By Janice Huckin
Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Shamrocks ended their four game losing streak Tuesday night as they handed the New Westminster Salmonbellies a 9-7 loss in Western Lacrosse Association action at Bear Mountain Arena.
Everyone was pretty excited when the Shamrocks got off to a 5-0 start. After faltering recently, they avoided a five game losing streak when they handed the visiting New Westminster Salmonbellies a 9-7 loss at Bear Mountain Arena. Not only did they break out of a 4-game losing skid, the victory gives them the season series against the Bellies which could become an important factor down the road.
It was Local Heroes Night and the Naden Band was in attendance to play the national anthem, a great way to get the evening started as fans saluted our military men and women, as well as police officers, firefighters, and emergency services personnel. Starting goaltenders were Chris Levis for the Rocks and Tyler Richards for the visitors. It was New West hitting the scoreboard first, Alex Gajic getting what would be the first of three on the night at the 5-minute mark with a hard low shot. Victoria replied at 6:53, Corey Small firing from one side of the dotted line to put the ball just inside the post on the other side. A couple of the valuable ‘D’ guys then made a run down the floor, Rhys Jones converting a Matt Yager pass at 12:52 to put the Rocks up 2-1 and that was all the scoring to be had in period 1. The penalty box staff had lots of company as there was a parade to the sin bin, most often players going off in pairs. The shots on goal favoured Victoria by a 16-10 margin.
Period 2 by comparison saw fewer penalties and more goals. The home squad jumped out to a 2-goal lead just 32 seconds in, Small getting his second of the contest with a hard bouncer. Big Kory Kowalyk made it 4-1 at 3:46, picking up a rebound off a Karsen Leung shot. The Salmonbellies finally connected for the second time in the game, Corbyn Tao scoring at 7:40 with the teams playing 3-on-3. Less than 2 minutes later, Leung picked up a goal thanks in large part to the play of Jones and Greg Harnett who fought for the ball and got it down the floor. That goal came with the Rocks playing shorthanded and was followed at 12:40 by Kowalyk’s second as he scooped it up in front and buried it in the back of the net. Again the run was interrupted by the Bellies as Ilija Gajic scored unassisted at 16:43, firing a hard shot through traffic that beat Levis. Matt Yager rounded out the second period scoring, putting the home team into a 7-3 lead at the 18:26 mark, that goal again coming off some great defensive work by Harnett. The Shamrocks held the edge in shots in goal, albeit by a slimmer margin of 18-16, making it 34-26 over 40 minutes.
The Shamrocks connected on a power play at the 3:08 mark of the final frame, Leung getting his second off the post opening up a 5-goal lead. If fans thought they could breathe a sigh of relief, the visitors soon put a stop to that. Winning the loose ball battles and suddenly finding the net with more regularity, the visitors scored 4 straight before the Rocks were heard from. At 4:44 Ilija Gajic notched his second and at 5:08 a power play goal off the stick of brother Alex had closed the gap to 3. Alex finished off the hat-trick with a hard low shot at 10:17 followed by Tao’s second at 14:35 and you could almost feel overtime coming. An ill-advised minor penalty to the Bellies’ Sean Robinson at 15:35 kept them off the board for a couple of minutes but they were able to kill it off without allowing a goal. With the New West goaltender on the bench for an extra attacker they pressed but Levis held solid until the 19:58 mark when Ben McCullough put the game away for the boys in green with an empty netter to preserve the victory. The Bellies outshot the Shamrocks 18-13 in the final period.
Karsen Leung, Kory Kowalyk and Cory Small each scored twice for the Shamrocks as Leung and Kowalyk picked up first and second star honours. Matt Yager, Ben McCullough and Rhys Jones each had singles with Yager chipping in a pair of assists. Jeff Shattler and Derek Lowe each contributed 3 helpers while Greg Harnett had 2 assists in a strong performance. Chris Levis stopped 37 of the 44 shots he faced in picking up the victory.
For the Salmonbellies, all the scoring came from just 3 players as Alex Gajic finished with the hat trick and 2 helpers to earn third star honours while Corbyn Tao and Ilija Gajic each scored twice and chipped in 1 assist.
The result moves Victoria into a 3-way tie for second place with Coquitlam and Burnaby at 16 points, just 4 behind league-leading Langley and 2 ahead of the Salmonbellies. Every game is important now with only 7 points separating 1st and 6th spots.
The Shamrocks are back on the floor this Friday at Bear Mountain Arena when the visitors will be the last place Maple Ridge Burrards in a game starting at 7:45 pm. Saturday they once again hit the road for a 2-games-in-2-nights scenario when they will face the Thunder in Langley.