Langley Thunder @ Victoria Shamrocks Game Preview

Victoria Shamrocks: Chapter 68

Written by Justis Doucet

Victoria - It’s the 68th opening night in Victoria Shamrocks history, and the first step in trying to win their 10th Mann Cup, which is back on the west coast this fall.  For the first time since 2013, the Shamrocks regular season won’t be kicked off with a Vancouver Island battle against the Nanaimo Timbermen. The last time the Shamrocks opened up a season facing a team not named the Timbermen was in 2013 when they topped Coquitlam 10-6 with Corey Small collecting a goal and four assists.

The last time Victoria welcomed the Langley Thunder on opening night, it resulted in a 13-13 tie back in 2011. In his first WLA game, Corey Small recorded 7 points, as part of his 70 point rookie campaign. Jamie Shewchuk scored 4 goals and 3 assists for Victoria, and Nick Patterson stopped 31 shots in the Shamrocks crease

The Shamrocks enjoyed their home cooking in the 2016 season, finishing 7-2 inside the friendly confines of The Q Center. Langley saw their home floor just twice in their first ten games, losing both, before finishing with seven of eight at home.The Thunder won just two in the home-stand and did not fare any better on the road, finishing 1-9 away from the Langley Events Center.

Victoria will once again be lead offensively by the same duo that lead last year's scoring race. Rhys Duch and Corey Small are returning after combining for 124 points last season, with Duch leading the league with 68. The Shamrocks also signed a pair of former MSL teammates in defender Sheldon Burns and the MVP of the inaugural Arena Lacrosse League season Mike Triolo. As part of his MVP campaign, the 6’8’ forward scored 69 points in 14 games. One of Victoria’s biggest off-season moves was acquiring Steve Priolo, one lacrosse’s top defenders, and a member of the 2015 Mann Cup winning Shamrocks. After winning the Mann Cup with Victoria in 2015, he then struck gold with team Canada at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Priolo stands at 6’5” but does not lack athleticism on the defensive end, having been nominated for NLL defender of the year for the past four seasons. Victoria obtained Priolo via inter-provincial transfer from the Brooklin Redmen.

Victoria then acquired a pair of graduating players from Alberta, Jake Archdekin and Tristan Rai. Archdekin plays defense and was a member of the Hockey Mountain Lacrosse League’s 2016 Champion Calgary Mountaineers. Rai is a scoring forward who accumulated 168 points in 65 games with the Calgary Raiders.

In addition, the Shamrocks added four 2017 draftees to the lineup, two players from both Delta and the Junior Shamrocks of the BCJLA. Victoria selected Evan Messenger and Cody Nass from Delta in the first and fifth rounds, a pair of high-scoring forwards. Messenger finished third in league scoring with 96 points in twenty games, while Nass was the only draft eligible player with more than 300 career points in junior. The two junior rocks sticking with the big club are transition player Dallas Wade and forward Matt Hamilton. Wade plays tallied 11 points in 13 games his final campaign while totaling 40 points in three seasons of junior. Matt Hamilton is a disciplined scoring forward, he finished third on the junior Shamrocks with 44 points, while not taking a single penalty in either of his last two seasons.

Both Adam Shute and Cody Hagedorn return between the pipes, but Victoria has also brought back a brick wall that helped them to the 2015 National Championship. Aaron Bold is back with the Rocks part-time after a one-year hiatus. Bold was a member of the 2015 Mann Cup champion team, and was named as the series MVP. 2017 will be Bold’s fifth with the Shamrocks, where he has compiled a 28-12-2 record including the playoffs. His last season in Victoria back in 2015, he finished with a 5.93 goals against average, more than 3 goals less per game than the next best net minder.

 Langley Thunder scouting report

The Langley Thunder enter the 2017 WLA season with nowhere to go but up. They finished the 2016 season with a 3-15 record but did hold the top pick in the WLA draft. Langley took Tyler Pace, who had previously lead the Junior A Coquitlam Adanacs to a Minto Cup victory. Pace played in just 8 regular season games for the junior Adanacs last season but finished tied for fifth on the team with 41 points. Langley has not finished with an above five hundred record since 2013 when they finished with the league's best regular season record at 11-5-2. Players to watch for Langley include James Rahe and Cole Shafer. Rahe in his first full season of WLA action scored 41 points in 13 games. Shafer scored just over a goal per game in his rookie campaign tallying 19 goals and 43 points in 2016.