Photo Credit: Vintage Lax
If you’re not familiar with the term “adding another skin to the wall”; either was I until last year when I was driving with Bandit’s Assistant Coach Chuck Brown to the airport in Buffalo in order to make our way to the Hamilton Nationals’ game in Boston.
Chuck was referring to a term used by the First Nations’ lacrosse community used to describe the addition of a championship banner to the walls of the team’s arena, like a hunter proudly displays the hyde of the animal he has captured to survive on.
Now I am making the reference, this time regarding the addition of the second banner in as many years that the Six Nations Chiefs will add to their wall for Friday’s Mann Cup victory over the Victoria Shamrocks.
In the final game it was a combination of Brandon Miller‘s goaltending (34 saves on 38 shots) and the Chiefs’ ability to put up unanswered goals in bunches, as they did all post season, that tipped the scale in the Chief’s favor.
The Victoria Shamrocks made this an incredible series featuring a young and fast defense versus a veteran savvy offense boasting names like Colin Doyle (3rd in NLL all time for Points), Cody Jamieson (Lead the Mann Cup and was 1st in Points in the NLL last year), Jeff Shattler, Kasey Beirnes, Craig Point, Stephen Keogh. It also must be duly noted the input by Johnny Powless (whom can’t complain about 2014 winning skins in the NLL, Minto Cup and Mann Cup) along with Vaughn Harris, whom did the lion’s share of the work at the X and had a huge 6 assist game.
The highlight was watching tandems like Jamieson and Shattler, Doyle and Beirnes, Point and Keogh; whom at this point in their third 7 game series were more in sync than the Corsican Twins. The entire offense played in perfect balance but these tandems continuously amazed with their ability to find each other and put up goals. Doyle in particular was putting on a clinic all playoffs long with passes that were always on target and perfectly timed.
The Chiefs’ defense was relentless and frugal; only allowing 6 or less goals in 5 of the 6 Mann Cup games (they also held the Peterborough Lakers to 5 goals in 3 games of the MSL final). They were punishing and out right intimidating; and what made this even more impressive is they did it all clean and by the book.
When Brandon Miller received the game MVP he refused to go up and accept the award without the entire defense beside him.
The Chiefs’ defense was also humble; after the game they still sat as a group in the dressing room partaking in the celebration in their own quiet manner, declining all interviews until I was able to get Colin Boucher to break the silence.
While the Chiefs’ tandems on offense were something else to watch, it was the goaltenders that made the Chiefs’ greatest tandem. Brandon Miller got the job done versus Brooklin Redmen; Evan Kirk carried the Chiefs through the Peterborough series and it was Miller back in net for the Mann cup.
Both goalies bring their own unique style to the floor and nothing put this on display better than Game 7 in Peterborough when Six Nations put Miller in to the game for Kirk who had played every minute of the series until that point. This was enough to throw off the Peterborough Laker offense as Miller shut the door and the Chiefs went on a 7 goal run to come from behind a win the game.
For the Victoria Shamrocks, they are a young team and will surely be fighting for another Mann Cup soon. Their defense has now set the bar for all teams with its blanketing speed. There youthful goaltending from Flindell and Hagedorn showed the ability to play against the games’ best shooters.
They take with them the lessons of another Mann Cup that didn’t turn out as hoped but will surely pay dividends in the future with regard to the mental journey and hunger to win.
You Had To Be There
One thing I would like to point out was the atmosphere at the ILA. The constant beating of drums from the Six Nations crowd was steady in unison throughout the arena and the feeling will be something I’ll never forget.
One time at a Grateful Dead concert in Washington DC I saw/heard between 600 and 1000 individual people playing the drums at once. They were all sitting below the ring road highway that surrounds RFK Stadium which must be over 30-40 lanes across. They all sat on the rocks that stuck out from the water and the acoustics were mind blowing. What was also mind blowing is that every once in a while, sometimes 1 hour apart and other times only 15 minutes apart, all of the drums would gravitate to one single beat. This would last between 30 and 60 seconds before they broke off into their own individual rhythms again.
Well I never thought anything in my life would ever rival the feeling the drums gave me that day; but I was fortunate enough to be caught behind the train of Six Nations Chiefs as they exited the dressing room to the sound of the war drum on their way to the floor. The intensity on their faces and the deafening sound of the drum reverberating off the cement walls is something that makes my hairs stand on end even as I write about it today.
It would be fair to say that this was one of the best Mann Cups played in its long and proud history… and it was the Chiefs’ ability to gravitate to one beat that won them the title in the end.
Congratulations to the community, the front office, the coaches and the players that make up the ONE TEAM that is the Six Nation Chiefs! You all deserved that 2014 Mann Cup, here’s to a long and successful journey in the future!