BCJALL Notebook: The final four have plenty of strengths carry them to Minto Cup berth

Sorry to make our Ontario and Alberta brothers jealous, but two teams in the BCJALL are just three wins away from their ticket to the Minto Cup championship in New Westminster. Both teams that win their best-of-five semifinal series’ and advance to the BC finals are in. The BC playoff road is not long, but it can still be pretty treacherous. Coquitlam and New West are well-rested coming off of bye weeks, and they’re meeting two clubs firing on all cylinders after Round 1 sweeps for Victoria and Langley. Will the surging and developing ‘Bellies or Thunder get over the hump? Can the Adanacs find their 2010 mojo? Or will the deep graduating class in Victoria find pride and glory in their final season? ILIndoor breaks down the BCJALL semi-final series’.

Coquitlam (1) vs. Victoria (4)

The Road
Coquitlam Adanacs: Coquitlam’s sixth straight first place finish in the BCJALL with a 17-4 record … Allowed fewer goals than any team at 151 … First season under head coach Neil Doddridge (3rd coach in as many years.) First round bye.
Victoria Shamrocks: The 4th seed in the BCJALL with a 14-7 record for 28 points … Had the highest scoring offence with 308 goals including a league best 75 PPGs … Swept Delta in a best-of-three first round series.
Strengths
Coquitlam Adanacs: These aren’t the Minto Cup winning Adanacs of 2010. Three years have past — an entire grad class of junior lacrosse players have come and gone, but these Adanacs are still pretty solid. The A’s only had one Top 10 scorer this season, Chase McIntyre (20-55-75), finished 10th in the league. However, they did have seven 20-goal scorers, and nine 40-point guys for the most well rounded attack in the league. They also boast who some consider to be the two best junior players in the country at their positions, Tyler Garrison and Wes Berg. In Garrison, they have not only the best defenseman in BC, but they have a leader with NLL experience to source from. Garrison played in the sport’s biggest game two months ago and has been a man amongst boys since returning to junior ‘A’. His path is eerily similar to that of Matt Beers’ in 2010 — play your rookie season in the NLL for the Stealth, get to the Champion’s Cup, return to captain the junior Adanacs. Beers’ story ended with a Minto Cup win. Garrison will try to bring the same intensity, heart and leadership that he did to make everyone around him better. At the other end of the floor they have Berg. The league’s leading scorer in 2011 is back in mid-season form from his sophomore season at the U of Denver. He’s averaging over 5 points-per-game since his return, and has always been as lethal a passer as he’s been a shooter. He told Teddy Jenner’s OTCB last month that if any aspect of his game has improved down south, it’s his one-on-one game. Can you iso?
Victoria Shamrocks: Crown the King. No one is playing better lacrosse in Canada right now than Jesse King. The 6’3’’, 205-pound lefty from Victoria lit up the regular season for 111 points in just 15 games. He just added another 13 in 2 playoff games against Delta — slightly below his insane 7.4 points-per-game in the regular season. “Jesse is a killer sending the ball around,” teammate Brody Eastwood told the Victoria Times Colonist. “He controls the ball so well, and he sees the floor great.” Victoria’s power-play kept rolling through round one against Delta as well, with 7 PPGs in the two game series. Victoria’s power-play dominated the regular season, striking 75 times. Against Coquitlam, one of the most penalized teams in the league, the man advantage could turn out to be a huge advantage for the boys from the island.
The X-Factor
Coquitlam Adanacs: Again, these aren’t the Minto Cup winning Adanacs of 2010. Not only because the players have turned over, but also because the coaching in Coquitlam is turning over at an alarming rate. They’ve been to the last 4 Minto Cups with 3 different coaches, and only one has won it all — Curt Malawsky in 2010. A Malawsky doesn’t come around every day, but Neil Doddrige will have to try to tap into what Curt did in 2010 to get his team out of the second round and beyond. These are younger Adanac players, many of whom never played under Curt. Doddrige will have to motivate, inspire and instill a whole new culture for them to move on like the A’s of the past.
Victoria Shamrocks: Eastwood told the Victoria Times Colonist: “Motivation is easy. For us third years, being our last season, we want to do something.” The Shamrocks out-vet the Adanacs, and that will be a huge factor in this series. The Shamrocks’ 1992’s don’t have the playoff experience that some of the A’s have, but they are older, more mature lacrosse players. We see it all the time in amateur and college sports that have a graduating class, the veteran heavy teams have something more to play for. There is no next season for the 1992’s, and Victoria’s ‘92’s want to get Victoria back to the Minto Cup for the first time since 2008.
Schedule
Game 1 at the Coquitlam Sports Centre in Coquitlam, Saturday July 20
Game 2 at Bear Mountain Arena in Victoria, Sunday July 21
Game 3 at the Coquitlam Sports Centre in Coquitlam, Saturday July 27
Game 4 at Bear Mountain Arena in Victoria, Sunday July 28
Game 5 at the Coquitlam Sports Centre in Coquitlam, Tuesday July 30

