The senior A Nanaimo Timbermen missed the playoffs by the narrowest of margins.
The city’s Western Lacrosse Association club (7-9-2) was eliminated from contention on Friday night following a 12-11 road loss to the Victoria Shamrocks. The next night at Frank Crane Arena, with nothing much at stake, Nanaimo won the rematch 13-3.
The T-men finish in a three-way tie for fourth place, but miss the playoffs based on tiebreaker formulae.
“It’s definitely frustrating, there’s no doubt about it,” said Cayle Ratcliff, Timbermen veteran. “The progress is coming but unfortunately not as fast as we’d like it.”
T-men coach Art Webster said his team “battled very hard” in Friday’s critical game and complained about officiating.
“We got into a little bit of penalty trouble and they got the momentum going their way and unfortunately we just weren’t able to get it back,” Ratcliff said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort by any means and it wasn’t a lack of hustle.”
The Shamrocks scored nine goals in the second period of Friday’s game to take a one-goal lead on the T-men, and in the third period the teams scored just one goal apiece over an intense 20 minutes of lacrosse.
The Timbermen went out on a positive with Saturday’s blowout win, the most lopsided victory in franchise history.
“I walked into the dressing room and I told them this is not a nothing game,” Webster said. “I told them, ‘This game is all about you guys. It’s all about the 25 guys in that locker room.’”
Goalie Matt King said all the Timbermen players went “full bore” in their last game of the summer.
“It was good to see,” King said. “You definitely don’t want to lose your last game.”
The players are already thinking about next season, hoping to build on 2011.
“We’re in the same position, so I can’t say we took a step forward,” said King. “But what I do know is that we have probably the strongest nucleus of players that we’ve had.”
Webster noted that Nanaimo’s goals against were way down from last year. It’s a reflection of better short-man play and an all-around solid back end, he said.
“We are headed in the right direction,” the coach said. “It takes time to build this and we just have to be patient and we will be there.”
Cayle Ratcliff said the Timbermen were better at all positions in 2011 and said they just need to learn to win the close games.
“I don’t think anybody ran away with a game with us. They were all down to the wire,” he said. “That’s part of changing the culture here and having that winner’s mentality.”
In Friday’s loss, Scott Ranger and Mat MacLeod each had three goals and two assists and Pat Smith also had a hat trick. Joel Henry and Graham Palmer were the other scorers and King made 41 saves … On Saturday, Ranger again had three goals and two assists, Ratcliff had two goals and two assists, Myles Kenny scored twice and Henry had a goal and four assists. Ryan Forslund, Simon Stocks, Doug Langlois and Mat MacLeod also scored. King made 33 saves for the win.
Captain captures scoring title
Nanaimo’s Scott Ranger’s back-to-back hat tricks on the weekend weren’t enough to get the Timbermen into the playoffs, but they did help the sniper secure a league scoring title.
Ranger finished 2011 well atop the Western Lacrosse Association scoring race with 54 goals and 95 points in 18 games. The 54-goal season is off the league record of 89 goals, but it is the most in a single season since 2006, when Lewis Ratcliff scored 54 for the Victoria Shamrocks.
The record of 89 goals was set by Nanaimo Timbermen player Bob Allan in 1956; he played in 29 games that season.
Roster move doesn’t pay dividends
Playing the most important game of the season without one of their best players was a challenge for the senior A Nanaimo Timbermen.
Nanaimo was without Lewis Ratcliff, its second-leading scorer, for Friday’s big game as the star was suspended by Coastal Windows Timbermen president Hadi Abassi earlier in the week for missing too many games.
T-men coach Art Webster said before the game that the team supports Abassi’s decisions, but after the loss the coach said playing without the left-hander was a handicap.
“I’m sure he would chip in a couple of goals. Our left side only got one goal … Any time you have that calibre of player and you take him out of the lineup, it’s going to hurt you, but I thought we handled it very well. We had great ball movement; the other guys stepped it up.”
The Timbermen player most affected by last week’s roster move was Lewis’s brother Cayle Ratcliff.
Cayle wouldn’t comment on how the situation was handled, but said he was “extremely disappointed” that Lewis was suspended.
“It’s a tough situation for both parties and it’s an even tougher situation for me to be in the middle,” Cayle said.
But he remains a dedicated member of the Timbermen.
“From the coaching staff down we’re a tight-knit group and I couldn’t envision myself anywhere else in the league. I love it up here and I still make that commute [from Victoria] every year but it’s worth it…” Cayle said. “Family’s family but I still have to stick with my roots here.”