With only two teams left in the Okanagan Senior Lacrosse League, the Armstrong Shamrocks and Kamloops Rattlers had to get creative in a hurry.
The demise of the Kelowna Raiders forced the Shamrocks and Rattlers to agree on playing a six-game total goal series for the Shaw Cup starting Sunday night in Kamloops. Game 2 goes Friday at the Nor-Val Sports Centre.
On a hopeful note, the league was advised that a management and coaching group are interested in resurrecting the Vernon Senior Tigers team in 2019. The League is also hopeful that lacrosse leadership in Kelowna will take this year to recruit and rebuild their program and rejoin the league as well.
“We were quite disappointed to learn that Kelowna was withdrawing from the league but I have faith that leadership in that community will rebuild,” said Nitchie, head coach of the Shamrocks and league president.
“The Shamrocks and Rattlers know the importance of maintaining a senior lacrosse presence in our region and will work hard this season with the hopes that Vernon and Kelowna will form teams for the 2019 season,” said Nitchie.
Elinor Hinds remains as league commissioner.
The Shamrocks have the entire cast of players returning from their 2017 championship roster, including local phenom and former Nanaimo Junior and Senior A Timbermen star Brett Hawrys, who led the team and league in scoring.
Joining Hawrys will be 2016 league-leading scorer Steve McIlwrath who sat out last season recovering from knee surgery. McIlwrath played Junior A with St. Catherines Athletics and played professionally in the now-defunct CLax league. Also returning to the Shamrocks is one-time Thompson Okanagan Junior League MVP Logan Strohm, who has returned to Armstrong after living and working in Northern B.C.
“Our offence should be incredibly potent this season with those players and adding Marlon Forrest and Sam Hanley who were both exceptional Junior Shamrocks and have graduated to our club,” added Nitchie. “We have full season commitments from some of our other great players, including Jarret Medhurst, and are adding depth with Jake Thompson.”
Defensively, the Irish will be backstopped by the goaltending duo of veteran Chad Pieper and Josh Point but their veteran defensive unit is big, fast and skilled and likes to push the opposition.
“We have a big defensive unit that is fast,” said Nitchie. “I push the defence to transition the ball quickly out of our end and catch our opposition with the fast break,” said Nitchie.
The Shamrocks defence is lead by 2016 MVP Carston Schlaak and defensive players of the year Cam Nelson, Jamie Cockerill, Austin Lewarne, Braydon Sanders and Brennan Plante.
“Our D is big, aggressive and quick they wear down opposition forwards with their physicality and can score in transition” added Nitchie.
The Shamrocks have set a goal of competing for the Senior C Provincial title in Maple Ridge in early August
“As a team, we are committing to a goal of winning a provincial championship for our community and team – this group of players have all the ability to win. We just need to work hard, get some game-time experience together and head into the provincials with a healthy and full lineup,” said Nitchie.