The last time their team won the Shaw Cup, Armstrong Shamrocks goalie Chad Pieper had no shades of grey in his playoff stubble, and sniper Jarrett Medhurst was in the stands at the Hassen Arena watching his hometown heroes.
That was in 2003, when Pieper was 27 and Medhurst was 13.
Both were instrumental Saturday in leading the Shamrocks to their first Shaw Cup Thompson Okanagan Senior Lacrosse League title in 12 years.
Medhurst scored twice and added an assist, and Pieper made 26 saves as the hometown Shamrocks doubled the Kelowna Raiders 8-4 in the third and deciding game before a packed house at the Nor-Val Sports Centre.
“I’ve looked up to a lot of these guys since I was a kid,” said Medhurst, 25, outside the raucous Shamrocks dressing room Saturday. “I’ve watched guys like the Chads (Pieper and Pounder) and (Devin) Rodger since I was a kid so it’s cool to play with them.
“Winning this is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. To do it at home is awesome. We thought we had a good enough team the last two or three seasons, but Kelowna has a lot of firepower and their goalie is amazing.”
The Shamrocks opened Saturday’s scoring on their first shot 64 seconds into the game, an individual effort from defensive specialist Blake Frederickson, which brought the crowd to its feet.
First star Andrew Schwab and Steve Clark scored to give the home team a 3-1 lead after one. The margin was extended to 7-2 after 40 minutes on the two goals from Medhurst and singles from Braidy Webb and Carston Schlaak.
Schwab scored the Shamrock’s final goal.
The score would have been a lot higher if not for the play of Raiders goalie Graham Cousins. He was sensational, making 56 saves to earn second star status.
League commissioner Elinor Hinds presented the Rowcliffe Cup – the league’s official trophy – to Armstrong captain Chad Pounder, who immediately handed the large trophy to Pieper.
The first thing Pieper did was raise the trophy to the jerseys in the rafters of late Shamrocks players Cullen Rowan and Owen Siddall.
Pieper backstopped the Shamrocks to back-to-back Shaw Cup wins in 2002 and ‘03.
“Back then, you’re a lot younger and you think these (Shaw Cups) will come a lot easier. Thirteen year later, it still feels pretty good,” said Pieper, 39. “They’re all different and they’re all special in their own way. This group is a lot younger group. Back then I was one of the young guys, now I’m one of the old guys bringing a bunch of the young guys around. It’s a lot of fun.”
The Shaw Cup – which the Shamrocks describe as “small, dented, second-oldest lacrosse trophy in Canada, and most beautifully ugly trophy ever” – resides permanently in the Armstrong Museum. Head coach Ryan Nitchie brought the trophy out for the team celebration on the floor and for photos.
“The tide has turned in our favour and we have a young, skilled, fast team that enjoys playing together and earned this championship,” said Nitchie. “Winning at home and bringing the Cup back to this community was our goal this season and we were so pleased to win it in front of our hometown fans.”
The team saluted the fans who stuck around for the trophy presentation by raising their sticks.
The Raiders, who won the series opener 7-4 in Armstrong, were looking for a fifth straight league title and had a glorious opportunity to win the trophy on their home floor.
But Medhurst scored four times Friday and added three assists as the Shamrocks forced the deciding game with a come-from-behind 9-7 win at the Kelowna Memorial Arena.
The Irish scored the game’s final four goals.
“We had a bit of a meeting on the bench and told everyone to keep it positive,” said Medhurst. “We kept the energy up.”
Schwab had 3+1 while Clark and Craig Bigsby had the other markers. Pieper finished with 37 saves.
The Shamrocks will host the 2015 Invitational Provincial Senior C Lacrosse Championships, featuring 10 teams, Aug. 7 to 9 at the Nor-Val Sports Centre and Hassen Arena.
Armstrong will play Friday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m., against the Ladner Pioneers, and face the Victoria Jokers at noon and the Prince George Bandits at 8 p.m. Saturday. All of Armstrong’s preliminary games are at the Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Other teams taking part include the Raiders, Port Moody Express, Airdrie (Alta.) Mohawks, Prince George Devils, North Shore Indians and Ridge Attack (Maple Ridge).
The championship game is Sunday, Aug. 9, 3 p.m. at Nor-Val.