Coach Bob Heyes was still recovering from the Victoria Shamrocks’ loss in the Mann Cup on Monday, three days after the Six Nations Chiefs hoisted the trophy at Bear Mountain Arena with an 8-5 win in Game 6.
Perhaps he never will.
“There’s nothing worse than seeing the Mann Cup presented in your own arena and you’re not the team,” Heyes said.
“I told them, you guys have just learned that this will never happen in this town again on this team. You’ll never let it happen. That’s enough motivation so that when we get there again, whether it’s in Ontario next year, or here in Victoria again in two years, we won’t be watching.”
The Chiefs erased the Shamrocks’ 5-4 lead on Friday night with four straight goals, three of them in the final 10 minutes, to win the Mann Cup.
“We were 10 minutes from Game 7, where all of a sudden it’s a winner-take-all game. The atmosphere was electric and would have been over the top, I think we definitely would have come out the winners.
“Now we want to do something we haven’t done in a long time, go out east and win it.”
The drumming, ohhhhhh the drumming
The drumming, led by a crew of First Nations lacrosse fans from the Island, was the lace that tied the series together.
The Chiefs embraced it, though they don’t have them back home.
“A lot of controversy came out over the drums because some of our fans didn’t like them but I’m glad they didn’t ban it, it’s great atmosphere,” Heyes said.
“It’s tough playing in a barn like this but when you’ve got the support we have, all the drums and our native brothers and sisters that came to support us, it’s not home but it feels like home,” said the Chiefs’ Cody Jamieson, named the Mike Kelly Memorial Trophy award winner as the series MVP.
What could have been
“There were some would-have-could-have-should-haves but not many of those, these guys played their butts off,” Heyes said.
Often the challenge to winning a championship in a contact sport isn’t beating the other team, it’s beating the injury bug and by the time the Shamrocks made the Mann Cup, the bug had been busy.
Corey Small was out with a knee injury. Scott Ranger played through a fractured jaw. Mitch Jones was “banged up” and not as effective as he could have been.
“It starts with Small not being able to play. He would’ve negated the production Cody Jamieson put up. Even though Jamieson’s probably the best in the world right now, what Corey does for us is comparable,” Heyes said.
It made for a weaker attack from the left side allowing the Chiefs to key on the righties.
“They concentrated on the right side to shut down Dutch and Ranger, who should’ve had more production. The Chiefs’ were physical, we found out just how big and physical,” Heyes said.
During the playoffs the Shamrocks compensated for the injuries by adding brilliant junior call-ups Brody Eastwood and Jesse King. But by the time the Mann Cup arrived, the two NCAA players were restricted by school compliance standards. Stony Brook’s strict regulations were too inflexible to allow Eastwood to attend while Ohio State limited King to the first two games, in which he scored four goals.
“We shouldn’t have relied on them (as much), we weren’t built with them in mind, but it was a shame we couldn’t have them for the finals as they had a huge impact for us,” Heyes said. “The injuries kind of forced our hand to use them and they helped get us to where we wanted to go.”
The series had its turning points, one of them being veteran forward Colin Doyle strapping on the goalie pads for the Chiefs in Game 5. Heyes called for equipment checks on both Chiefs goalies, Brandon Miller and Evan Kirk. Despite Doyle’s inexperience in net, the Shamrocks couldn’t score enough to catch up in the game. It was a mental victory for the Chiefs, even if it wasn’t a mental defeat for the Shamrocks, who nearly bounced back to win Game 6.
“We went through the same thing against the Burnaby Lakers. Putting Derek Lowe in net was the turning point for our playoffs, it brought us together, but it backfired against the Chiefs. It would have created quite a furor if we had won that game. It’s not the way we would’ve wanted to win it, but we went through every game to make sure our goalies were wearing legal (leg pad) equipment, so I had it in mind.”