September 5, 2013 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Rochester Knighthawks
Fans of the two-time defending National Lacrosse League champion Rochester Knighthawks could not have asked for a more exciting Mann Cup match-up as the Six Nations Chiefs travel to British Columbia to take on the Victoria Shamrocks.
Between the two teams, nine total players from the Knighthawks' 2013 championship roster will be battling for the Canadian Lacrosse Association's Senior "A" National Championship.
Cody Jamieson, the Most Valuable Player from the 2013 Champion's Cup and Major Series Lacrosse Playoffs, headlines a group of six Knighthawks on Six Nations, which includes Craig Point, Johnny Powless, Stephen Keogh, Sid Smith and Ian Llord.
The Chiefs have not won a Mann Cup since winning three in a row from 1994-96. But Six Nations proved to the rest of the MSL that this was its year, losing only three games in the regular season, and going undefeated through the postseason.
"It's been a long time since we've had that trophy down in this community. I'm going to do my best to bring it back," Jamieson said.
According to Jamieson, traveling to Victoria and playing on the road will make an already daunting series even more difficult.
"Going out west is a different story," he said. "We're not going to be able to sleep in our own beds at night time and see our friends and family during the day, or eat what we're normally used to eating. It's going to be a challenge to win it in their arena, which I heard isn't the nicest of places either."
Despite the distance and their opponent, Jamieson is confident the Chiefs can rise to the occasion and continue to the MSL's streak of winning seven Mann Cups in a row.
"I think we just have to play Chiefs' lacrosse," Jamieson said. "We lost three games all year playing the way that we want to play. I think we just need to continue on that path."
For the host Shamrocks, 2013 NLL Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc and the defensive duo of Tyler Burton and Dylan Evans will backstop the Western Lacrosse Association champions. The three Knighthawks left the MSL's Brampton Excelsiors to join Victoria in search of the elusive Mann Cup. For a goaltender that has won nearly every accolade possible, the Mann Cup may be the only trophy Vinc has not held in his hands.
"It's all been an experience playing for a great team rich in history in the game of lacrosse and one that's dedicated to winning," said Vinc about the Shamrocks, who were the last WLA team to win the Cup in 2005. "You can really see that they demand those types of results, and that's why they've been so successful. Hopefully, we can continue those wins and have a chance to be successful in the Mann Cup."
Victoria finished second in the WLA regular season to the Langley Thunder, and had to top the Thunder in the WLA Finals. Although the Thunder held series leads of 1-0 and 2-1, the Shamrocks won three straight to advance to the Mann Cup series.
"It was definitely a tough series," Vinc said. "They're loaded with NLL All-Stars. It was a grind and a long haul. In order to beat that team four times, you have to play nearly perfect as a team and do the right things. In order to do well in the playoffs, you have to get hot at the right time, and I think we did that."
While Jamieson believes Vinc will have an advantage because he knows the shooting tendencies of the four Rochester forwards, "Vno" knows the Shamrocks will need to stay out of the penalty box and not give the Chiefs any easy scoring opportunities.
"You have to try to contain them as much as possible. They're going to be successful because they're great players," said Vinc, himself a former Six Nations Chief. "They have too much firepower in order to give them opportunities offensively on the power play. We have to play smart and play 60 minutes, and all of those clichÃ© things that coaches stress."
Both Jamieson and Vinc think the fans in Rochester will be cheering for Six Nations because it has more Knighthawks on its roster than Victoria.
"It's going to be interesting to see who (the Knighthawks fans) are going to cheer for," Vinc said. "I know there are a lot more Knighthawks on their team, and maybe some bigger names. I have a feeling more of the fans will be cheering for the eastern team."
The best-of-seven series for the Mann Cup begins this weekend with Game 1 on Friday, September 6th and Game 2 on Saturday, September 7th. All games of the series begin at 7:00 p.m. (PST) at the Bear Mountain Arena in Victoria, BC.