New Westminster (2) vs. Langley (3)

The Road
New Westminster: BC’s second seed with a 16-5 record … Won the season series vs. first seed Coquitlam, and would have finished above them in the standings if it weren’t for a forfeited game on May 5th vs. Nanaimo … Second overall in most goals for, fewest goals against, and power play goals.
Langley Thunder: A franchise record 3rd place finish with a 14-7 record … 1 win in 6 games against the top 2 seeds Coquitlam and New West … Swept Port Coquitlam in a best-of-three first round series.
Strengths
New Westminster: Aside from having the scoring champ Cody Nass (42-83-125), the goal-scoring champ Eli McLaughlin (60-43-103), and the second leading scorer Josh Byrne (56-56-112), the ‘Bellies also have a goaltender who has already gone pro in Frankie Scigliano. However, their best asset is their head coach Dan Perreault. Four years behind the same bench is an eternity in the BCJALL and Perreault has had enough time now to teach a pressure defense and establish a culture of winning in the royal city. Their roster has 14 different players than last season that have all improved with each game. Perreault told us “they all know how important it is for the teams compete level to rise to the next level during playoffs. We must continue to get to the prime scoring areas often. Special teams could decide games, we must continue to play very discipline. Goaltending will also be key. Scigliano and Bowman have played well all year. Both teams have guys that can put the ball in the net so we must continue to pressure Langley’s shooters and keep them off balance.” Nass and McLaughlin have both been criticized for their lack of production in big games; Perreault should be the man to change that. He can make game-changing adjustments on the fly, and has seen enough junior lacrosse over the years to know how to match up against any and all situations. Coaching losing teams in the 2009 and 2010 Minto Cups should also give Perreault enough of a spark to get it right in his own backyard at Queen’s Park Arena next month.
Langley Thunder: They are happy and healthy after a rough injury stretch to end the regular season. “I thought we had a pretty legitimate shot to make top two, but we ran into some pretty serious injury trouble about three quarters of the way through the season and weren’t quite able to get over the hump against Coquitlam or New West,” head coach Jake Elliott told the Langley Times. “But I think we are right where we want to be now and very close to being 100 per cent healthy and feeling pretty good about ourselves.” One of those injuries was to 2011 MVP Reegan Comeault, who has returned to lead all playoff scorers so far with 16 points. The heart and soul of their back end, Zack Porter, has also returned to reinvigorate the defense. Import goalie Tyler Glebe also looks to be heating up in net. He allowed just 2 goals against in game two of the Poco series.
The X-Factor
New Westminster: The Minto Cup is being hosted by the BCJALL in Queen’s Park Arena and the ‘Bellies would rather be playing in the tournament than watching from the stands. Home floor advantage at historic Queen’s Park will also give the ‘Bellies a boost. They know the nuances of the boards, and the bounces and the lighting from playing and practicing there and will use that to their benefit in transition. They can also look up to the banner covered rusty rafters that have been missing a Minto Cup banner since 1994.
Langley Thunder: Trajectory. The Langley Thunder have been getting better each and every season for the past 4 years. It was a five-year plan when Thunder brass decided to have a handful of players jump straight from midget to junior lacrosse and by-pass the intermediate league. That five-year plan is supposed to pay off in 2013. Their 1992s have now tasted winning, and have also tasted valuable playoff loss. “It is just experience that you can’t buy,” Elliott told the Langley Times. “It is something that these guys have gone through now — most of them at least — that leaves a sour taste in your mouth and makes you realize how bad you really want it. And probably, more importantly than anything, what it is going to take to get over the hump.”
Schedule
Game 1 at Queens Park Arena in New West, Tuesday July 16; NW 12, LAN 6.
Game 2 at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, tonight.
Game 3 at Queens Park Arena in New West, Tuesday July 23
Game 4 at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, Thursday July 25
Game 5 at Queens Park Arena in New West, Sunday July 28

Challoner is a prominent voice of lacrosse on the West Coast. Color Commentator for the Vancouver Stealth on the Lacrosse Network, he also calls play-by-play for the WLA. Email him at bcjall@hotmail.com and follow on Twitter @BradChall Twitter @laxcaster

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