Cue the emerging St. Louis Blues storyline. Only this time not on ice, but the floor.
The Victoria Shamrocks’ worst-to-first climb continued Sunday evening as the club clinched a Western Lacrosse Association playoff berth with a 12-8 victory over the Burnaby Lakers inside a sweltering Q Centre.
The Shamrocks started 0-3 and 1-4 and are now 11-5 and can assure first place in the regular season with a victory in their last two games, either Thursday in New Westminster against the Salmonbellies or Saturday in Coquitlam against the last-place Adanacs.
“We dug ourselves a big hole. It’s full credit to the guys for climbing out of it,” said Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes.
“It’s quite a feather in their cap to have accomplished this.”
The Shamrocks, coming off their 14-2 victory Friday night against the Adanacs at The Q Centre, continued unabated in building a 9-1 lead after the first period against the Lakers (10-7) on Sunday before 2,048 fans.
“Sunday was like a playoff game in many ways,” said Heyes.
“We were focused but loose.”
Heyes went with a basketball term in describing his offence’s blazing first period against Burnaby.
“Everything we shot, dropped,” he said.
At that point, including the Coquitlam game, Victoria had outscored its opponents 23-3 over its last four periods of lacrosse.
At the other end, Victoria’s stringent defence was again in lockdown mode. The entire back side of the Shamrocks is strong but Graeme Hossack, 2018 pro NLL defender of the year with the Rochester Knighthawks, is in a class by himself.
“Burnaby’s offence was trying to lock off Graeme Hossack in our defensive end,” noted Heyes.
“You try to lock off offensive players, but it’s rare to see a defensive player targeted like that. If [Hossack] was a hockey player, he would be a $12-million NHL defenceman.”
Meanwhile, Victoria’s freshman class was again noticed. Chris Boushy, like a spinning top around the crease, scored four goals Sunday. Fellow-rookies Marshal King had a goal and three assists and Larson Sunday a goal.
Sophomore Tyson Gibson out of NCAA Div. 1 Robert Morris, rounding into form after missing most of the season on injury, added two goals and two assists to add to Victoria’s impressive offensive depth. Veteran Jesse King had two goals and three assists, Chris Wardle a goal and four assists, Derek Lloyd one goal and Connor Robinson four assists.
Tyler Burton was named game third star, behind Boushy and Gibson, for dominating the face-off circle to give Victoria a big possession advantage.
Pete Dubenski faced 46 shots in goal for Victoria. The Shamrocks ran Burnaby starter Eric Penney, one of the best in the sport, out of the rink after 20 shots with Zac Boychuk coming on in relief.
“Credit to the Lakers. They adjusted and fought their way back into the game,” said Heyes.
The Maple Ridge Burrards (11-6) edged the Nanaimo Timbermen (10-7) by a 12-10 count in another critical matchup Sunday at Cam Neely Arena.
The top of the table is tightly packed heading into the final week of the regular season, with only four points separating five teams, only four which will make the playoffs.