Chiefs have Shamrocks on the ropes at Mann Cup

SIX NATIONS 8  VICTORIA 6

(Chiefs lead series 3-2)

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You can only dig yourself a hole so deep before the walls just completely cave in.

That’s exactly what the Victoria Shamrocks are staring at as the Six Nations Chiefs grabbed a critical 3-2 best-of-seven series lead in the Mann Cup championship on Wednesday night.

For the first time in the series the Shamrocks scored first, but for the fifth straight game Victoria failed to come out of the opening period with a lead on the way to an 8-6 loss at Iroquois Lacrosse Arena in Hagersville, Ont.

The Chiefs have out-scored the visitors 15-4 in the opening frames of the five games and that has to stop if the Shamrocks want any chance of claiming a ninth Mann Cup title, and first since 2005.

Victoria trailed 4-1 on Wednesday. The teams were tied 1-1 after the opening 20 minutes in Game 3, but the Shamrocks had to battle back from 4-1, 3-1 and 3-0 deficits in the other outings.

“We got the first one. We were bound and determined to do that, and we came darn close to getting the second, but they’re an experienced team and they came out just as hard,” said Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes, whose troops will now have a night to sleep it off as Game 6 goes Friday at 5 p.m. PDT.

It will be a well-deserved off day today for two battered teams that just played three games in three nights.

Heyes wasn’t displeased with the effort in the first period, just the result.

“You’re down 4-1, but I thought we were much more physical tonight. We came out much more urgent and more focused,” he said.

But now the Chiefs are looking to become the first consecutive Mann Cup champs since 2008-’09 when the Brampton Excelsiors pulled off the feat in the Canadian Senior A lacrosse championship. Six Nations won it in six games last year in Victoria.

Just like last season, the Chiefs trailed this series 2-1 before regrouping.

Cody Hagedorn made his first Mann Cup start in goal for the Shamrocks and junior call-up Charles Claxton was his backup as usual starter Matt Flindell came out of Game 4 on Tuesday after taking a shot to the head in the 12-6 loss.

Flindell is not expected to return.

“Hags had to find his footing,” said Heyes, who believes it took the 22-year-old a while to do so. “He played phenomenal though.”

Down 4-1 after one and 5-3 after 40 minutes, the Shamrocks battled back, as they have all series. Victoria has been out-scored 18-12 in the middle periods, but the ’Rocks have out-shone Six Nations 15-9 in the third. All they could manage on this night, however, was a 3-3 draw in the final 20 minutes.

Kept off the scoresheet until that pivotal third period, Six Nations star Cody Jamieson scored two power-play goals in 2:12 on a Bubba Westwood major penalty. Johnny Powless tallied another 23 seconds later as the Chiefs snapped a 5-5 draw with the three goals at the midway mark.

The Chiefs were 2-for-7 on the power play, while the Shamrocks were scoreless on four chances.

Former Shamrock Jeff Shattler and wily veteran Colin Doyle also scored twice for the Chiefs. Craig Point had the other.

Corey Small tied it up at 5-5 by 6:54 of the final period with a pair for the Shamrocks and Tyler Hass, Rhys Duch, Chris Wardle and Dhane Smith added singles in the losing cause. Jon Harnett returned to the Victoria lineup after suffering an injury in Game 3 and Heyes also inserted Westwood and Ethan Garland back into the roster.

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