In a preview of what should be a hard-fought Victoria Senior Lacrosse League playoff game this coming weekend, the S&B General Contractors Cowichan Rats defeated the Wsanec Arrows 8-7 at the Big Stick on Saturday.
The Rats got a closer game from the Arrows than they anticipated, and the result should be a wake-up call heading into the playoffs.
Four different players each scored twice: Luke Van Huizen, Pete Vanden Dungen, Ryan King and Conor Manahan. Van Huizen added three assists, Vanden Dungen had two, and King and Manahan chipped in with one apiece, as did Kyle Kaltiainen and Nick Prangley.
Two stars from the Cowichan River Rats of yore made cameo appearances in the match and made their presence felt. Jamie Rigby had three assists as he added a vital lefthanded shot to the mix, and Dave Prangley took one for the team when he blocked the Arrows’ last shot of the game with his wrist.
Blocked shots aside, Cowichan goalie Kevin Smith made 30 stops for the win, while Jericho Paul had 34 saves in the Wsanec end. Emilio Garcia led the Arrows with three goals and two assists.
Tensions between the rivals boiled over at times. Cowichan’s short-man was efficient and scored multiple goals, which offset the 37 minutes in penalties the team was assessed, while the Arrows made it out with just eight minutes worth of infractions. Cowichan was the most penalized team in the league this season, with 242 minutes in penalties to 127 for the Arrows, who had the next most.
The first-year Rats finish the VSLL regular season second in the final standings behind the Blazers, who have won five of the last six league titles. Cowichan went 11-4-1 in their debut season, including forfeit wins over the Tugmen who folded midway through the year, and the Blazers, who opted not to make their second trip to Duncan after a 4-4 tie in their first visit. The forfeit ended up being the Blazers’ only loss of the year.
The Rats and Arrows will play their playoff opener — and the last game in Cowichan this season — at the Big Stick this Saturday at 7:30 p.m.