Six Nations Chiefs and Victoria Shamrocks tied at 1-1
Simply put; there’s no way you can watch a Mann Cup lacrosse game without knowing this is one of the most fiercely fought over trophies in all sports.
While driving back from an NCAA Final Four in Boston, I had the pleasure of riding along with one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time, John Grant Jr. It is in my opinion that Jr is in an elite group of players, with the likes of the Gaits and Casey Powell, which has excelled to the top in both Field and Box due to his unmatched stick.
At that time I took the opportunity to ask Jr which he enjoyed more… And to this day I’ll never forget his reply:
love is love. – John Grant Jr.
I mention this because I noticed an editor’s note at the beginning of the first article I wrote for LAS on the MSL final 2014. The note was written to somewhat introduce Box Lacrosse to the newer US audience; as Box has been a staple in Canada since the late 1920s.
Like Jr, I could never pick between Field and Box; but I can tell you this about what you will see if you tune into a Mann Cup final… unbelievable creativity with the ball on offense and punishing defense.
Because cross checking is legal (whether you’re on defense or offense); to create scoring opportunities is a battle of wills that can only be won by an offense willing to take risks. You see, to be successful inside the box you have to be successful at thinking outside the box; all while the defender covering you is hacking, whacking and jacking you up.
While field lacrosse has its intricacies that make it beautiful; so too does box; and I think it fair to say that the sheer brutal nature of box lacrosse breeds players with the ability to play under heavy physical duress in tight space and is a blast to watch.
So to bring you quickly up to speed with what has happened so far; last night the Victoria Shamrocks were able to tie the series at 1-1 with the Six Nation Chiefs in the best of 7 Mann Cup Final, in Six Nations; after the Chiefs won convincingly 7-4 in Game 1.
Chris Wardle led the Shamrock offense with 2 goals and 2 assists; including the double overtime winner… but in a 6-5 ball game it was defense that deserves the most credit.
The Shamrocks’ Bob Heyes had this to say about his defense’s effort “our season has been predicated on having the best D in Canada”
Based off last night’s performance he has a strong case. The Shamrock D is lightning fast with well-coordinated doubles and that extends the area they are able to effectively cover.
Tyler Hass, Bradley Kri, Jon and Greg Harnett make the foundation of a defense that was able to shut down and frustrate the Chiefs… whom in their own right could put a case as one of the most potent offenses in all lacrosse.
Fun fact: My highlight of the night being when Kri lost his stick. He then ripped the stick out of Colin Doyle’s hands and used it for the full 30 second shot clock; all while Doyle looked in disbelief at the referee that watched it all happen. A display of really smart D when you think about it…
Rich Kilgour of the Chiefs “You play 70 minutes and both teams only put up 10 goals combined, that’s good D and good goaltending… they were 1 shot better than us tonight; we will learn from it and move on.”
While it was expected that the Shamrocks’ D would have a huge influence on this series; the question mark was in goal and how Matt Flindell (whom backed up Matt Vinc in last year’s final) would hold up against the Chiefs and their ability to score in bunches.
All doubts were put aside last night when Flindell held the 1st and 2nd play-off point leaders (Cody Jamieson and Jeff Shattler) scoreless; with his biggest save of the game coming in the last seconds of the first period shutting the door on Stephen Keogh from front and center of the crease.
Game MVP Flindell held the entire Six Nation Chiefs scoreless for a 25 minute stretch that allowed the Shamrocks to come from behind and take their first lead in the series.
This is the trophy I grew up dreaming to play for watching the Shamrocks as a kid… I grew up wanting to be a Shamrock so I’m making the best of it while I can.” said Findell whom is clearly stepping up and performing on the biggest stage off his career thus far.
When asked if he watched much game tape on the Chiefs’ shooters, Flindell pointed out he had however went on to say:
You have to play every shot honest or you get caught cheating.
While I myself heavily favored the Six Nations Chiefs going into the Mann Cup (and still do); it would appear that the Shamrocks are not going to let this be easy and dare I say it… there are signs they could actually pull it off.
After all, a best of seven series is not won by the team with more superstars but by the team that truly wants it more.
Which team wants it the most?
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Game 3 is set for tonight at 8pm est in the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena. Tonight’s game and all of the rest of the games in the series can be watched online here!
Photo Credit: Vintage Lax