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Shamrocks ready for WLA road test against Salmonbellies

Coming off what could be a ­season-defining Western Lacrosse Association victory in Coquitlam last weekend, the ­Victoria Shamrocks (8-2) are again across the strait to play the New Westminster ­Salmonbellies tonight on the historic wo
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The Shamrocks take on Justin Salt and the Salmonbellies on Thursday night. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST)

Coming off what could be a ­season-defining Western Lacrosse Association victory in Coquitlam last weekend, the ­Victoria Shamrocks (8-2) are again across the strait to play the New Westminster ­Salmonbellies tonight on the historic wooden floor in Queen’s Park Arena.

The Salmonbellies (5-8) are coming off a 10-6 victory ­Tuesday night over the last place Maple Ridge Burrards (1-10-1) at Cam Neely Arena. The Jones brothers, Mitch and Jason, are always factors for New Westminster. Mitch Jones, a National Lacrosse League pro with the Vancouver Warriors and former NCAA Div. 1 hockey player with the Northern Michigan Wildcats, is a former Shamrocks player. Veteran Salmonbellies forward Jordan McBride, a Scotland international, is out of NCAA field lacrosse Stony Brook and is also a Warriors NLL pro. Haiden Dickson, the top overall pick in this year’s WLA draft out of the Delta Islanders Junior A team, completed his rookie pro season in the NLL with the Calgary Roughnecks and now co-leads New Westminster in scoring with Mitch Jones on 48 points. One of the bright young players in the sport, Dickson also won gold with Canada at the 2018 world junior championship.

“The Salmonbellies are really good and don’t need a lot to be effective,” said Shamrocks head coach Mike Simpson.

“Our defence needs to be strong.”

Meanwhile, the reverberations from the 10-9 victory last week in Coquitlam (8-4) are still being felt in the Shamrocks camp. How it came about, in such rare fashion, is still the talk of the league. Since lacrosse is more akin to basketball than hockey, in terms of secure possession, lacrosse teams have been known to pull their goalie in the dying seconds with the score tied if they have the ball. That is what Coquitlam did with the score deadlocked 9-9 and less than 10 seconds remaining in the third period. But the Adanacs’ attempt at the winning shot went awry and the ball bounced to Shamrocks defender Dallas Wade, who immediately launched it floor-length into the empty Coquitlam net for the winning goal with less than one second remaining.

“I have never seen that in any game I have been involved with in all my years in this sport,” said Shamrocks bench-boss Simpson.

Yet, instead of being remembered for the freakishly unusual ending, Simpson said the win should be acknowledged for deeper reasons because Victoria was missing an important chunk of its lineup to injury and other commitments.

“We were without five NLL [pro league] stars and we showed a lot of character and depth to navigate through that,” noted Simpson.

“I thought we deserved to win the game regardless of what happened on that last play. It was more that we were rewarded for our hard work. As for the last play, we’ll take it.”

The Shamrocks are still ­short-staffed because of other commitments. Among the ­missing tonight at Queen’s Park will be WLA leading-scorer Jesse King and sniper Rhys Duch.

“This will again test our depth,” said Simpson.

“But we will be OK because we know we have the kinds of players who can step up.”

The Shamrocks return home to play the Burnaby Lakers ­(3-8-1) Sunday at 5 p.m. in The Q Centre.

Meanwhile, the Nanaimo ­Timbermen improved to 9-5 on the season after a 12-9 ­victory over the Thunder (6-5) at the Langley Events Centre on Wednesday night.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com