Sr. Shamrocks are rolling once again

Photo: Victoria Shamrocks

Photo: Victoria Shamrocks

Science is complicated for many of us, but it appears that the Victoria Sr. Shamrocks are back to their victorious ways now that they’ve improved their chemistry.

It’s rare to see the Shamrocks falter out of the gates. An 0-3 start (all home games) to the season was the worst in recent memory, although they did start 2015 0-2 before going on to win the Mann Cup. Since 1996, the Sr. Shamrocks have defined greatness, winning 11 WLA titles and four Mann Cups - both achievements are better than any other WLA franchise in that span.  

However, since their below-par opening-stretch, the Shamrocks have won a scorching four consecutive games (also all home games) including five of their last six. So what has caused this seismic shift?

There’s never an excuse for losing, especially when you’re a storied organization such as the Shamrocks, but the team that was on display in May was missing key prominent pieces that have helped fuel the offence the past couple of years, said Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes. Rhys Duch and Jesse King were pivotal to the Shamrocks success in 2018 - Duch has been one of the team’s best offensive threats since 2006 - so missing them for the first two games while they competed for an NLL Cup hindered the team’s fire power. 

“I think that’s what happened in the first three games is that we didn’t have our full lineup although that’s not an excuse,” said Heyes. “We had [Duch and King] out competing for an NLL Cup. There’s not a lot of separation between teams in the WLA now. You need to have your full lineup going from Day One to compete.”

Duch and King’s absences weren’t the only hurdles the team was facing early this season, but it was clear that something was lacking on offence even when they both initially returned to the Shamrocks lineup on May 31st - the duo combined for two points and the team scored five goals. During the season-opening losing streak the team averaged five goals per game (GPG) compared to 12 GPG over their last six contests.

Of course, the Shamrocks have also been without Duch the last few games because of a season-ending injury. With Duch’s absence as well as fellow forward Tyson Gibson’s absence due to injury, the Shamrocks are using their youthful deep bench to create more offence. Young talented players such as Chris Boushy, Cole Pickup, Marshal King and rookies Keegan Bell and Larson Sundown have all recently stepped up their games.

Prior to their Saturday night match versus the New Westminster Salmonbellies, Boushy is currently the team’s leading point-getter (25) in large part to his ten goals and seven assists in his last four games, Sundown has the most points for the Shamrocks over the last four games (12) with seven goals and 12 assists, Pickup leads the team in assists (15) with 10 dimes in his last three competitions, M. King has 12 points the last four games including a three goal, three assist night in the team’s last outing versus the Coquitlam Adanacs, while Keegan Bell has added five goals and five assists in his last four games.

This team was crafted to have depth, particular with a generally young offence. But the team has seen strong efforts from a multitude of guys all over the floor. Heyes has used all three of his goalie this season (Aaron Bold, Peter Dubenski and Cody Hagedorn) and has seen ample defenders shut down opposing offences on the back-end.

“We’ve built this team to have some depth,” said Heyes. “That gives everyone the opportunity to step up to show us why we should’ve drafted them or brought them in.”

In his first year with the Shamrocks and first year in the WLA, Boushy agrees with Heyes that the team’s depth as well as having the time for the fresh-faced guys to get to know each other on and off the floor has helped this team turn the tide.

“Being comfortable with the guys off the floor creates good chemistry on the floor,” said Boushy. “Having the time for us to acclimate in and out of the locker room has helped us for sure.”

Behind the strong leadership of the Shamrocks captain Matt Yager as well as Steve Priolo on a back-end that is filled out by star-studded names such as Greg Harnett, Adrian Sorichetti and Graeme Hossack these young offensive players’ confidence is growing exponentially game-by-game as they feed off their teammates’ collective experience.

Not to mention it’s taken a lot of pressure off the entire team to have Hagedorn on the roll that he’s on. In his last three games, Hagedorn has a .846% save percentage and 6.33 goals against average.

With all pieces of the Shamrocks clicking in every facet of the game, the team’s chemistry is continuing to grow. This organization has high standards of its team and its players. Now that the team has found its groove on and off the floor, players like Boushy are starting feel a shift from the beginning of the year.

“When you have all the [players] - coaches and staff included - all clicking and all communicating like we are now, it creates a good atmosphere for winning,” said Boushy.

“It’s not a cliche. If you have a locker room with guys that don’t mesh well or something is off, those teams don’t find themselves being very successful at the end of the season.”

Halfway through the year, the Shamrocks are slowly nipping at the heals of the WLA-leading Burnaby Lakers and second-place Maple Ridge Burrards. They’ll want to keep that positive chemistry flowing if they want to surpass the league’s leaders.

Adam Levi