Written by Janice Huckin – Photos by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)
July 20, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Shamrocks took the floor Friday at Bear Mountain Arena on Westhills Military Appreciation Night to face the New Westminster Salmonbellies in an almost ‘must win’ game. They fell behind early but came to life and ran away with a 15-6 victory to clinch a playoff spot.
After losing a pair of games last week, including a road loss to the Bellies, the Rocks wanted this win for a number of reasons – to clinch a playoff spot being number 1 but also to win the season series against New West. It was the visitors scoring first, Curtis Hodgson getting in on a break at 4:24. At 5:20 Jordan McBride tallied on a hard bouncer but that seemed to wake the Shamrocks up. Karsen Leung, getting back in the lineup after missing a few games, lit the fire with a goal at 6:28.
It was Military Night at Bear Mountain Arena. The Naden Band practices outside before game time – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)
Shamrocks’ Cory Conway and Bellies’ Wade Dewolff get entangled – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)
Cory Conway came from behind the net to tie the score at 7:02 on an unassisted tally. Leung scored his second unassisted with a hard shot from the dotted line at 16:14 and Mitch Jones added another with just 5 ticks left on the clock, getting in close with an extra attacker on the floor and goaltender Matt Vinc on the bench. Shots on goal were 18-13 in favour of Victoria and they had the 4-2 lead on the board.
Shamrocks Karsen Leung tries to knock the ball from Bellies’ Ilija Gajic’s stick – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)
In period 2, the Shamrocks got things going offensively, starting with a goal off the stick of Corey Small just 28 seconds in. Scott Ranger added to the Victoria lead at 2:49 with a bullet from the dotted line. There was a lengthy delay to clean up a shattered glass pane t 7:02 when it broke in front of the Victoria penalty box, after which New West managed to squeeze in a goal off the stick of Kyle Ross at 10:45. The home team replied with a 3-goal run as Small notched his second at 12:18, running to the net to collect a pass. At 17:35 it was defender Ben McCullough collecting a lead pass from Leung to score and just 7 seconds later Nolan Heavenor won the faceoff and moved the ball quickly to Jeff Shattler to make it 9-3 Shamrocks. The teams traded goals before the period ended, Ilija Gajic scoring for the Bellies at 18:54 and Leung picking up his hat trick marker on a breakaway pass from Conway, again with just 5 seconds left in the period. After 40 minutes it was Victoria with the 10-4 lead.
Shamrocks’ Nolan Heavenor accidentally breaks the glass putting the game on hold – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)
The Rocks kept rolling in the third, picking up the first 3 goals as Conway picked up his second of the game at 2:44, Shattler notched his second at 3:55 and Tyler Hass with his great speed took off alone and buried the ball at 9:48. The Bellies replied with a pair before the home team put it away with the final 2 goals of the period from the sticks of Ranger, his second and Hass with another breakaway at 17:08. After that, it was a matter of working off the clock and getting the 2 points.
Two Bellies try to keep Shamrocks Karsen Leung from getting the ball – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)
Cory Conway had an outstanding game with 2 goals and 6 assists to earn first star honours. Karsen Leung celebrated his return to the floor with the hat trick and 1 assist to be named second star. Corey Small, Scott Ranger, Jeff Shattler and Tyler Hass each scored twice, Singles came from Mitch Jones and Ben McCullough, who was named third store as much for his strong defensive play as the goal he came up with. Matt Vinc had a solid outing in goal, kicking out 39 of the 45 shots he faced. This is probably one of the best all-round games home fans have seen in a while and comes at a crucial time in the season with playoffs just around the corner.
Bellies’ Chet Koneczny and Shamrocks’ Nolan Heavenor battle for the ball after the face-off – Photo by Kasey Eriksen (ISN)
There’s not much time to rest for the Shamrocks as they go on the road Saturday to face the league-leading Langley Thunder. A victory would give the Rocks the season series and put them into a first-place tie. Next home game is the regular season wrap-up next Friday, July 26 when the Nanaimo Timbermen will be in town for their only visit. There will be a tailgate party starting at 6:00 and Nanaimo-Victoria games are always a great way to finish the season.