Bidding for their first Vancouver Island Box Lacrosse championship banner, the Oceanside Sharks midgets were left disappointed Wednesday night when a tight duel devolved into an 8-3 loss to top-seeded Comox Valley in the championship final at Howie Meeker Arena in Parksville.
The good news is, the Sharks had already qualified for the provincial Midget B championship tournament, the first for most of the players on the squad at any level. They will represent Vancouver Island as the No. 2 seed, along with Comox, in the July 6-10 provincials in Coquitlam.
“That was their first shot at a banner,” Sharks head coach Cam Miller said after the Wild pulled away from a 3-3 tie with five unanswered goals in the final 25 minutes of play. “They’ve got what it takes to win provincials, for sure. There’s a lot of talent in that room.”
On Saturday, the midgets swept their best-of-three semifinal series with Juan de Fuca to earn the B.C. Box Lacrosse Association provincial tourney berth.
The final against Comox was originally set up as a best-of-3 series, but the two programs agreed to settle the banner chase and provincial seeding with a single game. After days of negotiating the day and location for the contest, it was finally set up for Wednesday in Parksville, with the higher-seeded Wild as the home team.
For a period and a half, it lived up to the ideal of a championship final. The teams traded scores, hits and big saves in an even, tightly played match. But a parade of penalties by the Sharks opened the door for back-to-back power-play goals by Comox, and the Wild took advantage of a series of odd-man rushes and breakaways as Oceanside committed to an offensive push in a desperate bid to restore the balance.
“Once they got behind, they kind of got away from their game,” said Miller. “You can’t let a team have that many breakaways. I think they were focussed so much on getting the ball in the net they just got caught out of position defensively.”
Initially, the penalties didn’t hurt the Sharks. Trailing 3-2 midway through the second period, they knotted the score when Aiden Sutherland got free on a shorthanded breakaway and decked Comox goalie Diego Such before firing home a shot in full stride.
Oceanside Sharks midget Isaac Waite, centre, attempts a shot as he takes a hit from Comox Wild defender Zac Ohlman during the teams’ Vancouver Island Box Lacrosse championship game Wednesday at Howie Meeker Arena in Parksville. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
But the Wild regained the lead at 4-3 when Comox sniper Andre Sutter got free in the slot and beat Sharks goalie Lauren Martynyk from close range. That was followed by consecutive power-play scores by the Wild in the late second and early third periods, one of them capping a two-on-none breakaway after the shorthanded Sharks flooded the offensive zone on a rush.
Miller refused to pin the late outburst by the Comox offence on Martynyk, who stepped in as the Sharks’ goalkeeper after Jarrod Dykstra suffered an injury and was lost to the team in late May.
“We wouldn’t be anywhere without Lauren,” said Miller. “She stepped up when there was nobody else to play goal. I think she definitely saved our season.”
The Sharks, in fact, went on a roll about the time Martynyk took over in net, rattling off six straight league wins to close the regular season and placing third in the Matt Underwood Memorial tournament in Nanaimo earlier this month.
Along they way, the midgets became a force to be reckoned with in the league and began believing they could actually win their first Island banner.
“They’re a team,” assistant coach Brian Thompson said. “There are no individual stars. They back each other up and they get along in the room.”
Zach Wheldon scored a pair of first-period goals for the Sharks, including the first score of the game, with assists from Derian Thompson and Sutherland.
Sharks sweep Juan de Fuca
Playing on the neutral floor of the Nanaimo Ice Centre, the midgets topped Juan de Fuca 10-3 and 12-2 to advance to this week’s Vancouver Island finals series against Comox Valley.
“I would just say it’s a huge accomplishment for this team to make it to provincials,” said coach Cam Miller. “It’s going to be the first provincials for a lot of the guys, it’s great to be a part of it and go with them.”
Strong goaltending and defence by the Sharks turned the tide against Juan de Fuca, beginning midway through the opening game Saturday in Nanaimo. A goal by the Whalers with 11:02 left in the second period left Oceanside clinging to a 4-3 lead, but Martynyk and the Sharks defence shut the door the rest of the way and the midgets pulled away with six unanswered goals.
The Sharks carried that momentum into the afternoon rematch, jumping in front 5-0 in the opening period and maintaining control to render a potential tie-breaking game Sunday unnecessary.
“The entire team played great this past weekend,” said Miller. “Aiden Sutherland, Zach Weldon, Derian Thompson and Dawson Fyfe really led the charge on offence, and the entire team played probably the best defence I’ve seen them play all year.”
Wheldon scored a hat trick in the opening game and Fyfe, Sutherland and Thompson each had two goals. Isaac Waite added a score in the win. Tyler Smith chipped in two assists for the short-benched Sharks, who suited only 10 players.
Sutherland came up big in the second game, scoring four goals and adding two assists, while Thompson added a hat trick and Fyfe and Wheldon had two goals each. Adam Bougie also found the net, and Smith kept up his playmaker role with three assists. Waite and Jimmy Shworan also got on the scoreboard with helpers and Martynyk claimed her sixth win in seven games since stepping in as the team’s goalie in early June.