SIX NATIONS — It all started Friday Sept. 5th, at the ILA. For the first time in its history, the Mann Cup is being played for on an Indian reserve.
Although the Chiefs have won the golden chalice before, including during a three-year run between 1994 and 1996, in those years they played out of the Brantford and District Civic Centre.
Since then, Six Nations sportsman and entrepreneur Curt Styres, along with Delby Powless Sr., have built one of Canada’s best year-round lacrosse facilities, the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena located 3201 Second Line Road in Six Nations, where this year’s attempted repeat of the Mann Cup Championship is being hosted.
Friday night, the Six Nations Chiefs began their quest to repeat as the top Sr. A amateur lacrosse franchise in Canada by winning Game #1, 7-4. But the Shamrocks came back to win Game #2, 6-5 the next night in double overtime to even the best of seven series at 1-1.
In Game #1, the Chiefs took advantage of the Shamrocks’ travel legs and adjustment to Southern Ontario’s humid weather to defeat them 7-4 in a game won after two periods of play and some outstanding goaltending by Brandon Miller in the Chiefs’ net.
Colin Doyle led the Chiefs offensively by scoring three goals, with Cody Jamieson racking up two goals and three assists. Craig Point netted two goals and an assist while Jeff Shattler burned his former team with four assists.
It was 4-1 after one period and 7-2 after 40 minutes. Rhys Duch, who won the Mann Cup last year as a member of the Chiefs, scored the first Victoria goal against his former teammates at 8:43 of the first.
Chris Wardle scored in the second period for the Shamrocks to make it 6-2 at the 9:19 mark of the second period.
With the score 7-2, thanks to Doyle’s third of the game scored at 11:46 of the second period, the Chiefs seemed to lean back on their lead and the Shamrocks began to find their legs and scored the only two goals of the third period.
“We just had to get acclimatized to how they were going to play,” said Shamrock’s coach Bob Heyes after the game.
They also had to acclimatize to the humid southern Ontario weather, which was experiencing a bit of a late season heat wave.
The ILA was about three-quarters full on a very humid night and the air-conditioning was not on when the game began. Heyes did not use that as an excuse for his team, who are used to a drier B.C climate, but did believe it was a factor.
“It was hot in here tonight,” he said. “I don’t know if the air was on or not but it is what it is. It was the same for both teams.”
Even with the loss, Heyes found some very positive points he was pleased with.
“The first few shifts we had were great,” he said. “But we had some good shifts and I was really happy with the start we had.”
We’re going to have to make a few changes and adjustments. I thing our offense got a little bit gassed so we’re going to have to work on that aspect of the game and we have to adapt.”
“We did not throw the towel in and I think Six Nations has to know that we are going to rest and get ourselves ready for tomorrow night,” he said.
Jeff Shattler was a big part of the Shamrocks last year but chose to move his game to Six Nations this year, which couldn’t help but leave a big hole in the Victoria lineup.
“Shatts is one of the best players in the world,” Heyes acknowledged. “It would have been nice, but he came here and we couldn’t prevent him from coming, but he wanted to come here to be a Mann Cup winner and to try to get a cup here, I guess. One of us is going to be happy and one of us isn’t.”
There was also a move the other way during the off-season. Rhys Duch won the Mann Cup in 2013 as a member of the Chiefs but decided to head west this year.
“You know, teams of this kind of that caliber just don’t exist out west,” says Duch. “They don’t really exist anywhere except here.”
Saturday, the most important adjustment Duch wanted to see was not in the line-up, but rather between the ears.
“We kinda sunk ourselves and that spills over from one guy to the next and it became a negative atmosphere for us,” he said. “If you wanna win, that’s not how you are going to do it.”
“It’s going to be a heck of a battle and, as current holders, the Cup is theirs to lose now and I hope that’s the way they feel.”
“It was a tough Game #1, but it is a seven game series. Special teams and transitions are what we need to do a little work on.”
Although happy for the win, Cody Jamieson knew it was not going to be easy to beat this team, especially after the Chiefs defeated them in their own building last year to win the Cup.
“We know that was not their best game,” said Jamieson. “They had a heck of a season for a reason, and we expect them to come out tomorrow a lot better than they did tonight.
“I think they won the third period, so they got better as the game went on and I think we were fortunate that we got that big lead in the start. We gotta be better because we gotta expect them to be better.”
“Our goaltending has been our strong point all year. I think we finished almost last in goals for and first in goals against. We have faith in both goalies and “’B-Mill’” played a heck of a game, as he has all year and he gives us the confidence we need.”
Coach Rich Kilgour, was also grateful for the Game #1 win, but expected Game # 2 to be a different animal.
“It’s nice being up one game rather than down one. But remember, we lost Game #1 out there last year. We’ve got a lot of work in front of us and I think we’re in for a much tougher game tomorrow.
The predictions proved to be true, as the Shamrocks looked much more confident and pulled off character win by coming back from a deficit to even the series in double OT with a 6-5 win.