If you were looking for fresh blood in the Mann Cup, you’ve got it. Neither the Western Lacrosse Association champion Victoria Shamrocks nor the Major Series Lacrosse titlist Six Nations Chiefs have been there in a while—it’s been since 2006 for the Shamrocks and back to 1996 for the Chiefs. Both have won their way back with deep rosters featuring strong team defence and a host of options on offence, along with outstanding goaltending. Today we take a look at the rosters and the seasons of these teams, trying to get an idea of how the series may play out. It’s always a tough call when you have teams from across the country facing each other; it’s even tougher when most of these players haven’t been to Mann Cups and haven’t played each other, as is the case this year. Make the jump to see a breakdown of the 2013 Mann Cup matchup.
Six Nations: 16-3-1 (.825); 8-1-1 home, 8-2 road
Victoria: 11-7 (.611); 7-2 home, 4-5 road
Goals for and against
Six Nations: 218 goals for (10.9 per game, 1st in MSL), 157 goals against (7.85, 1st)
Victoria: 199 goals for (11.1, 1st in WLA), 161 goals against (8.9, 2nd)
Six Nations: Colin Doyle 28/48/76; Craig Point 24/47/71; Cody Jamieson 34/33/67; Roger Vyse 23/42/65
Victoria: Cory Conway 20/67/87; Corey Small 42/44/86; Scott Ranger 33/27/60; Jeff Shattler 24/25/49
Six Nations: Billy Dee Smith, Sid Smith, David Brock, Jesse Gamble, Dan Coates
Victoria: Scott Carnegie, Tyler Hass, Dan McRae, Tyler Burton, Ben McCullough
Six Nations: 8-0 (1.000); 4-0 home, 4-0 road
Victoria: 8-2 (.800); 4-0 home, 4-2 road
Goals for and against
Six Nations: 81 goals for (10.1 per game), 53 goals against (6.6)
Victoria: 100 goals for (10), 68 goals against (6.8)
The Chiefs are potent, with scoring coming from all over the offensive set. Cody Jamieson was named the MSL playoffs MVP in a close call over Colin Doyle. Both were terrific throughout the post season, but Jamieson sealed the deal with a dominant performance in the clinching game of the championship series over Brooklin. He has shown a knack for being at his almost unstoppable best when the games are most important. Don’t be surprised if he is handed the Mike Kelly award for Mann Cup MVP at the end of the series. That’s just the way he rolls.
Kasey Beirnes scored plenty of big goals in the playoffs. The Chiefs also got a boost from the addition of Johnny Powless for the finals, after his Junior A Arrows were eliminated. He adds yet another dangerous stick and started to develop some real chemistry with Doyle. Craig Point continues to produce with the Chiefs.
The Shamrocks are potent, with scoring coming from all over the offensive set. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the same opening sentence from above, because the Shamrocks also get it done as a team. And they’d better be able to keep doing so, because with leading goal scorer Corey Small on the shelf with a knee injury, they’ll need his teammates to take up the slack. Jeff Shattler led the Shamrocks in playoff scoring while Scott Ranger, Rhys Duch, Cory Conway and Brody Eastwood each scored at least 10 playoff goals.
Advantage: Six Nations
In my MSL finals preview, I rated the Brooklin and Six Nations defences even, based largely on how close the two teams were in regular season goals allowed. Billy Dee Smith took great delight in looking at me and asking “Even?” as the Chiefs D showed throughout the series that they were the best in the league, even when he had to sit out the last two games with a sore hamstring. The Chiefs are punishing, smart and cohesive. They make it difficult to run the type of offence you want to run, difficult to get inside, and difficult to get the time and space to shoot. Even their affiliated players, Colin Boucher and Ian Llord from the St. Catharines Saints Presidents Cup champions, are big, strong and athletic. Boucher regularly knocks players right off their feet with his devastating, legal cross checks. It’s hard to pick one player who stands out on Six Nations’ defence, because so many of them play so well, and because they play as a unit.
