MINTO PREVIEW: Shamrocks Look to Outlast Northmen
SHamrocks look to outlast northmen
BEST-OF-5 SERIES TIED 0-0
ALL GAMES AT 7 PM AT LANGLEY EVENTS CENTRE
GAME 1 - TONIGHT
GAME 2 - THURSDAY
GAME 3 - FRIDAY
GAME 4 - SUNDAY
GAME 5 - MONDAY
(GAME 4 & 5 IF NECESSARY)
The Victoria Shamrocks managed to overcome a slow start in the 2019 Minto Cup and are now peaking at the right time heading into the Best-of-5 Finals against the Ontario champion Orangeville Northmen. The boys in green and white have a tall task ahead of them, with the Northmen looking virtually unstoppable at points during the Round Robin portion of the tournament.
Victoria has already played the spoiler role in this tournament, but they will also need to fulfill that true "nobody believes in us" underdog label as they look to prove they belong as one of the last two teams standing in Canadian Junior lacrosse. Victoria has defied expectations all season, riding a powerful offence and some MVP-level goaltending to this spot. It also helps that the 'Rocks have begun to exhibit quiet confidence about their game, fine-tuning their gameplan to defeat Okotoks in the Semi-Final despite losing to the Raiders in the Round Robin.
BACKS AGAINST THE WALL MENTALITY
It wouldn't be a surprise to anyone if Victoria Head Coach Terry Dennett has already started to plan that seed of being a spoiler into his team. Here's what he had to say after the Shamrocks dispatched the Raiders on Monday evening:
“I think it was just getting adjusted, getting ready for the big stage,” he said about the turnaround over the last 48 hours compared to the first 48.
“Having our backs against the wall is kind of where we have played our best.”
Orangeville has proven to be more than a formidable foe so far, cruising to a 3-0 record with some clinical finishing on the offensive end, and some outstanding goaltending from starter Rylan Hartley, who stopped all but one shot that came his way in the Minto opening 12-1 victory over the 'Rocks. That win put the other two teams on notice, and neither of them could muster enough of a performance to get by the Northmen.
Head Coach Bruce Codd and his staff have built the equivalent of a well-oiled machine this season, and as Okotoks Head Coach Jesse Fehr put it succinctly, they are able to dictate games on their own terms by setting the pace they want to play at, and are always putting opposition on the back foot by forcing them to make in-game adjustments. What helps Victoria, as it did with Burlington in the Ontario final, is that they won't be forced to make all those adjustments at once; the format does give some room to breathe, and losing game one won't be the end of the world.
ORANGEVILLE HAS BEEN IMPRESSIVE THUS FAR
Where Orangeville hopes to gain a leg up, beyond having a crucial extra day for rest, is they've had the ability to sit back and analyze all potential opposition and formulate their own plan of attack. It shouldn't differ much from what's gotten them to this point: a team with athleticism and boatloads of skill all over the lineup who defend well and as a team in front of Hartley, who has been stellar so far. He leads starting goalies in the Minto with a .916 SV% and 4.09 GAA.
While Hartley has been solid in his crease, BCJALL MVP Cameron Dunkerley must also be relishing to play his best lacrosse against a familiar opponent. Dunkerley has improved as the games have gone on and despite Victoria's slow start, he's shown the ability to bounce back stronger each time.
KEYS TO A VICTORIA MINTO VICTORY
So how can Victoria take advantage of this series? Trusting their offence to lead the way isn't a bad gameplan. That group was one of the most explosive during the BCJALL season and have a number of players who still haven't announced their presence in the tournament. One of those is Teioshantathe McComber, who has been a focal point of defensive gameplans along with Zach Manns and Austin Madronic. McComber's points per game average has seen a big dropoff compared to the regular season and playoffs, but he is still getting solid looks. If he's able to overturn some of his shooting luck - he's shooting 14% during the Minto - that will go a long way to helping Victoria.
Leaning on the depth and secondary scoring will also be crucial, as will penetrating Orangeville's defence and getting to the dirty areas that no one typically wants to go to.
On the defensive side, the aim must be to stop the Northmen's big guns - players like Jonathan Donville, Dylan Watson, Ty Thompson and Sam Firth. That group has done a majority of Orangeville's scoring. The key may be focusing on Donville, punishing him for getting inside and keeping help defenders close by. He will always get his, but Victoria would hate to lose the series based on Donville's efforts putting the ball in the net.
Another key will be stopping Orangeville from going on long runs of five or more unanswered goals. Orangeville is an absolute terror with the long change in the middle frame, outscoring teams in that period 16-4 to this point. That's a testament to how prepared and strong of a roster Orangeville has, but putting a priority on stopping the transition and surviving that middle 20 minutes will really help the 'Rocks.
Despite being a Vancouver Island team, there will still be plenty of support in the stands for the green and white, and they will need every bit of it as they start the final climb to the top of the mountain.