Miners ousted

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 6:45 AM ET

They came within a whisker, but even that fraction of difference was too much to overcome.

The Edmonton Miners put themselves on the national lacrosse map, proving that they can play with the best. Play with, yes, but not beat.

A three-goal burst at the beginning of the third period was enough of a push for the Burnaby Lakers and they needed it to edge the Miners 9-8 in last night's Minto Cup semifinal at Bill Hunter Arena.

"We've had to work so hard because we were so far behind, but this was the first glimpse we got of how close we are," said dejected Miners captain Greg Whitenect.

With the win the defending-champion Lakers advanced to the best-of-three final series against Ontario's Six Nations Arrows.

"If they keep advancing they're going to be somewhere in a couple of years, maybe the top," said Lakers gunner Llija Gajic of the scrappy Miners.

The Lakers couldn't help but heap praise on the Miners. The hosts battled at a fever pitch and were rewarded with most of the favourable bounces. In the end, though, skill won out over heart - but only by the slimmest of margins.

SNIPERS DIDN'T SNIPE

"It just goes to show you that a hard-working team can compete with anybody," said Burnaby head coach Dave Lough. "They played great and our snipers didn't snipe. We're going to have to be a lot better in the final if we want to stick around."

Edmonton native Jamie Shewchuk gave Burnaby an early lead but the Miners were quick to answer on Chris Schmidt's power-play tally. That kicked off a see-saw struggle for momentum that continued the entire game. Gajic put the Lakers up by a pair midway through the first but goals by Glen Tichkowsky and Cole Howell evened things up.

The Miners grabbed their first lead of the game when Andy Kent finished off some good pressure with a nifty shot but Gajic was there again for Burnaby when he dove across the goalmouth and tucked one behind Miners goalie Jon Marrese just seven seconds into a Lakers power play.

A gritty second period ended on a fiery note as Miners captain Greg Whitenect, who was chosen by the Edmonton Rush in Monday's NLL draft, laid a one-sided licking on Brian Safanik after the two got into a heated tussle in front of the Edmonton net.

The Gajic brothers took over early in the third, pouncing on the Miners for three goals in opening 5:30 as Llija sandwiched a pair around a tally by Alex. After an exchange of goals on a Lakers' power play, the Miners clawed their way back and got within striking range on Shaun Wilhem's marker with 4:47 left.

Burnaby goalie Ron Schibild stoned Schmidt with a minute to go and was then able to relax as the Miners failed to put anything together with the final possession. Still there was room to find positives in a negative result.

SHOWED THEIR CHARACTER

"Last year, our boys would have folded under that kind of pressure. This year they showed their character," said Miners boss A.J. Jomha of his crew's effort.

"Our individual player development is not quite there yet, but we also have to make our kids understand how truly good they are. They don't understand that yet because they just look at the score but I can see their skills are getting better. If we can do a few things better, we'll get there."


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