Story by Janice Huckin
Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Shamrocks headed into Friday’s action at Bear Mountain Arena needing one win to clinch a spot in the post-season action. They faced the Nanaimo Timbermen who gave the home team quite a battle, finally bowing to the Rocks 11-7.
Starting goaltenders were Matt Flindell for the home team and Zack Boychuk for the visitors. Nanaimo got into some penalty trouble early and the Rocks jumped out to a 4-goal lead by the 7:11 mark of period 1, 3 of those goals coming with the man advantage. At 2:34 it was Jeff Shattler with the quick stick right in front on the power play. Corey Small notched goal #2 at 3:38 with a bouncer, that one with the teams at even strength. Ryan Benesch notched a power play goal at 5:06 and at 7:11 it was Derek Lowe going over top to score with the man advantage. Nanaimo finally solved Flindell at 10:48, former teammate Cory Conway finding the back of the net. Victoria closed out the scoring when Shattler collected his second, picking a corner late in the 30-second clock at 14:24. Shots on goal favoured Victoria 21-10 and they were full value for the 5-1 lead.
One thing fans can be sure of when these two teams match up is neither team quits and Nanaimo came back with a strong middle period. After Small picked up his second goal of the game just 59 seconds in with a hard underhand shot, the visitors replied with 3 straight. At 3:56 it was Doug Langlois converting a quick pass from right in front, that goal the result of a Nanaimo power play. Cayle Ratcliff added another just 20 seconds later, going to the net to close the gap to 3. At 11:46 Miles Kenny got the visitors within a pair, getting in on a breakaway. Unfortunately for the T’Men, another penalty resulted in Small’s third goal of the game, a power play goal off a rebound at 18:03. Ryan Benesch added another for the Shamrocks at 18:26, right off the faceoff and Blake Kenny scored for Nanaimo with just 34 ticks left on the clock. Shots on goal were in favour of the visitors by a 17-14 margin and Victoria had the 8-5 lead on the board.
Early in the final frame, Conway picked up an assisted tally, firing a backhander from just beyond the dotted line at the 2:55 mark. The teams traded goals, Shattler picking up his third of the contest at 7:09 with Flindell on the bench for an extra attacker on a delayed penalty call. Conway picked up the hat trick at 10:01 with a hard overhand shot, making the difference just 2 goals. Despite pulling out all stops offensively, they did not get another past Flindell while Small picked up goals #4 and 5 of the game, the first coming on a power play at 13:30 and the second shorthanded at 16:31. Nanaimo again had the edge in shots on goal by a margin of 21-13 making the teams even on the night.
Corey Small led the Shamrocks offensively with 5 goals and 1 assist to be named first star. The Rocks also had strong offensive performances from Jeff Shattler (3 goals and 2 assists), Ryan Benesch (2 goals and 3 helpers) and Karsen Leung (5 assists). Derek Lowe added a goal and 3 assists while Matt Flindell had a very strong performance between the pipes, kicking out 41 of the 48 shots he faced to be named the game’s third star.
Cory Conway led the Timbermen with a hat trick to earn second star honours while goaltender Zack Boychuk was pretty solid in goal.
The playoff picture is still far from settled other than knowing that Langley has first place locked up with a 9-8 victory over Burnaby tonight finishing with 24 points. OK – we also know both Nanaimo and Maple Ridge are outside looking in. Everything else in terms of placing has yet to be decided. Victoria and Coquitlam each have 20 points and 1 game remaining while New Westminster and Burnaby are tied with 18 points also having 1 game remaining. Coquitlam faces Burnaby Saturday while New Westminster gets Maple Ridge on Sunday.
Fans can follow the Shamrocks to Nanaimo’s Frank Crane Arena Saturday for their final regular season game. Game time is 7:00 pm.