The Victoria Shamrocks punched their ticket to the Mann Cup Finals when they knocked off two-time reigning WLA champions, the Langley Thunder. The Six Nations Chiefs swept the Brooklin Redmen four games to none and were eagerly awaiting the WLA champs – and last night, they finally got their answer. Six Nations touched down in Victoria on Thursday afternoon and the series began on Friday night, with Victoria taking Game 1, 5-4.
Editor’s Note: the video above is the game-winning goal from last night from OSU’s Jesse King
Photo Credit: Larry Palumbo, Coyote Magic Action Shots
This is the first time that Six Nations is back in the Mann Cup finals since 1996, and the first time Victoria has been there since 2005. This change of pace that has the entire lacrosse community on its toes. It has been a long time coming for both of these teams to make it back to the Mann Cup – Six Nations has been stockpiling talent the past few season but has yet to make it to the finals. Victoria has been beat out by Langley the past two season to represent the WLA in the series.
This past off season, Victoria stacked their back end in hopes of being exactly where they are today. The Shamrocks brought in experienced Knighthawk defenders in Tyler Burton and Dylan Evans. The idea was to beef up the back door, and it has paid off. Victoria also brought in Matt Vinc, who is arguably the best goalie in the game right now. Fresh off back-to-back NLL Championships, Vinc is on the top of his game and finally settled into a groove towards the end of the season and into the playoffs.
Six Nations has been on a roll from the beginning of the season – finishing 16-3-1. As for the playoffs? Forget about it – the Chiefs went 8-0 sweeping both Kitchener Waterloo and the Brooklin Redmen in the MSL playoffs to win the MSL. Six Nations have had adequate time to rest their bumps and bruises between both series, and looked to be 100% going into game one. There are a lot of stars on the Six Nations squad hungry to take home the Mann Cup, so expect an even better match up in Game 2. There is a lot of familiarity between these teams already, as many of these players play with one another for the Knighthawks and Matt Vinc played for Six Nations last summer. A lot bragging rights are on the line, and we’re only one game in.
Let’s take a look at what we can expect to see the rest of the way out…
The Shamrocks brought in NLL veteran Matt Vinc this season in hopes to make it to the Mann Cup, and that move has paid off. It took a few games for Matt Vinc to get settled – Vinc finished the regular season 4-4 with a .789 save percentage. Fear not, the defense tightened up down the stretch and into the playoffs. Vinc went 8-2 in the playoffs and bumped his save percentage up to .829. Basically, Vinc got hot and started playing with his D at the right time, and is back on top of his game – this is bad news for the Chiefs. Four goals allowed in Game 1? Yup, he’s on.
Of course, Six Nations has their own ace-in-the hole with Evan Kirk. He only allowed five goals in Game 1. His overall record of 13-2 in the regular season and a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs with an .823 save percentage all stand out. Kirk struggled during the NLL season but he is playing in front of a better defense and using a traditional box stick – the change has paid dividends. The fans can expect an exciting, but low scoring, series to continue.
Both Victoria and Six Nations have unbelievable defenses. Victoria doesn’t have the same overwhelming defensive studs but they have a solid group that plays well together. As I said earlier, they brought in Dylan Evans and Tyler Burton, and those defenders come with a bucketful of experience and a few championship rings – which never hurts anyone. Except maybe the opposition. Victoria finished the regular season 2nd in the WLA for goals against. Victoria is also young and fast out of the back end and pushes the ball well in transition. Six Nations is going to have to be quick out the door to stop the fast transition that is the norm in the WLA.
Six Nations isn’t to shabby on the back end either. They finished 1st in the MSL in scoring defense surrendering only 7.85 per game. Six Nations does have some big names on defense including: Sid Smith, Billy Dee, and Dan Coates. You can’t forget about Ian Lord a savy vet who most recently won the Presidents Cup with the St. Catherines Saints. Not to be outdone, Six Nations plays very well in transition. Jesse Gamble is quick and effective in transition. Six Nations is even more dangerous in transition because Cody Jamieson is the first out the door and drives right to the cage to make something happen. It is very tough to get to the inside of Six Nations’ defense, and Evan Kirk can stop outside shots all day. It will be up to Victoria to slash their way to the cage.
Defense and goaltending are close… why not offense as well? Both teams finished number 1 in scoring for both the MSL and the WLA. The teams are stacked on the offensive end and have all the big name stars. Six Nations led the MSL averaging nearly 11 points per game. They are paced by Cody Jamieson, who not only won the playoff MVP award, but is also a brand new father. Jamieson is helped out by veterans Colin Doyle, Roger Vyse, and Craig Point. Let us not forget about Kasey Beirnes who is having a monster summer. Six Nations offense also gets a boost on the left side with affiliated player Johnny Powless getting a call up from the Jr. A Arrows. It is going to be an absolute dog fight in front of Matt Vinc, and Six Nations is going to have to get some ugly goals to find some success.
Victoria has their own list of offense stars as well. Jeff Shattler, Cory Conway, Rhys Duch, and Scott Ranger are very deadly players with a ton of experience under their belt. Victoria did lose Corey Small to an injury, and Small was in a solid groove playing great lacrosse. It is going to be tough for Victoria to get to the net with Six Nations putting up such a tough defense, but Victoria has great ball movement and can make it happen.
The Rest of the Series:
Overall, it is going to be a great series and I personally cannot wait to watch. The only downside is that I’m on the east coast, and I’ll be up to the wee hours of the morning watching the webcasts, since the games are out West. There are a lot of big name players that are going to be scrapping to get their hands on the Mann Cup. We are going to be treated to a great series and be able to watch box lacrosse at its finest. Just hope everyone will enjoy this series as much as I will.