In making his case in the dressing room, Victoria Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes presented his players with Exhibit A: Last year’s Western Lacrosse Association playoff semifinal series.
Victoria led Burnaby 3-1 in the best-of-seven before being forced into a Game 7 by the Lakers. Victoria won the series, but took the long route.
The Shamrocks are again leading 3-1 in the semifinals this year, with Game 5 against the Nanaimo Timbermen Friday night at the Q Centre. Will it be the final chapter, or like last year, the fifth of seven chapters?
“To get to where you are going, you have to see where you have been,” Heyes said philosophically.
“Looking back on last year, we learned you can’t take anything for granted.”
“Nanaimo has had a great season. We can’t just show up [Friday night]. We need to play well. We probably need to play our best game.”
The Shamrocks have been pretty good, after dropping the first game in double overtime, Timbermen head coach Kaleb Toth admitted.
“Victoria has been the better team the last three games,” Toth said.
“We [Timbermen] haven’t played well. We’ve got to come to play. We need more intensity and we need our goalies to make saves when we need them.”
The Shamrocks have chased Timbermen starting goaltender Charles Claxton from the nets the past two games, leaving Mike DeGirolamo to mop up.
Toth realizes you can’t win three games at once.
“We can only play the game in front of us,” he said, showing a philosophical bent of his own.
“It’s just another game, and we will approach it with the same intensity and intelligence as we have approached all our games this season.”
The Nanaimo bench boss, of course, contends that his team can rally.
“We’ve got a good enough team to beat Victoria,” Toth said.
“The guys have to start believing in themselves. We need to play with desperation and passion, with a willingness to sacrifice, the rest of the way.”
Victoria went a lethal five-for-six on the power play in Game 4’s 12-7 victory on Tuesday at Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo, while holding the Timbermen power play to zero-for-two.
“Our power play was a huge factor and made Nanaimo pay for its mistakes,” Heyes said. “Even after taking high sticks and slashes, we stayed even-keeled, and managed our emotions.
“We are not taking dumb penalties. I like the way we are playing.”
This is the first playoff meeting between the Island rivals in 61 years and third-seed Nanaimo’s first playoff appearance in 11 seasons. With the derby series now into elimination games, the second-seed Shamrocks are expecting to be lifted by a raucous home crowd tonight.
If required, Game 6 would be Sunday night at Frank Crane in Nanaimo and Game 7 on Tuesday back at the Q Centre.
The WLA final will start next Friday at either the Q Centre or Frank Crane. Since the fourth-seed Maple Ridge Burrards swept the regular-season champion New Westminster Salmonbellies 4-0 in the other semifinal series, both the Shamrocks and Timbermen would have home-floor advantage against the Burrards.