Often, the playoffs aren’t about where a team finishes in the regular season but about the momentum they’ve built heading into them.
The Victoria Shamrocks will have both factors working for them when they open their first round series with the Burnaby Lakers on Tuesday at the Q Centre, the ‘Rocks having clinched the top spot in the WLA with an 11-8 win over Nainamo on Friday night.
The win marked the fourth in a row for head coach Bob Heyes’s club as the ‘Rocks have rattled off wins over Langley, Burnaby, Coquitlam and now the Timbermen since a Jul. 22 loss to the Lakers.
At that time, Heyes believed his club hadn’t reached its full potential, a position he still held after the clinching win.
“I think we’ll get there the last game of the playoffs. I think we still have to find that total game that we need to have,” Heyes said.
“It’s all those little things. It’s not the big things and scoring the goals, it’s the little things that are going to win you the championship.”
Heyes praised the team’s depth, saying that he is confident that any of his players can step up on a given night.
That may be the case, but against Nanaimo the game was once again dominated by the league-leading scorer Rhys Duch, who earned the game’s first star with four goals and two assists.
Duch got one of his four in the first period and captain Corey Small, Tyler Burton and Chris Wardle added goals of their own to give the ‘Rocks a 4-0 lead before the Timbermen managed to get on the board.
Duch added a shorthanded marker to open the second, and the Shamrocks continued to fly high, taking a 9-4 lead into the third frame.
After Duch made it 10-4, the Timbermen played their best lacrosse of the night, notching four of the next five goals to close the gap to three with just under six to play in the third.
That’s as close as the visitors would come, and Victoria held them off from there.
Shamrocks goaltender Cody Hagedorn made 33 saves on 41 shots, while Small and Wardle chipped in offensively with two goals apiece.
The ‘Rocks have one more regular season contest, tomorrow night in Coquitlam, before they begin their quest to defend last year’s Mann Cup triumph.
Heyes wasn’t sure which of his regulars might get a rest on Saturday night, but did say that he’d look to get some fresh bodies into the lineup.