All along, the Nanaimo Timbermen juniors knew it was probably going to come down to this – Nanaimo versus Victoria in the playoffs.
The two B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League teams meet tonight (July 12) down the Malahat for Game 1 of the first-round best-of-three series.
“We wanted all season to play them,” said Kyle Hofer, Timbermen veteran. “It’s the funnest thing.”
The two teams met last year in the first round, too, when the Victoria Shamrocks won two games to one. This past season, the baby ‘Rocks won the season series between the two teams, but the junior T-men won the last meeting – just one week ago – by a 12-8 score.
“That gave us that confidence boost that we know we can beat them. That was huge for us,” said Ryan Sage, leading scorer of the Timbermen. “Now they’re doubting themselves. In their heads, they’re thinking, well, we just lost to them handily. So they’ve got to be a little worried.”
Nanaimo’s juniors ended the regular season winning three of their last five games, and playing well all the way down the stretch. They saw last week against Victoria the rewards for running hard for 60 minutes, moving the ball around on offence, shutting down the opposition’s big guns and playing with discipline.
“We feel we match up good and we can take them,” Hofer said. “They’ve got a big, punishing D so we’ve just got to keep moving, keep setting those back picks and rolling and keep moving because they’re slower.”
The post-season matchup came to fruition because Nanaimo lost its last regular-season game Sunday to the Delta Islanders. While the T-men swear they played to win that game, they’re happy that the loss led to a Nanaimo-Victoria playoff series.
“The rivalry will be wonderful, hopefully we’ll fill the barn,” said Dave Bremner, coach of the Timbermen. “It’ll be some good lacrosse and hopefully we’re going to come away with our first-ever series victory.”
Winning means everything to the T-men. Sage said he would never want to lose to his old Shamrocks teammates, even if it was just a pickup game at an outdoor box. So he and his teammates are promising full intensity.
“Every shift is go, go, go, go, go. You can’t ever take a shift off,” Sage said. “Some guys will coast during the regular season. That is unacceptable in the playoffs.”
GAME ON … Game 1 of the series is tonight (July 12) at 7:30 p.m. at Bear Mountain Arena. Game 2 goes Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. Game 3, if necessary, will be Saturday at 5 p.m. at Bear Mountain.