Green teams meet in playoffs for eighth time

After a dream regular season, the Burnaby Lakers find themselves in the unfamiliar role as favourites in the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs.

The senior A Lakers won their first-ever regular season title following a decisive 16-2 victory over the Langley Thunder on the final night of league play, securing home-floor advantage for the remainder of the post season.

Burnaby's opponent in the opening round, which starts on Thursday, Aug. 3 at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre, will be the Victoria Shamrocks, an all too familiar foe that has won the past six playoff meetings with the Lakers.

In all of those earlier six series, the 'Rocks were the higher seed and ultimately progressed to the Mann Cup in all but two of those years.

Last season, the Lakers threw a scare into the league champion Shamrocks, taking their first-round series to a seventh and deciding game before losing 14-11 in the final meeting. Victoria went on to lose to Maple Ridge in the western final.

In 2001, the fourth-place Lakers lost to Victoria in a five-game, first-round series. Coquitlam upset Victoria in the final that year and went on to hoist its first Mann Cup with a seventh-game winner over Brampton in the Mann.

But in each of the other four series against the Lakers it has been the Shamrocks in a walk.

Victoria swept Burnaby in four games in 2000 and in 2003, when the 'Rocks captured the Mann Cup for what would be their seventh of nine Canadian national titles.

Victoria was again triumphant over the Lakers in a five-game series in the 2004 WLA final, and then in 2013, the Shamrocks were stretched to six games by Burnaby before ultimately taking that series.

Burnaby's sole success against the Capital city club in the post season came way back in 1992, when the then-runner-up Lakers defeated Victoria Payless 4-3 before losing out to New Westminster in the club's first-ever playoff final.

But much has changed this season.

Burnaby's winning 12-5-1 record boasts a franchise-low five games lost for the first time in the club's 32-year history that includes four seasons as the Richmond Outlaws from 1986 to 1989 before its move to the rhododendron capital of the Lower Mainland.

Burnaby is a solid company from goal crease to goal crease with a league-best 7.83 goals against and more than 10 goals scored following the 18-game regular season schedule.

While the Lakers power play was modest at best this season, the penalty kill is where Burnaby shone.

The Lakers sported a league-best 72.81 penalty kill percentage and also topped the WLA with a whopping 14 goals on the short man, including five individual shorties by Eli McLaughlin, who led the Lakers in scoring with career bests 30 goals, 37 assists and 67 total points.

McLaughlin finished runner-up in league scoring this season behind runaway leader Corey Small of Victoria. The second-year Laker also led the WLA with a .250 shot percentage among the top 25 scorers.

Burnaby captain Robert Church also posted a career-high 29 goals and 65 points in just 13 games this season to finish third overall. Church was equally accurate with a .242 scoring percentage.

Jason Jones also had one of his best years as a Laker, scoring 20 goals and 51 points. He was also one of 14 Laker runners to score on more than 20 per cent of his shots on goal.

Some of those other dangerous transition snipers from the back end include: Justin Salt with 10 goals and a .303 shot percentage; Matt Spanger four goals and a .364 scoring percentage; Jackson Decker with four goals and a .222 shot percentage and Peter McFetridge with three goals and a .231 scoring percentage.

Rookie Cam Milligan and veterans Dane Stevens and Scott Jones all garnered solid 40-plus point seasons for the Lakers.

In the cage, Eric Penney made a strong statement for goalie of the year, finishing on top with a 7.07 goals against average and an .856 save percentage.

Last year's top keeper Zak Boychuk was right behind in both categories with 8.56 goals against and an .822 save percentage.

Bring on the Shamrocks.

Photos courtesy of Garrett James

Semi-Final Series A Semi-Final Series B
Thu., Aug 36pmVIC @ BBY Fri., Aug. 47:30pmNEW @ MPR
Sat., Aug. 56pmBBY @ VIC Sun., Aug. 67:30pmMPR @ NEW
Mon., Aug. 76pmVIC @ BBY Tue., Aug. 87:30pmNEW @ MPR
Wed., Aug. 96pmBBY @ VIC Thu., Aug. 107:30pmMPR @ NEW
Fri., Aug. 116pmVIC @ BBY Sat., Aug. 127:30pmNEW @ MPR
Sun., Aug. 136pmBBY @ VIC Mon., Aug. 147:30pmMPR @ NEW
Tue., Aug. 156pmVIC @ BBY Wed., Aug. 167:30pmNEW @ MPR