It might not be the healthiest Junior B circuit in Canada, but the Pacific Northwest Junior Lacrosse League does boast a pair of provincial contenders.
The first-place Saanich Tigers (14-1-1) will face the second-place Westshore Bears (12-5-1) in the Island league’s final this week. The series opened Tuesday at Panorama Recreation Centre (results were past press time).
Game 2 is tomorrow (July 18), 7 p.m. at Panorama.
Despite the struggles of other PNJLL teams this year (Nanaimo Timbermen was short players and didn’t finish the season) the league has been carried by the Tigers’ and Bears’ respectable seasons. Both Nanaimo and the Peninsula Warriors aborted the playoffs, creating an unexpected bye through the first round for the Bears and Tigers.
The Tigers’ depth makes the team a legitimate threat to win at provincials in Burnaby beginning Aug. 2, should the team get past the Bears. To the Bears’ credit, they are the only team to beat the Tigers, marring the latter’s undefeated record with a 10-8 win on July 3.
The Bears and Tigers also tied early in the season.
“Credit the Bears, they are our biggest competition on the Island,” said Tigers general manager Chris Jackson.
“When they beat us we had a lot of players missing and Westshore is a very good team. They’re very physical, they play hard, and have added a couple of junior A guys that are pretty good at the end of the season.”
The Tigers have a dynamic offence led by captain Ethan Garland, who has long been coveted by junior A programs but has opted to stick with the Tigers. He forms a one-two punch with attacker Derek Jackson.
In net the team is led by another Shamrocks castoff, goalie Cory Mayzes (inset photo), who picked up a rare lacrosse shutout on June 12 against the Peninsula Warriors.
“We anticipate Mayzes going for most of the games but we’ll see how the series goes,” Jackson said.
Key to the Tigers however is the transition with Jordan Stringer, Colin Bashfield and Austin Guerrero leading a high-powered counter-attack.
The PNJLL is surviving, but the long-term prognosis is uncertain.
Due to a lack of players and resources the Timbermen and Warriors were unable to compete in the playoffs.
Jackson recently revived the Tigers into the PNJLL and now the Tigers are a pillar in an otherwise unstable league.