As the representative of the host organization, the Oceanside Sharks Bantam B lacrosse team would have been awarded an automatic bye into the 2017 B.C. Box Lacrosse Provincial Championships at Oceanside Place.
The free ticket was hardly necessary.
The Sharks capped an unbeaten run through the B Division of the provincial tourney Sunday with an 8-6 win over the Port Moody Thunder in the gold-medal final. In the postgame awards ceremony, captain Brenden Jamieson was handed the championship trophy while the coaching staff was presented the B.C. banner — which will join the league championship and Vancouver Island B Lacrosse banners already hanging from the Oceanside Place rafters.
“It’s hard, because you have home court advantage, so you want to do better,” Jamieson said of the pressure of playing in front of the hometown crowd. “You don’t want to seem like you got here just because you are hosting. I feel like we responded really well.”
The Sharks did just that in a first period that was as dominant as any they’ve played this season, according to head coach Terry Krastel. Jamieson, who finished with a hat trick and three assists, had two goals, and Ellyot Cain and Blake Beatty added scores as Oceanside carried a 4-0 lead into the break.
Cain added a second goal midway through the second period and goalie Jacob Colley continued to pitch a shutout as the Sharks carried a 5-0 advantage into the last half of the contest.
“We probably played our best game of the season, let alone the tournament, today,” said Krastel. “We talked about getting a quick start. We played Port Moody earlier in the season, in a tournament on the mainland. We won that game, but it was a one-goal game, and we told the boys we’re gonna have to step it up.”
The Sharks would need all of that early cushion. The Thunder stormed back in the late second and early third periods, partly on the strength of several breakaways and odd-man rushes, and closed to 6-4 on Ryan Coupal’s unassisted breakaway goal with 18:25 left to play.
But the Sharks tightened their defence, then took advantage of back-to-back power plays to push the lead to 8-4 on man-advantage goals by Jamieson and Cody Krastel, who was named tournament MVP.
“We just thought, it’s rough right now, so we gotta get some goals back,” said Jamieson. “If they score, we have to get two more.”
The Thunder continued to push, and were rewarded with back-to-back, shorthanded breakaway goals by Dylan Driver that made it 8-6 with 4:32 remaining. Things got especially tense for the Sharks when they played the final 1:10 on a 5-on-3 penalty kill, but Colley made a pair of key, point-blank saves and Angelo Zanchetta was able to carry the ball into the Port Moody zone to run out the clock as the cowbell-ringing home crowd cheered and the bench emptied to surround Colley at the final horn.
“You know how they say, you bend but you don’t break,” Terry Krastel said. “There were a few opportunities where we bent, but we didn’t break. The boys deserve all the credit. As much as there’s individual awards that get handed out, it’s the whole team that earned this gold medal.”
Ben Tisdelle added a goal and Kohl Krastel had four assists in the win.
“It feels great; I did not expect it,” Kohl Krastel said of his MVP award. “Coach says just play our game and if we stick to our game we’ll be No. 1, and it came true today. We wanted to finish the season with a bang.”
The Sharks lost just one game after mid-May, an overtime tournament final in Nanaimo.
After rolling to a 3-0 record in round-robin play, the Sharks pasted Saanich 8-2 in Saturday’s semifinal. The Sharks will face Port Moody, a 5-4 winner over Nanaimo in the other semifinal, in the B Division championship game at 10:45 a.m. Sunday at Howie Meeker Arena.
“We want to finish the season off with a bang. We put everything we got into this game, and we’re No. 1.”
After pulling away from Burnaby for an 11-6 win Thursday, the Sharks blanked Nanaimo 2-0 Friday at Oceanside Place, then closed out pool play with a 12-3 romp over Chilliwack Saturday morning at Nanaimo Ice Centre. That gave Oceanside the top seed in the pool, setting up Saturday night’s semifinal against Saanich.
Oceanside Minor Lacrosse co-hosted the championships with Nanaimo Minor Lacrosse. Sunday’s medal-round games in all four divisions were played at Oceanside Place Sunday.
On Thursday, Jamieson scored seven goals as Oceanside overcame a shaky start to pummel the Burnaby Lakers 11-6 in the opening round of B Division play.
“We got off to the start we definitely wanted to,” Krastel after the win. “It’s a quick tournament — we’ve only got three round-robin games — so we really wanted to get this win.”
Tisdelle scored two goals and added four assists in Thursday’s victory, Beatty had a goal and four assists, and Daylen Laflamme added a goal to close out the scoring.
Oceanside actually spotted the Lakers the game’s opening goal, in the first minute of play. But the Sharks scored three straight goals and never relinquished the lead.
The last threat by Burnaby came on Zachary Chan’s unassisted goal midway through the second period, which drew the Lakers to 4-3.
Tisdelle and Jamieson responded with back-to-back power-play goals — on the Sharks’ only man-advantage opportunities of the game — to restore the three-goal lead, and Beatty pushed the margin to 7-3 with his tally in the closing seconds of the period.
Chan led the Burnaby attack with two goals and an assist.
“It went pretty well,” said Colley, who picked up the win in goal and added an assist for the Sharks. “We could have played better ‘D’ in the first period. But the plays we ran started working, and our defence picked it up.”
The tournament featured competition among B.C.’s top bantam teams in the A1, A2, B and C divisions. Saturday’s semifinals followed a 4 p.m. recognition ceremony, during which each of the teams was marched onto the Howie Meeker Arena Court and introduced.