Only time will tell if the Victoria Shamrocks (8-5) will live to rue the two Western Lacrosse Association games they lost to lowly Langley (4-11). Half of the Thunder’s victories this season have come against the Shamrocks.
“We will look by on those lost four points as vital if we miss the playoffs in what is a tight race,” Victoria head coach Bob Heyes said. “Langley didn’t just fold over against us.”
The teams concluded their year’s account in Victoria’s previous game, an 11-8 loss at the Langley Events Centre, which gave the Thunder an unlikely 2-1 season series advantage. The result snapped Victoria’s seven-game winning streak.
It gets much tougher today in Maple Ridge when the Shamrocks take on the league-leading Burrards (9-5) at Cam Neely Arena, named in honour of the local boy and NHL great.
“The Thunder are a hard-working team and we didn’t click into rhythm mentally,” Heyes said.
“We didn’t come with our work boots on.”
Heyes refused to take the easy out: “We were not looking ahead to Maple Ridge.”
The previous loss highlighted a quirk in the recent trade that saw National Lacrosse League pro stars Connor Robinson and Tyler Pace come to the Shamrocks on a soccer-type loan for the season from Langley. The deal included a stipulation that the pair couldn’t play against the Thunder in the regular season. So, the 2017 first-overall WLA draft pick Pace, who is ready to return from injury, and 2018 WLA top-overall pick Robinson sat out for the Shamrocks against the Thunder.
The outstanding rookie Keegan Bell, Victoria’s first-round pick in the 2019 WLA draft, went the other way in the trade. But that was for his permanent playing rights, not just on a loan basis. That’s why, according to the Shamrocks, Bell was allowed to play against the Shamrocks and score the decisive hat-trick against his former club.
“[Bell’s] three goals were the difference,” Heyes said. “Both Robinson and Pace wanted to play. That was the frustrating part.”
They will both be in the lineup tonight in Maple Ridge, and not a moment too soon in the tight WLA standings with five regular-season games remaining.
“The key match-up [tonight] is our defence, which has been terrific, against Maple Ridge's offence,” Heyes said.
The Burrards’ firepower got even more potent with the acquisition, on season loan, of Dane Dobbie from Langley. Dobbie led the pro NLL in scoring last season with 47 goals and 115 points in 18 games for the champion Calgary Roughnecks. Heyes describes the all-time Roughnecks career franchise scoring leader as a “guy who isn’t large, but is a pure lacrosse player.”
Dobbie already has 10 goals and 16 points in just three games for the Burrards. The Shamrocks’ hounding defence will definitely need to key on him tonight.