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Shamrocks, Timbermen set to renew Western Lacrosse Association rivalry

In other parts of the world they call it a derby when teams within a city or region meet.
Liam Phillips and the Shamrocks host the Timbermen on Friday. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST)

In other parts of the world they call it a derby when teams within a city or region meet. The games between Victoria Shamrocks and Nanaimo Timbermen certainly qualify in the Western Lacrosse Association, the latest edition which goes tonight at The Q Centre.

“If you can’t get up for these games, then you’ve got problems,” said Shamrocks head coach Mike Simpson.

Sometimes, that works more in Nanaimo’s favour because the Timbermen feature several players who played their youth and junior lacrosse in Victoria.

“The Timbermen always have a Victoria contingent of guys who come back into a rink they grew up playing in and in which they watched the Shamrocks play, and they have their friends and family out, and that always adds a level of intensity for them,” said Simpson.

The Timbermen are always jacked up emotionally coming into The Q Centre and that has caused a few upsets over the past few seasons.

“We’re wary of that and understand what’s coming,” said Simpson, who has his team off to a 5-1 start to the season.

“Sometimes, the Timbermen play better down there than they do at home.”

The Timbermen (4-4) are on a roll and coming off respective 13-7 and 12-2 victories over the Burnaby Lakers and New Westminster Salmonbellies as Junior Timbermen call-up goaltender Justin Geddie was outstanding in both games. Veteran Timbermen goaltender Charles Claxton, meanwhile, leads the WLA with a 7.85 goals-against average in the four games in which he has appeared this season.

“Between Geddie and Claxton they have had great goaltending, and that is their cornerstone, and they have built from that out into a well-rounded squad under a new coaching staff,” said Simpson.

Ladner product Jon Phillips, out of NCAA Div. 1 UMass-­Lowell, leads the Nanaimo offence with 16 goals and 16 assists for 32 points.

Among those tasked with stopping Phillips will be Shamrocks defender Tyler Burton. But the veteran Victoria player and National Lacrosse League pro is much more than just a stopper, as attested by his two goals and one assist in the 18-7 victory Sunday over the Langley Thunder. Rated the best face-off taker in the WLA, Burton won 11 of 14 draws to help Victoria retain possession against Langley, as he does against every team.

“[Burton] is such a great player in all aspects of the game that sometimes people take him for granted,” said Simpson.

“He would be a leader for us even if he wasn’t the best face-off man in the league. He plays through injuries and does it all. When [WLA-leading scorer] Jesse King was out for a spell in practice this week, we even had Tyler step in and set up the power play.”

The back end of the derby is next Thursday when the Shamrocks visit Frank Crane Arena in a game to be broadcast live on the Island on Shaw TV.