Corey Small of the Victoria Shamrocks unloads a pass as he's double-teamed by New Westminster Salmonbellies defenders Kyle Ross

Shamrocks put Salmonbellies in must-win situation in WLA final

Convincing win in Colwood leaves lacrosse club one away from securing third straight Mann Cup berth

Having played in the past two Mann Cups with the Victoria Shamrocks, Karsen Leung knows well what it takes to get there.

Even after his team took a commanding 3-0 series lead in the Western Lacrosse Association final over the New Westminster Salmonbellies with a 15-9 win Wednesday night at The Q Centre, the 25-year-old transition specialist wasn’t looking too far ahead.

“Game 4 is the hardest, right? They’re not going to go away, they’re not going to die,” he said of the ‘Bellies, who didn’t give up and pulled within three goals of Victoria in the third period. “We need to play even harder than we did for the past three games.”

Leung earned the game’s first star, scoring twice on terrific runs deep into New West territory and adding a pair of assists.

The teams contest game 4 tomorrow night (Aug. 21) at Queen’s Park Arena in New Westminster. Leung, one of several non-attackers providing offence for the Shamrocks of late, said the Salmonbellies will come out hard and fast in this must-win situation.

“New West is a hard-working team. In game 2 they outworked us in the first two periods … We need to go out and play a solid 60 minutes of lacrosse. We’re building for something big here and it’s time to put it all together.”

That something big, of course, is the right to host the Mann Cup national championship. The winner of this series will meet the winner between Ontario Major Series finalists Peterborough Lakers and two-time defending Cup champion Six Nations Chiefs. The Lakers lead that series 1-0 heading into tonight’s game.

Fans attending Wednesday’s game in Colwood saw a much closer game than in the series opener at The Q Centre. New Westminster, hoping to build on their efforts from game 2, when they led 9-5 after two periods, kept a tighter rein on the Shamrocks’ big guns.

Mitch Jones (three goals, one assist) and Daryl Veltman (four goals, one assist) topped the scoresheet for the winners, while other goals came from Scott Ranger, with two, Corey Small, Cory Conway, Dan McRae and Tyler Hass. “Dangerous” Dan Dawson set up six goals on the night.

Speedy Keegan Bal led the Salmonbellies with three goals and two assists, while Jordan McBride had a pair. Singles went to Colton Clark, Logan Schuss, Josh Byrne and Shane McDonald.

Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes pointed to the depth of his lineup as a major factor in his team’s success to date – a regular season title and a 7-0 record so far in the playoffs.

“We’ve used our full complement of guys to get us to where we want to go, which is great,” he said. “That depth really helped us at the beginning of the season. I’m happy with where we’re at right now, we’ve worked hard and we deserve to be up 3-0.”

As for Leung’s contribution – he scored twice in game 2 as well, including once shorthanded – Heyes said he’s not surprised.

“It’s nice to see guys like that when they seize the moment. And that’s what it’s about with all these guys, they seize the moment to do it.

“We’ve been through a lot in the last two years, a lot of experience has been gained from losing in the Mann Cup, so you’re seeing that experience right now,” Heyes said. “There’s many times in the past when this team may have panicked and folded when the pressure got onto us, but we have the confidence in each other that we can steer the ship straight when the pressure gets on us and keep going straight ahead.”

If a game 5 is necessary in the WLA final, it would go Sunday at 6 p.m. back at The Q Centre.

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