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by Janice Huckin

Nanaimo, BC (ISN) – A clearer playoff picture is emerging with one date left in the WLA regular season. It is certainly clear for the Victoria Shamrocks as they took on the Nanaimo Timbermen Saturday in the Hub City, coming away with a 14-10 victory and sole position of second place. That secures home floor advantage for the first round of playoffs.

Saturday, Chris Levis got the start for the Rocks and Matt King took over the crease at the Nanaimo end of the floor. With nothing but pride on the line for the T’Men, they got off to a quick start, Joel Henry scoring at 3:23 of the opening frame with the goalie on the bench for an extra attacker and a delayed penalty about to be called. The home team opened up a 2-goal lead at 4:33 when Ryan Keith fired a hard low shot to the back of the net. As was the case Friday, Victoria’s power play clicked into gear with the first of 4 straight goals at 6:30, Jeff Shattler scoring the odd-man goal on a bouncer. Michael Teeter got things knotted up with a last second shot from beside the crease at 8:37. Less than a minute later it was Mike Pires giving the Rocks their first lead of the night with a backhander in close. Corey Small made it 4-2 Victoria at 10:05 before Nanaimo replaced King with Zack Boychuk. The T’Men responded with Keith’s second of the contest at 10:33 to get back within a goal but the Shamrocks rounded out the first period scoring with 4 unanswered in less than 3 minutes. Teeter notched his second at 13:32, Kyle Morwick added another with a quick stick in front at 14:02 followed by a power play goal off the stick of Ryan Benesch at 15:29. Small collected his second of the contest at 16:23 and King returned to the net for Nanaimo at that point. Shots on goal had the Shamrocks ahead 22-16.

As on Friday evening, the Timbermen won the middle period, outscoring the visitors 5-4. They picked up the first 2 goals of the period, the first coming just 34 seconds in off the stick of Cody Bremner. At 5:24 Chris O’Dougherty got his first of the season but just 28 seconds later Pires replied for the Shamrocks with the second of what would be 4 combined goals in 49 seconds. Greg Harnett scored for Victoria at 6:01 and off the ensuing faceoff Nanaimo’s Blake Kenny replied at 6:13. Each team scored two more before the period would end, Derek Lowe unassisted for the Rocks and Pires picking up the hat trick at 17:15. For the T’Men it was Scott Ranger on the power play at 10:50 and Graham Palmer, also picking up his first of the season at 16:24. Shots on goal were even at 20 each with the Shamrocks holding a 12-8 lead on the scoreboard. Things got a little stupid about halfway through the period with a melee in which several players came off their respective benches. Surprisingly each team had only one player penalized although it was Victoria’s Tory Gardner receiving an extra 5 minutes.

The game appeared to be pretty much over and period 3 saw each team score twice, Victoria getting the first two from Karsen Leung at 9:35 and a power play goal from Lowe, his second of the game at 11:20. Nanaimo got a power play marker from Bremner, his second and a late one from Palmer, also his second. Not much else happened except Nanaimo captain and the league’s leading scorer Scott Ranger got thrown out with a high sticking minor, fighting major, instigator and game misconduct. Austin Powell of Victoria went off for 7 minutes with him but that’s a trade the Shamrocks would probably be pretty happy with.

Mike Pires led the way for the Shamrocks with the hat trick and 1 assist while Jeff Shattler and Karsen Leung each had 5 point nights on a goal and 4 assists to pick up first and second star honors. Corey Small, Michael Teeter and Derek Lowe each contributed a pair of goals with others coming from Greg Harnett, Kyle Morwick and Ryan Benesch who also had 2 helpers. Chris Levis kicked out 42 of the 52 shots he faced to pick up the victory.

While Langley and Victoria now have their playoff positions solidified, in other action Saturday night, Burnaby handed Coquitlam an 8-5 loss and that tightens things up for the fourth and final playoff spot. Those two teams are currently tied for third/fourth with 20 points but New Westminster is just behind with 18 and one game left. A New West win over Maple Ridge in the league finale Sunday could bump Burnaby out of the playoffs.