Hotbeds of lacrosse in Canada have historically included Victoria and New Westminster in B.C. and Peterborough and Oshawa/Whitby in Ontario.
You can also throw Orangeville, Ont., into the mix.
So much so that Victoria Junior Shamrocks head coach Terry Dennett describes both Victoria and Orangeville as “cultish” lacrosse communities.
Perhaps, then, it’s only appropriate that the B.C. second-seed Junior Shamrocks and Ontario-champion Orangeville Northmen open the 2019 Minto Cup national Junior A championship tournament Friday at 5 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre.
Victoria continues the round-robin portion of the tournament at 4 p.m. on Saturday against the Alberta champion, Okotoks Raiders, and concludes Sunday, at 7 p.m., against the B.C. champion Coquitlam Junior Adanacs.
“A round robin is such a short format that there’s not a lot of time to make adjustments and correct things, like there is in a best-of-seven series,” Dennett said. “You have to react very quickly to situations in a round robin. There are no bad teams here. We will continue to do what we have been doing with our work-ethic approach.”
The second- and third-place teams in the round robin will meet Monday in the semifinal, with the winner advancing to play the first-place team from the round robin in a best-of-five final series, beginning next Wednesday. All games are at the Langley Events Centre.
As host, B.C. gets two representatives, so the provincial finalists, Coquitlam and Victoria, both advanced. Orangeville defeated the Burlington Chiefs in five games in the Ontario final and Okotoks outlasted the Calgary Mountaineers in the Alberta final that went the full seven games.
The Junior Shamrocks are making their first Minto Cup appearance since 2008 when they lost to Orangeville in the final.
Dennett and his coaching staff had a poster put up on the dressing-room wall at the The Q Centre this season denoting past Minto Cup champions from the B.C. capital. It’s not a long list, despite Victoria’s reputation as a lacrosse town.
It is a more than three-decade drought the current Junior Shamrocks will be looking to end in the 2019 tournament. Only three Victoria teams have won the Minto Cup — Esquimalt Legion in 1988, Victoria McDonald’s in 1976 and the Junior Shamrocks in 1962.
The current Junior Shamrocks are well aware of that history. “They know the Gaits [former superstar lacrosse twins Paul and Gary Gait] were on that last team from Victoria to win it in 1988,” Dennett said.
The chance to join them is now at hand, and is in their hands. “We have to put the outside distractions of being in the Minto Cup aside, and just go out and play lacrosse,” Dennett said.
The Cup is named in honour of Lord Minto, Canada’s governor general from 1898 to 1904. It has been contested by Junior A teams since 1937, with a few dark seasons because of the Second World War. Ontario teams have won it 53 times and B.C. teams on 22 occasions, the latest being the defending champion Junior Adanacs in a 3-1 final series victory over the Brampton Excelsiors of Ontario last year.
BOXLA BITS: Goaltender Cam Dunkerley of the Junior Shamrocks, who posted a downright stingy 8.77 goals-against average, was named B.C. Junior A League MVP for 2019 . . . Dunkerley and forward Zach Manns of the Junior Shamrocks were named to the B.C. league first all-star team, and Thomas Vaesen and Ryan Sheridan of the Nanaimo Junior Timbermen were selected to the league second all-star team.