It’s been 17 years since the Mann Cup was last hoisted by the Six Nations Chiefs, but the OLA Major Series Chiefs ended the drought Friday night in Victoria BC with a hard fought 8-5 win over the Victoria Shamrocks — the same franchise they defeated in 1996 to win their third Canadian Lacrosse Association championship in a row.
The Chiefs’ young star Johnny Powless was three years old at the time.
Since then, the Chiefs have been unable to make it to the big show until this 2013 season.
It was an especially long wait for GM Duane Jacobs and head coach Rich Kilgour who were both part of that glory team of the mid 1990’s.
“We’ve been close in recent years but lost two Game 7’s and were put out by the Lakers last year,” says Kilgour. “I guess that just makes this one all that much sweeter.”
“Dewey (Jacobs) has been really working hard over the past few years trying to rebuild this team,” recognizes Kilgour. “When that clock ran down, I think he was the first one on the floor.”
Both Jacobs and Kilgour want to thank the Six Nations community for their support and energy this year and hope they can keep this ball rolling.
“I don’t wanna jinx it, but this team could repeat next year,” he says. “I think the average age of this team is around 25.”
If Jacobs and Kilgour can keep enough of this team together, who knows?
A handful of Chiefs’ faithful gathered at the ILA Friday night and tolerated buffering issues in the transmission of the live feed to watch their heroes defeat the Shamrocks in BC in Game #6 of the best of seven series. With the three-hour time difference, the gam did not end until close to midnight.
But one would have to look back at Game #5 to find the turning point in the series. The Shamrocks threw everything they had at the Chiefs including the rulebook and still ended up losing the game with Chiefs star forward and captain Colin Doyle in the net.
In desperation, the Shamrocks called for an equipment measurement on starting goaltender Brandon Miller to begin the third period. They found his shin pads were 1/2 inch too wide and he was ejected from the game. The Chiefs were leading 7-4 at that time.
Back up goaltender Evan Kirk took over and was playing well when the Shamrocks tried a measurement on Kirk’s gear as well. H pads were declared 1/2 inch over width too and he was ejected from the game at 8:56.
Now what? Under league rules, the Chiefs had only minutes to put a goalie in the net. “Doyle jumped up and said, ‘I got this” said coach Rich Kilgour.
Doyle hurriedly threw on bits and pieces of goalie gear from Kirk and Miller and emerged from the dressing room to fill the breach for the final 11 minutes of the game.
Once he got settled in, Doyle, turned away six of the nine shots he faced to preserve the win while adding an assist on Steven Keogh’s last goal of the game.
“Somebody checked the records and said that it’s the first time in Mann Cup history that both goalies were ejected from the game,” said Kilgour. “It’s also the first time the same player recorded points as a runner and as a goalie in the same game.”
The desperation in Victoria spilled over in Game #5 as well when some of the Chiefs, including star Cody Jamieson, said he and others on the team were the targets of a number of racist comments from beer lubricated Shamrock fans.
“I didn’t hear it myself,” said Kilgour. “But some of my guys did and I believe them.”
The social media showed many Victoria fans heard the racism themselves and distanced themselves from the small handful of “bigots,” as one Victoria fan tweeted.
There was also controversy over Six Nations fans bringing hand drums to cheer on their team. Some Shamrock fans tried to have the drums banned from the arena, but organizers refused to do so.
“That only motivated the guys and made them play that much harder,” said Kilgour.
“You can’t fight ignorance. Heck, their own best player Jeff Shattler is Native. We weren’t about to let five or 10 guys ruin our experience.”
After the buzzer ended the game, Doyle quickly discarded the sweaty upper pads and helmet to receive the congrats from his teammates.
By Jim Windle