CALGARY, AB — The Calgary Roughnecks are taking over the Mann Cup.
Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson star for the Peterborough Lakers, while Karsen Leung, Greg Harnett, Jon Harnett, and Dan MacRae will suit up opposite their Roughnecks teammates for the Victoria Shamrocks for the Mann Cup.
The championship is a best-of-seven, East versus West series played between the league champions of Major Series Lacrosse(MSL), the East, and Western Lacrosse Association (WLA), the West.
Regardless of being teammates in Calgary, they all want to win and will put their friendships aside during the games.
“It’s going to be a little bit different,” Evans said. “We all have that same mentality. We’re all going to play hard. There’s definitely a lot of Roughnecks playing on these two teams and it shows what our team is made of this year in Calgary.”
The Roughnecks connection wont have MacRae easing up.
“We’re all competitors,” he said. “So when you step out on the floor, friendships are set aside. It’s a cliché line, but everyone puts it aside when your battling for something like the Mann Cup.”
The Shamrocks finished the 2015 season with a 14-4 record, good for first place in the WLA. That success carried over to the playoffs as they swept both the Maple Ridge Burrards and the New Westminster Salmonbellies to win the WLA Finals.
However, there was not a big celebration after the win.
“It’s one of our goals, really,” MacRae said. “We were built to get to this point. We had people asking us about the Mann Cup from the day we got out here. There’s some pressure there. After we won Game 4 of the WLA Final, we didn’t have a huge celebration because it was just another step towards our goal. We’re going into the Mann Cup with the focus of raising that thing.”
With the 2015 Mann Cup being played in British Columbia, Victoria will have home field advantage.
They believe that playing in front of their home crowd will be a huge boost to their on-floor performance.
“It’s great. It’s a different time zone, they have to adjust to everything,” MacRae explained. “We get to stay in our routine and we have our fans who are bar-none the best in the league. We love playing in front of them and we expect them to give us a boost. That’s definitely an advantage for us.”
Having not played since August 21st, the Shamrocks have been trying to find ways to keep up the intensity and not get rusty.
They have been watching the MSL Final as a team, practicing twice per week, and getting their bodies healthy for what will no doubt be a tough series against the Lakers.
“It depends how you want to look at it,” MacRae said. “I think for our group it’s an advantage. We had some guys who had to go back to Ontario for some work commitments and we had a lot of bumps and bruises. I thought it was a blessing to rest up some knicks and get into the gym to get my muscle mass back up. I’m definitely looking at this as glass half-full.”
In Peterborough, the Lakers are heading west after a tough seven-game series against the Six Nations Chiefs.
The Lakers will hope that the physical set does not impact them too much.
“We will see tomorrow night,” Evans said. “We went to Game 7 with a really tough team, so hopefully that didn’t wear on us too much. It’s a new series and a new team. We have to be ready to adapt and get ready to play Victoria because they’re physical, too.”
Playing with Dickson, Evans admits that it takes the pressure off of himself and makes things simpler on the floor. However, their Roughnecks teammates have a great understanding of what they will bring to the floor.
This will make for an interesting matchup between them.
“It makes my job easier to play with him,” Evans said. “I just try to create space, get the ball to him, and let him.”
It’s an advantage MacRae sees, too.
“I would rather be familiar with the enemy than not know anything about them,” MacRae said. “It’s a double-edged sword. Those guys know what we do as defensemen, it’s a bit of give and take.”
Winning the Mann Cup would be a huge accomplishment for all of these athletes.
In fact, it would be a dream fulfilled for MacRae.
“It’s tough to put it into words,” he said. “I remember watching John Tavares and Troy Cordingly play in the Mann Cup as one of my first lacrosse memories. I just remember saying that’s something I want to do when I get older. It’s been a life-long dream that I haven’t done yet, so being able to cross that off the bucket list would leave me speechless.”