The 2019 Mann Cup parade may take place on the Island. But it may be further up the Trans-Canada Highway than anybody thought.
The Victoria Shamrocks have loaded up and are touted as a powerhouse in the Western Lacrosse Association. So, it was an anticipatory sold-out crowd that turned up at The Q Centre on Friday night for the Island derby that opened the season.
But the reverie was short lived as the Nanaimo Timbermen prevailed 11-6 to shock the Shamrocks and hush the large crowd.
The Timbermen played their first playoff game in 11 years last summer before being dispatched by the Shamrocks in the first round of the post-season.
Nanaimo now is clearly not about to start another decade-plus drought as they sent a message to the rest of the league.
“There are no gimmes in this league,” said Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes.
“Nanaimo outworked us and was better in all aspects of the game, from the back end out. They took us out of our comfort zone by putting pressure on us. It was a learning moment. But there are no panic buttons yet.”
And just how memorable was this night for Timbermen rookie forward Braylon Lumb? The former Victoria Junior Shamrocks star returned to The Q Centre to score twice for Nanaimo, which selected him in the first round of the 2019 WLA draft.
“I grew up dreaming about playing for the Shamrocks in the WLA,” said Lumb, who led the B.C. Junior A League in scoring last season.
“It’s bittersweet and weird to put on a jersey of another team for the first time in my life. But I’m super happy to be able to stay on the Island and be in the WLA,” added the Camosun College civil engineering student.
The shots were 46 each. Game first-star Charles Claxton was sharp in goal for Nanaimo, abetted by the post on several occasions. Aaron Bold, one of the top goalies in the world in his time, has had better outings.
Casey Jackson and Chris Boushy scored twice each for the Shamrocks
The Shamrocks trailed 3-1 after one period but tied it 3-3 early in the second period as the surging T-Men answered with confidence and took a 9-4 lead into the second break.
Both teams were missing key players to the 2019 professional National Lacrosse League playoff final. Shamrocks Jesse King, Rhys Duch, Greg Harnett and Tyler Burton are with the Calgary Roughnecks and Chase Fraser of the Timbermen with the Buffalo Bandits. Both Victoria and Nanaimo also had several young players still away in NCAA U.S. collegiate field lacrosse.
The Shamrocks meet the Langley Thunder on Sunday evening at the The Q Centre.
BOXLA BITS: Green-clad B.C. premier and Shamrocks super fan John Horgan conducted the ceremonial opening face-off.