The Victoria Shamrocks have not done anything the easy way at the 2019 Minto Cup Junior A Championship.
After losing their first two round-robin games, the Shamrocks needed some help to make sure they even had a shot in their final game, and then had to not only win that match, but also have the math work in their favour.
They did and that earned them a spot in Monday night’s semifinal game at Langley Events Centre up against the Okotoks Raiders, a team which had already beaten them once.
And the Shamrocks needed overtime, scoring goals 10 seconds apart in the 10-minute period and then adding what amounted to a pair of empty-net goals to defeat the Raiders 12-8.
The victory earns Victoria a shot at the Orangeville Northmen in the best-of-five championship series, which gets underway Wednesday night (Aug. 21). Games two and three are set for Aug. 22 and 23, and if necessary, games four and five would be Aug. 25 and 26. The games all have a 7 p.m. start time.
Shamrocks coach Terry Dennett admitted the Minto Cup stage might have been a bit unfamiliar for his squad with Victoria not having been at the Minto since 2008 and not having even won a playoff series for a few years.
“I think it was just getting adjusted, getting ready for the big stage,” he said about the turnaround over the last 48 hours compared to the first 48.
“Having our backs against the wall is kind of where we have played our best.”
With less than three minutes to play, Austin Madronic and Ben Preston scored back-to-back goals before Liam Phillips and Brian Robb iced the victory with the goaltender scrambling to get back into the net after being pulled for the extra attacker as the Raiders tried desperately to get back into the contest.
Okotoks was looking to become the first Alberta team in history to advance to the Minto Cup championship series.
“It was a tough send-off,” admitted Raiders coach Jesse Fehr. “We are really proud of the effort, but sometimes, it just doesn’t go your way. It was unfortunate for us today.”
In Monday’s game, it was back-and-forth from the get-go with neither team able to string together much of an offensive run.
The Raiders opened the scoring and led 3-2 after one period and 7-6 following 40 minutes.
Okotoks took the first two-goal lead of the game at 8-6 with 15:58 to play, but that would be the last time the Raiders were able to beat BC Junior A Lacrosse League Most Valuable Player Cameron Dunkerley.
Dunkerley finished with 41 saves and has posted an .848 save percentage in the last two games, both of which have been elimination games.
Victoria used a balanced attack in the victory with eight players scoring and 10 registering at least one point.
Madronic led the way with two goals and five points while both Zach Manns and Patrick Dodds finished with a pair of goals and four points apiece. Dodds was named Victoria’s player of the game.
Brian Robb also had two goals and Jackson Boyd, Teioshontathe McComber and Liam Phillips had one goal apiece.
Brayden Brown chipped in with four assists and Caleb Kueber had a trio of helpers.
Raiders goaltender Jack Bruzell-Friesz finished with 51 saves as his team was outshot 61-49.
Levi Anderson was the Okotoks player of the game, finishing with two goals and four points. Zach Mantei led Okotoks with a goal and five points. Jake Gillis chipped in with a pair of goals while Ethan Landymore and Kean Moon both had a goal and assist. Myles Hamm finished with one goal, Adam Wolf had three assists and Safo Arthur finished with a pair of assists.
While Okotoks sees their season end, the Shamrocks have one day to recover from playing 190 minutes of lacrosse over four consecutive days.
Awaiting them is the Orangeville Northmen, who went 3-0 during round-robin, including a 12-1 demolition of the Shamrocks on the first day.
“They are a very good team, very well coached,” he said. “They have nothing but tradition of being here. They are wise beyond their years.”
Since joining the Junior A ranks in 1991, the Northmen have won six Minto Cups and this is their tenth appearance at the Championship in their 29th season.
With his team now having had the chance to play four games and watch plenty of film, all that is left is to prepare and execute, he said.