Lucas Wilson, Victoria Shamrocks
Tonight, the Victoria Shamrocks will raise a banner in the Q Centre that will symbolize a dream 2015 season. The Shamrocks stormed through the regular season with a 14-4 record, swept through the WLA playoffs, and went on to hoist the Mann Cup in front of a sold out crowd at home. After devastating Mann Cup championship losses in 2013 and 2014, Shamrocks Nation could once again celebrate being champions of Canada. But once the banner is raised and the real action begins, 2015 will mean nothing. Last year’s season created incredible memories for Shamrocks players, coaches and fans, but that is in the past. Tonight’s game marks the start of a new season, and this year the team will try to do something they’ve never done before: win back-to-back Mann Cup championships.
The Shamrocks are returning with many of the core players that have dominated the WLA for multiple seasons. Up front, the team will feature four players that finished in the top seven in WLA scoring in 2015: Corey Small, Rhys Duch, Cory Conway and Jesse King. Small and Duch finished first and second with 79 and 75 points, respectively. The Shamrocks back-end possesses impressive depth and experience. Fan favourites Ben McCullough and Matt Yager have both returned, while Greg and Jon Harnett, and Tyler Burton will all join the team once their NLL seasons end. The Shamrocks have also brought back both Cody Hagedorn and Matt Roik to split time in goal.
Like any other year in the WLA, there are a number of players from last season who will not return in 2016. This has presented opportunities for many players to step into bigger roles. The team will look to Small for leadership in his first year as Shamrocks captain. Yager and Greg Harnett have been named alternate captains. Defenseman Ethan Garland and forward Chris Wardle will both look to take a step forward this season, after showing great promise in their first two seasons with the team. Rookies looking to make an impact include 2016 draft picks Taylor Northway and Max Cullen, and Ian McShane, who came all the way from Nova Scotia for a chance to play with the defending Mann Cup champions.
First up for the Shamrocks in their title defense is the Nanaimo Timbermen. Despite finishing in the bottom of the league last year, the T-Men won two out of three games against the Shamrocks, which accounted for two-thirds of their total wins for the season. The Shamrocks will look to reverse that trend, and begin the season in the win column. Paul Brebber and Myles Kenny were acquired from the Timbermen in the offseason, and this will be their first chance to play against their former team.
Timbermen Scouting Report
The T-Men had a busy offseason, making several changes to their roster. Along with compiling a large draft class, the Timbermen added roster players that will look to help turn things around. Acquired players include Corey Shires from Coquitlam, Casey Jackson from Burnaby, and Colton Clark from New West. All three players will look to add a dangerous element to Nanaimo’s attack. The T-Men also added goalie Mike DeGirolamo, in hopes to improve on their league worst goals against average.