The Victoria Shamrocks threw everything they could at the Maple Ridge Burrards in Game 6 of the Western Lacrosse Association finals.
In the end, the ‘Rocks came up a goal short, putting an end to their 2016 campaign and forcing last year’s Mann Cup champions to look toward 2017.
The Shamrocks’ opening series against Burnaby, in which Victoria took a 3-0 lead but failed to put the Lakers away until Game 7, hurt the team in the long run, according to Victoria head coach Bob Heyes.
“I think the first-round series took its toll a little bit physically,” he said, adding that four key injuries, including the absence of star forward Jesse King, didn’t help matters.
Maple Ridge was the better team out of the gate in the decisive Game 6 on Sept. 2 on the mainland, holding multiple two- and three-goal leads through the opening two periods. When the buzzer sounded to end the second, the Burrards were up 9-7 and 20 minutes away from a title.
Dan Taylor extended that lead 7:19 into the third frame, but the Shamrocks didn’t go down without a fight.
Team captain Corey Small scored just before the period’s halfway mark and Rhys Duch got the ‘Rocks to within one goal with just over four minutes left in regulation, the latter goal coming with the Shamrocks’ net empty for an extra attacker.
That was as close as Victoria would come, despite enjoying a solid 19-12 shot advantage in the final period. The Burrards held on for the championship win, their first with the team based in Maple Ridge.
Small had two goals and two assists in the loss while Duch chipped in with a goal and four helpers.
The Shamrocks failed to win any of their three games at home in the series, a surprising result for a team that won seven of nine at home in the regular season and three of four in their series against Burnaby.
Looking ahead, Heyes doesn’t expect a lot of turnover on the Shamrocks’ roster, but he wasn’t quite ready to commit to what would be his sixth year as the team’s head coach.
“There’s still that hunger there … we’ll see where the team wants to go, but if they want me back I think I’ll probably end up coming back,” he said.
Heyes believes the team has a bright future, noting the many junior-aged players who contributed to this year’s success.
“I think as an organization we need to be positive with how we’ve built the team and how we performed.”
The Burrards travel to Hagersville, Ont. to take on Six Nations in their quest to keep the Mann Cup in the west. All games will be played at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena and a Mann Cup webcast can be found by visiting manncup.pointstreaksites.com.