Every outing will now be an elimination game for the Victoria Shamrocks in the 2019 Mann Cup.
The two-time defending champion Peterborough Lakers have won three straight games to lead the best-of-seven final 3-1 as they look for Ontario’s 13th Canadian Senior A national champion in 14 years, a run interrupted only by the Shamrocks in 2015.
And how sweet would revenge be for the 11 members of the Lakers still around from the losing 2015 team?
The big, strong, yet quick Peterborough squad hushed the Victoria home crowd of about 2,500 early in Game 4 on Tuesday night in building 5-2 and 8-3 period leads en route to an 8-6 victory over the Western Lacrosse Association-champion Shamrocks.
The Shamrocks will now have to win out if they are to hoist the Mann Cup for the 10th time in the 70 years of franchise history.
Game 5 is tonight. If required, the sixth and seventh games would be Friday and Saturday. All games are being played at The Q Centre.
“I’m proud of our guys. They didn’t quit,” said Shamrocks coach Bob Heyes.
Jake Withers, the best face-off man in lacrosse, has destroyed Victoria in this series by dominating in the circle, giving Peterborough a massive possession advantage. Withers added two goals Tuesday for good measure, one directly off a face-off win. Withers has done this against Victoria’s formidable Tyler Burton, the next-best face-off taker in lacrosse.
“[Burton] is a great player,” said Withers.
“But I trust in my training. And also the four other guys out there with me that help our team get some extra possessions.”
Peterborough veteran Shawn Evans had a goal and two assists to move into second place on the Mann Cup career points list with 176, surpassing former Lakers great John Grant Jr. (174). Leader John Tavares has 203 all-time Mann Cup points.
The Shamrocks, already without scoring stars Jesse King for the Mann Cup and Rhys Duch, out all season, took further blows when offensive-threats Tyler Pace and Casey Jackson went out of Tuesday’s game. That was not good news for a Victoria offence that is increasingly having trouble penetrating the much larger Peterborough defence.
“Our defence is doing what it takes — being physical and blocking shots,” said Peterborough coach Mike Hasen.
Goaltender Pete Dubenski, the WLA playoff MVP, was chased from the Victoria crease in the second period and replaced by Cody Hagedorn, who shut the door. Mike Poulin was fine in goal for Peterborough. It wasn’t so much the volume of his 33 saves, but the timeliness of them. He was there for the Lakers when needed.
The Shamrocks scored three consecutive goals in the third period to pull within two but it wasn’t enough.
Veteran Chris Wardle scored twice for Victoria and Jackson, rookie Larson Sundown, sophomore Tyson Gibson and WLA rookie-of-the-year Chris Boushy once each.
Peterborough has won 16 Mann Cup championships, second only to the New Westminster Salmonbellies’ 24.
The Lakers are after the first Mann Cup threepeat since the Six Nations Chiefs from 1994 to 1996 and the fourth since the Mann Cup became a national competition in 1926.