Much like the offensive groups have a similar sense of spreading the wealth, the defences in this series are similar in that their wholes are greater than the sum of their parts. Like with the Chiefs no one player really stands out for the Shamrocks because so many of them play very well and because they play as a unit. That’s not too surprising, given that about half of them play together with the Calgary Roughnecks as well. The Shamrocks aren’t as big and physical as the Chiefs, although they’re no shrinking violets. Ben McCullough, one of the non-Roughnecks, brings a load of toughness, and Minnesota Swarm’s Tyler Hass may be the breakout defensive star of the year in both the winter and summer leagues.
Advantage: Six Nations
The Chiefs are not a team that will run you into the ground, although they have some get up and go from Jesse Gamble, David Brock and Dan Coates. Gamble, in particular, is a threat to snag a loose ball or an errant pass and zip to the other zone and score any time he’s on the floor. Being an effective transition team isn’t just about getting up the floor and scoring, though; it’s also about stopping the other team from doing so. Brooklin wanted to run on the Chiefs. They had to run on the Chiefs to be successful. But throughout the MSL finals, the Redmen ran mostly into a wall of white and teal as the Six Nations offensive players did a great job of getting off the floor at the right time so their D could get on it to take away the break.
They’ll have to keep that up against the Shamrocks, who are probably even faster and more adept at breaking out than the Redmen. Hass is the primary threat, but Karsen Leung and Dan McRae can bring it: all three hit double digits in points in the playoffs. Victoria is young and fast and likes to make use of that. One of the key factors in the transition game will be how each coaching staff is able to adapt to the other team’s adjustments as the series goes on.
If you’re primarily an NLL fan, you may look at this matchup and say it’s a no brainer in favour of the Shamrocks, with two-time reigning NLL goalie of the year Matt Vinc giving Victoria a clear edge over Evan Kirk, who had a shaky sophomore season in Minnesota and basically became Tyler Carlson’s backup. But don’t be too quick to embrace that line of thinking. Kirk was back to his old self in the MSL this summer, following up his 2012 MSL MVP performance with another outstanding season in the summer league. Kirk was shaky in the MSL finals, too…for about 30 minutes. The rest of the way he did nothing but frustrate the Redmen whenever they were finally able to break through the Chiefs’ D for a decent shot.
The statistics tell much of the story of how good both these goalies have been in the playoffs. They show Vinc with a 6.81 goals against average and .829 save percentage. Kirk is credited with a 6.44 goals against average and .823 save percentage. There’s not much to pick between them. The one big factor is experience, in which Vinc has a definite edge, especially in big games. He was the MVP of the world championships as Canada won gold in 2011 and has shone in the last two NLL championship games.
Perhaps the biggest thing in Victoria’s favour as the Shamrocks try to become the first WLA team to win the Mann Cup since they managed the feat back in 2005 is their home floor. They haven’t lost on the concrete of Bear Mountain in the playoffs and they will have packed houses cheering them on. It’s always difficult to travel across the country and win a Mann Cup.
Neither team is flush with players with lots of Mann Cup experience. The Chiefs’ Doyle, though, has won three Mann Cup championships and is still playing with the mix of talent, lacrosse intelligence and leadership that have made him one of the greatest players of all time.
This series should be an absolute treat for lacrosse fans. It matches up two teams who are, first and foremost, teams. They’re both studded with plenty of star talent, but we saw in Victoria’s WLA finals victory over the Langley Thunder that talent isn’t always enough. We’ll see two great defensive units working in front of two great goalies, and two offensive units trying to find enough ways to keep the ball moving to good spots to get some goals. Victoria’s youth will make it hard for the Chiefs to contain their running game. Six Nations experience and cohesiveness will make it hard for the Shamrocks to score as much as they’re used to. Expect a hard-fought series, and expect the Chiefs to pull it out int he end. Six Nations in 6 games.Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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