Victoria Shamrocks back for another run at Mann Cup

With apologies to the White Stripes, but a Seven Nation Army couldn’t hold the Victoria Shamrocks back from Six Nations. Or the Peterborough Lakers, whatever the case will be.

The Shamrocks’ zeros to heroes tale — literally at 0-3 to start the season — continued as the club won its first Western Lacrosse Association championship in four years to advance to the 2019 Mann Cup national Senior A championship against either Six Nations or Peterborough.

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The Shamrocks defeated the Maple Ridge Burrards 9-8 Sunday night in a packed Q Centre, for their third overtime victory of the WLA final, to take the best-of-seven series 4-1.

The best-of-seven Mann Cup will be hosted by the Shamrocks with all games at The Q Centre. The first two games are Sept. 6-7 and the third and fourth contests Sept. 9-10. If required, a fifth game would be Sept. 11, sixth game Sept. 13 and seventh game Sept. 14.

Victoria’s potential opponents are tied 2-2 in the Ontario Major Series final series with Game 5 tonight in Peterborough and Game 6 on Thursday in Six Nations. If a Game 7 is needed between the Chiefs and defending Mann Cup-champion Lakers, it will be played next Monday in Peterborough.

“They are both deep, strong, powerful teams,” said Shamrocks GM Chris Welch.

“And they both have former Shamrocks — Corey Small with Peterborough and Jon Harnett and Dhane Smith with Six Nations, among others.”

Meanwhile, defensive-standout Graeme Hossack scored the overtime winner Sunday to seal the deal against the Burrards in the WLA final. It was the fourth goal of the game for the 2018 pro National Lacrosse League defensive player of the year, as the Rochester Knighhawks’ two-way ace showed he is as adept in transition as on defence.

“Defence wins championships and Graeme Hossack is the best defensive player in the world, but he can do much more than that,” said Welch.

“He’s probably the best player in the world.”

Tyler Pace, the desperation long-shot overtime hero of Game 4, scored twice for Victoria. Veteran Chris Wardle, sophomore Tyson Gibson and WLA rookie-of-the-year Chris Boushy scored the other Shamrocks goals.

And shove over, Jordan Binnington. Shamrocks goaltender Pete Dubenski, an early-season addition in a trade with Nanaimo after playing Senior B last season, was named MVP of the WLA playoffs for his 7.21 goals-against average and .852 save percentage over nine games.

But Dubenski provided drama of a different kind in the clinching game as he was assessed a major penalty at 17:29 in the second period for wearing illegal pads. It was Dubenski’s second major penalty of the game, for the same offence, which meant ejection. Backup Cody Hagedorn was forced into duty with Victoria leading 6-3 and made 18 saves on 23 shots to record the victory.

“That was a very good Maple Ridge team and it was a heck of a series,” said Welch.

“People will look on paper and see 4-1. But three of the games went to overtime. It could have just as easily gone the other way.”

But there is a potential dark cloud on the Mann Cup horizon for the Shamrocks as Victoria’s leading offensive star, Claremont-grad Jesse King, did not play Sunday in Game 5. The slick-shooting NLL pro star and Ohio State Buckeyes NCAA graduate sustained an upper-body injury on the last play in overtime of Game 4 on Friday at Cam Neely Arena in Maple Ridge.

The Shamrocks are remaining tight-lipped about the situation.

“We’re hoping for a speedy recovery,” said Welch.

“We’ll use the days off to get a grip on it with the doctors.”

Welch said he is optimistic King can be ready for the start of the Mann Cup, “or early in the series.”

Dane Dobbie of the Burrards, the all-time NLL franchise scoring leader for the Calgary Roughnecks, won the WLA playoff goals title with 28 in 11 games while King was second with 19 in eight games. Dobbie topped the playoff scoring parade with 44 points. King and Burrards Ryan Keenan and Curtis Dickson tied for second with 38 points, but King played three less games.

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