For the powerhouse Victoria Shamrocks, making the playoffs usually feels inevitable. With a much different roster than the one that brought them a national championship in 2015, there were questions as to whether or not the Shamrocks would have the same regular season success that they have enjoyed in the past. Early in the season the Shamrocks ran into a couple of tough games that saw them drop in the standings; however, things rounded into form late in the season, and the Shamrocks finished with the first seed in the WLA.
The Shamrocks’ superstars performed as expected, and they put up incredible goal and point totals. Rhys Duch lead the way, finishing first in the WLA in goals and points with 43 and 101 respectively. Corey Small and Cory Conway were right behind, finishing second and third in points. In his return to the WLA, Jeff Shattler had a great season with 60 points, good for fifth in the league. Fan-favourite veterans Ben McCullough, and Greg and Jon Harnett led a young core of defensive players that provided reliable defense with a physical edge. The Shamrocks also added some players with trades, which helped the team have success down the stretch. The most notable of mid-season acquisitions was goalie Adam Shute, who was acquired on June 13 from Coquitlam. Shute arrived, and he immediately formed a solid goaltending tandem with Cody Hagedorn. Shute finished the year 6-0, with an .820 save percentage and a goals against average of 7.20. Hagedorn was also reliable, with a 7-3 record and an 8.74 goals against average.
For the Shamrocks to have success in the post-season, it will require a full team effort. General manager Chris Welch has done a good job at building depth throughout the roster, which was evident throughout the regular season. When injuries and absences hurt the team, secondary scoring threats like Chris Wardle and Ian McShane contributed in big moments. In the six games that Jesse King appeared in, he scored 20 goals with 12 assists. The transition game was also strong throughout the year with defensemen Tyler Burton, Jon Harnett, and Ethan Garland all finishing with double digit point totals. The strong play throughout the roster will need to carry over into the playoffs if the Shamrocks want a shot a repeating as Mann Cup champions.
Burnaby Lakers (10-7-1) Preview
The Shamrocks’ first round matchup is the Burnaby Lakers. In three matchups against the Lakers this year, the Shamrocks won two. All three were close games, with no more than three goals separating the teams in each contest. This series will feature a strong clash in the styles, as the Shamrocks posses the league’s best offence, while the Lakers have the best defense. Lakers goalie Zak Boychuk was a big reason for their defensive success, as he lead the league in both save percentage and goals against average. Up front, the Lakers are led by Robert Church, Scott Jones, Dane Stevens, and Eli McLaughlin. With the top seed, the Shamrocks will have home floor advantage throughout the playoffs, which means games one and three will be played at the Q Centre, and games two and four will played in Burnaby. If necessary, game five and seven will also be played at the Q Centre. Regardless of where the games are played, these two teams consistently play exciting, tight games, and this opening round series should provide entertaining lacrosse to WLA fans.