Story by Janice Huckin
Photos By Christian J. Stewart – ISN
Victoria (ISN) – It wasn’t easy, but the Victoria Shamrocks got back into the win column and back atop the WLA standings Friday with a hard-fought 12-10 victory over the visiting New Westminster Salmonbellies in Western Lacrosse Association action at Bear Mountain Arena in Victoria.
The game was full of momentum swings, special teams playing a big role for both teams and ended in the usual chaotic fisticuffs. The starting goaltenders were Matt Flindell for the Shamrocks and Neil Tyacke for the Bellies and it was the visitors getting on the board first when Tyler Crompton fired a hard shot to the back of the net at 4:26.
They pulled into a 2-goal lead at 9:56 when Sean Robinson notched a tally from the corner of the crease, that goal coming on the power play. With a major penalty about to be called on New Westminster, Jeff Shattler got the Shamrocks’ offense started at 13:31, collecting a quick pass in front of Tyacke and scoring with the extra attacker on the floor.
A second goal on the same power play came from Mike Pires, who scored from the corner of the crease and the game was tied at 2. Shattler then picked up 2 goals just 17 seconds apart, the first at 17:12 when Pires found him from behind the net and he buried it. The second was scored at 17:29 on a bouncer from the dotted line and that was how the period ended, with the Shamrocks holding a 4-2 lead.
In the middle frame, it was all New West as Victoria looked ‘out of the zone’, missing passes and giving the ball away. The Salmonbellies scored all 4 goals in the period as the Gajic brothers got things going.
It was Alex scoring first, just 2:42 in on a hard bouncer. Brother Ilija followed up at 9:13 with an extra attacker on the floor and a delayed penalty about to be called on the Shamrocks. Robinson got his second of the contest at 12:39, a power play marker from the corner of the crease. Mike Berekoff put an exclamation point on the period at 19:41, getting a pass right almost on top of the crease and putting it behind Flindell. After 40 minutes, the visitors had a 6-4 lead, despite being outshot by a 34-24 margin.
The Bellies opened up a 3-goal lead at 2:02 of the third period, with Jeff Zywicki firing a bullet to the top corner with the teams playing 4-on-4. Corey Small replied for the Shamrocks at 6:14, on a shot that just trickled over the line, inspiring several complaints from New West. At 8:23, normally defensive players Matt Yager and Dan MacRae combined on a 2-on-1 break with MacRae finding twine and pulling the home team within a goal.
Kory Kowalyk got things even at 11:50, going to the net to beat Tyacke. He followed that up with another at 13:14 to give the Rocks the lead and that seemed to really fire the team up as they added 3 more in what turned out to be a 7-goal run.
At 13:21, right off the ensuing faceoff it was rookie Mitch McLaren getting to the net for his first WLA goal. New West brought in back-up goalie Spencer Englund who allowed a goal at the 14-minute mark off the stick of Mike Pires, who scored after getting a shovel pass from Karsen Leung. Shattler picked up his fourth of the game shorthanded at 16:27 and all of a sudden it was 11-7 for the boys in green.
You can never count the Bellies out and they didn’t give up. They got a power play goal at 16:52 from Berekoff, his second of the game and it wasn’t over yet. With the goalie on the bench for the extra attacker, Alex Gajic notched his second of the game at 17:15. The same ploy paid off again for the Bellies at 19:09, that goal coming from Jeff Zywicki.
Unfortunately for New West, that maneuver backfired on them with just 9 ticks on the clock when Chet Koneczny scored into the empty net to provide the margin of victory. Koneczny did take a big hit for his trouble which eventually led to the fisticuffs. With no penalty called on the late hit, as the final faceoff was set to take place, Bubba Westwood of the Salmonbellies challenged Victoria’s Tory Gardner. It was a pretty good battle but give the decision to Gardner. Gardner is also a player able to take a regular shift which is not true of his opponent.
Jeff Shattler led all scorers with 4 goals and 4 assists and was named the game’s first star. Mike Pires and Kory Kowalyk chipped in 2 goals each, Kowalyk’s goals coming right when a kickstart was needed and earning him second star status. Singles came from Corey Small who also chipped in 4 helpers, Mitch McLaren, Chet Koneczny and Dan MacRae. Rookie Karsen Leung, playing for the first time this season, contributed 5 assists while Ryan Benesch added 3 helpers.
The Shamrocks face Burnaby and Langley on the road next weekend before returning to Bear Mountain on July 6 when they will again take on Langley. Needless to say, the Shamrocks have a bad taste in their collective mouths after a quick elimination from playoffs last season at the hands of the Langley Thunder who are having another good season, so it should be a good battle.
More Images from tonight’s game can be found in Christian J. Stewart’s game gallery HERE.