I’m working on hour 36 of being awake now (although this isn’t necessarily accurate as I did squeak in two one our naps during this time period). I took my first plane ride today. I went from cab to bus to plane to bus to boat to bus, from Oshawa, Ontario, to Victoria, British Columbia. All for lacrosse. All for the Peterborough Lakers, who are back in the national championship for the first time since 2012 – not a long absence in the world of professional sports, but too long for a city that only accepts greatness from it’s summer lacrosse team.
Flying over Canada was amazing. Takeoff felt like I was on a carnival ride that was never coming down, but once that feeling passed, it felt just like riding on a train, if you forgot you were 37,000 feet above the earth. The ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island was the best part of the trip – it was a beautiful day with mountains stretched out everywhere before us.
30 fans and team staff members flew out today today, arranged by our fearless leader, Ted Higgins. Some of the players parents came up with us, and some more will be here tomorrow. We aren’t used to being drowned out in our cheers on the road, but Victoria is going to prove to be a challenge. Their fans are loud and PASSIONATE! I may bleed green here by the time we leave just by osmosis! (Just kidding – I will beed blue, red, and white for the Lakers).
Victoria is booked solid this weekend, so because we didn’t know we were coming out here until Monday, right now we’re holed up in some no name motel that doesn’t even have fitted sheets for the bed. I sat down and instantly the sheets were a mess. The bathroom is the size of a closet, and let’s just say it doesn’t smell great in here. I like the dirty cartoons someone left us in our concierge services book. We’ll move on Monday to a hotel closer to the arena.
I love the Lakers. I love the sport. This is going to be a heck of a week.
And we thought the Peterborough Lakers and Six Nations Chiefs were closely matched! It turns out, we haven’t seen anything yet.
I was supposed to write a Mann Cup preview, but I ended up being too busy packing for Victoria to research the Shamrocks. I came into this championship knowing very little about the team except for their star players and their basic stats. Now that I’ve seen them, I’m blown away. The Chiefs defense was maybe the best I’ve ever seen. Tonight, at least, the Shamrocks looked even better. Curtis Dickson and Mark Steenhuis were triple-teamed most of the night, and perennial thorn-in-the-side-of-the-Lakers Rory Smith was hacking and slashing with no abandon.
Unfortunately Rory gets under the skin of many Lakers, especially the Evans brothers. Scott was sent to the box for a roughing penalty on Rory, but as soon as he came out of the box, Rory and Tyler Burton knocked him down in revenge. I predicted Rory would take a least one penalty, and he didn’t disappoint, he actually took two! I’ve interviewed Rory and he’s a nice kid, not at all like how he plays on the floor – ruthless and willing to slash whoever it takes to get an advantage. He’s not fun to play against although he sure is fun to watch sometimes, whatever side you’re on.
The Lakers ended up losing this game 8-6, although it was back and forth the whole game, with the Lakers holding a two goal lead in the second only to have it washed away and have the Shamrocks come back for a two goal lead at the end of the game.
The Lakers have had a problem the last few games scoring more than six goals. They’ve only done so twice in their last eight games (although two of those games were also wins over the Chiefs, so this isn’t always a bad thing).
I spoke with Shawn Evans, Curtis Dickson, and Matt Vinc after the game. Evans and Dickson weren’t happy with the outcome of the game (really, who would be after a loss?), and I could tell it rattled them, Evans especially, although he did acknowledge that “It’s a game of inches. It’s going to be a long series. It’s a best of seven series and it’s not going to be won in game one.”
Dickson said the team can play better and they’ll watch some films and figure out where to make adjustments. He’s a western boy himself though, so he’s happy to be back in his home province for a visit, and is familiar with the Q Centre which will help him ease into his first Mann Cup experience.
“It’s awesome, it’s great being back here,” he said. “I played here five years of senior and growing up all through minor and junior and it’s pretty cool being back here. I’m pretty familiar with this rink, I played here last year in the WLA finals, so it’s nice and I’ll get some family out to a couple of these games as well so it’ll be fun for them to get out and watch me play.”
Vinc, on the other hand, was nearly downright cheerful. I tend to avoid interviewing goaltenders after losses because having a father who was a goaltender, I know they can take the losses hard. But Vinc is the consummate professional, and he understand as well that although the outcome was not what the Lakers wanted, it was a good effort and improvements will be made. Two great teams played each other tonight, and somebody had to win.
“It was a good first step,” he said. ”We came out and played hard. We had a tough series against Six Nations and we knew it was going to be a battle and hopefully we can continue to play hard and give ourselves a chance to take game two. I liked the effort from our boys and hopefully we’ll come out with a similar type of game tomorrow.”
Vinc is no stranger to the Q Centre either – he’s a former Shamrock from 2013, the first year they competed against the Chiefs for the Cup.
“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind trying to get here, that’s the nature of coming out west,” he said. “ But this is a great atmosphere and it’s exciting lacrosse and I’m excited to be here.”
Stay tuned for more updates on my trip and my observations on the Mann Cup – I’ll have more on the coming games, when I’ve had a chance to sleep for a few hours. Might try and sneak over to the Shamrocks side to try and talk to some of them for a story. I think that’s what a press pass is supposed to do…