six Nations Chiefs.
“We’re in much better position with this lineup, from goaltending to defence to offence,” he said. “We’re not scrambling to put different players in different positions. We’ve got the veterans on the team and we’ve got the experience. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
The Shamrocks held a slight early advantage Wednesday and looked primed to race to a clear victory when they built a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals from Steve Priolo, Cory Conway and Mitch Jones.
But Mark Steenhuis interrupted the string when he got the Lakers on the board with 1:49 to play in the opening period. Rhys Duch restored the Rocks’ three-goal lead by beating Lakers’ goalie Matt Vinc with a shorthanded goal 18 seconds into the middle frame, while Karsen Leung was off serving a high-sticking penalty.
As has been their style throughout this series, the Lakers didn’t roll over, and scored the next three goals to tie it at 4-4. Cory Vitarelli, Curtis Dickson with a power play marker and Turner Evans, scoring with his team shorthanded brought the visitors even by the 12:39 mark of the second.
With the teams battling back and forth, Shamrocks captain Scott Ranger gave his team the edge again with a late-period goal set up by Dawson and Leung.
The Shamrocks outshot the Lakers 13-8 in the third period, but it was premier Peterborough setup man Shawn Evans who converted a Nick Weiss setup into a goal 6:36 into the period to make it 5-5.
Aaron Bold stopped 32 of 37 shots in the Shamrocks’ net, while Vinc was also sharp, turning aside 39 of 46.
The Q Centre crowds of 2,700-plus are being treated to an outstanding series worthy of the national championship title, Heyes said.
“These are the two best teams in Canada,” he said. “You’ve got superstars who are playing out there (for both teams). If this were the Stanley Cup it would be considered one for the ages with the amount of talent that’s on the floor.”
With the Shamrocks looking to clinch the Cup and the Lakers trying to stay alive, “the best players have to be the best players from here on,” Heyes said. “We’ve stuck to our game plan. We’re at home, it’s our floor and we own that place.”
Championship nuggets … Small leads all scorers five games into the Mann Cup series, with 21 points on seven goals and 14 assists. Top goalscorer Curtis Dickson (nine goals) and Shawn Evans are next with 16, followed by Dawson (4-10-14), Duch (8-5-13), Steenhuis (7-4-11), Victoria’s Jesse King (6-4-10) and Ranger (3-7-10). A sign of the tightness of the series is that the goals against averages of Bold (7.90) and Vinc (7.94) are almost identical.