The Burrards and Shamrocks are renewing hostilities.
The Western Lacrosse Association championship series begins on Friday night, with familiar foes from Maple Ridge and Victoria doing battle for B.C. supremacy and the right to host the Mann Cup.
The Burrards have been to the national Senior A championship in two of the past three season. In 2016 they won their first-ever WLA championship over the Shamrocks, beating them in six. Last season they again advanced to the Mann Cup at Victoria’s expense, after disposing of them in five games.
This year, both teams boast identical regular season records of 12-6, both having gone 6-3 at home. Victoria got first place in league standings and home advantage in this series by winning two of three games head-to-head.
“We’ve always had a pretty heated rivalry with them,” said Burrards head coach Rob Williams.
He sees a big difference being that the Shamrocks are young and athletic on offence, with Jesse King, Tyler Pace and Chris Boushy.
The Burrards have the benefit of experience.
“We have some veteran presence there, with athleticism,” he said.
Veteran stars Dane Dobbie, Curtis Dickson, Ryan Keenan and Ben McIntosh have been leading the offence.
He noted the balanced scoring provided by Dan Taylor, Wes Berg and Riley Loewen makes the Burrards a deep team. Top to bottom, they are the most talented team he has coached. Mike Mallory and Jean-Luc Chetner will take on whatever role the coaching staff gives them, and have been “sensational playing out of either end of the box.”
Williams said the last playoff series was tough, and the win over the New Westminster Salmonbellies helped to mesh a Burrards team that has been adding talented players to the roster all season long.
“That series really brought us together, with the typical Burrards mentality that it’s us against everyone,” said Williams. “We just had more firepower, Frank played outstanding, and our defence played outstanding. I felt that even in the losses we were moving forward.”
Goaltender Frank Scigliano was the MVP of that series, he said, and goaltending could be a difference in the series.
“I think Frank and Christian (Del Bianco) are the two best goalies in the world,” he said. “But saying that, their goalies have played well for them too.”
The key to a Burrards WLA championship?
“Keeping up our intensity, and using our experience to our advantage,” he said. “We’ve got to keep everyone going.”
Shamrocks coach Bob Heyes likes his defence as much as the Burrards do their offence.
“This should be a good series. You’ve got some of the best offensive players in the world in Maple Ridge and we have two of the best defenders in the world.”
He noted ace defender Graeme Hossack was the NLL Defensive Player of the Year, and Steve Priolo was also a finalist.
“They’re horses – they can play a lot.”
GM Chris Welch said the defence is the engine of the Shamrocks, and the offence is a bunch of talented young players who are enjoying this season.
He acknowledged what Burrards GM Lance Andre has done this season, sending draft picks and other assets to other teams in order to win now.
“I can’t argue with it. The Mann Cup is a hard trophy to win. The Burrards have learned that. They’ve pushed all-in. We did the same thing in 2015 to win a Mann Cup,” said Welch.
“You go to what feels like ridiculous lengths to win a Mann Cup.”
The coach wants revenge.
“We owe them from last year,” said Heyes. “The took us out in five.”
He said fans of the game will be the winners.
“It’s the kind of matchup that’s good for lacrosse.”
The Shamrocks attract 3,000 green-clad fans to their games at the Q-Centre, so it is definitely a hostile environment.
Williams said his veteran Burrards will not be intimidated by the Shamrocks fans.
“There’s nothing better than that silence that comes over the crowd when the home team goes down.”
The series start Friday in Victoria, and will be in Maple Ridge on Sunday at 6 p.m., at Cam Neely Arena.