Deadlocked in virtually every single way with the Peterborough Lakers, the Victoria Shamrocks may be closer to bringing lacrosse’s holy grail back to the west coast since they last did so in 2005.
But a cautionary tale for the Shamrocks lies ahead, who led the Six Nations Chiefs 2-1 in the past two Mann Cup’s, only to lose three straight games both years. Just one goal separates the two team’s in this year’s edition (36-35 in favour of the Lakers) – a testament to the quality of both clubs as well as the small margin of skill between them. What Victoria has brought in terms of physicality and athleticism has been largely matched by Peterborough’s toughness and tenacity.
Both clubs have had their good games and bad, but for Victoria, a more consistent effort will be needed to stay clear of outings like the 14-7 loss in game two. For the most part they have done that as well as bouncing back against adversity individually, particularly Aaron Bold, Corey Small and Rhys Duch.
Duch scored a pair of goals in game one but Victoria needed more from him after their game two loss. He had three points in that one and was largely shut down alongside Dan Dawson and Cory Conway. Conway was held pointless in game two and hasn’t played since. Small had an assist in game two before exploding for a monster game with five goals and eight assists. That opens up a lot of the floor for the righties, but it needs to happen more consistently. Although, with Jesse King still nurturing some sort of injury, that may not happen consistently enough.
The fortunate thing is Duch and the offence have bounced back all season with great performances. You will see their best in the stretch run.
Bold wasn’t great in game two but he himself has put together two strong bounce back games to alleviate any concerns Victoria fans had over him. Bold has played a ton of minutes down the stretch for Victoria, on top of playing the most minutes out of any NLL goaltender this year. He has plateaued as one of the best tendy’s in the game, but you wonder how long Bold can keep making stops at the rate he has.
The Shamrocks transition game has been their crown jewel all year and that hasn’t changed despite playing a similarly strong transition unit in Peterborough. The Lakers have won the loose ball battle most nights, but Victoria has gotten down the floor quickly and it’s turned into some great chances. Karsen Leung has had a particularly strong series, the Harnett’s have been their normal shit-disturbing selves and the defence have held it down on the other end. They will need to continue to be a major factor in these final three games to give Victoria their best chance to win.
You can throw statistics and matchups out the window at this point, though. It’s a best-of-three for the national championship; it’s cliche, but the winner will be who wants it more. Given the way both teams have played, the advantage may be to Victoria, who has a sold-out Q Centre behind them every night.