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By Janice Huckin

August 15, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Shamrocks travelled to the Langley Events Center to face the Thunder in Game 1 of the WLA finals Wednesday and it was the home team coming away with a 7-6 win.

Matt Vinc got the start in goal for the Rocks with big Brodie MacDonald his counterpart at the Langley end of the floor. There was no scoring until past the halfway point of the opening period and it was the Shamrocks drawing first blood on a shorthanded unassisted tally from Tyler Hass, after he shagged the loose ball and went coast to coast. That goal came at the 12:39 mark. Langley got a 3-on-2 break and Garrett Billings got things tied up at 17:06. A little less than 2 minutes later, Alex Crepinsek put the home team ahead with a power goal and that was how the period ended. Shots were pretty even at 17-16 in Langley’s favour and they had the 2-1 lead on the board.

Langley opened up a 2-goal lead 4:48 into period 2, Mark Matthews firing a hard overhand shot from the dotted line. It was a short-lived lead, however, as Corey Small pulled the Rocks within a goal as he showed great patience and scored from in close at 5:37. The see-saw battle continued through the period. Langley’s Athan Iannucci scored at 11:46 with a hard low shot but at 13:47, Brody Eastwood brought the Shamrocks back within a goal as he broke to the net and found twine. Before the period ended, the home team took back the 2-goal lead, Dane Dobbie breaking off the bench on transition to score at 19:21. Despite having a 20-10 edge in shots on goal, the Shamrocks found themselves down 5-3 on the scoreboard. To add insult to injury, Corey Small left the game early in the period after apparently tripping on a seam in the carpet. Mark one up for playing on cement or wood floors.

The Shamrocks struck first in the final frame, Jeff Shattler finding the back of the net on a quick stick from the side of the crease at 1:557. In fact it looked like the Rocks were the more highly motivated team in the early going, but a pair of Mark Matthews tallies, the first on the power play at 8:42, threatened to put the game out of reach. His other, the third of the game came at 10:18 and opened up the largest lead of the game for the home Thunder, 7-4. With the clock becoming the Shamrocks’ enemy, Rhys Duch managed to find the back of the net with a bullet from the dotted line at 16:56, that goal coming with the man advantage. The Rocks tried to get back into the game with their goaltender on the bench for the extra attacker but MacDonald was equal to the task. With less than a minute to go, for some reason, Langley pulled their goaltender and that resulted in a Victoria goal into the empty net at 19:51, off the stick of Dan MacRae. Just one of those mysteries of lacrosse why Langley had their goaltender on the bench but fortunately for them, the Shamrocks ran out of time and took the 7-6 loss despite outshooting the Thunder by a 54-33 margin.

Rhys Duch and Jeff Shattler combined for 23 shots on goal but each managed only 1 goal with Duch picking up a pair of assists and Shattler 1 helper. Other goals came from Tyler Hass, Corey Small, Brody Eastwood and Dan MacRae, the latter two also contributing an assist. The Rocks were without their captain Scott Ranger and lost Corey Small in the second period so fans are hoping one or both will be able to return as the series comes back to Victoria for game 2.

For the Thunder it was Mark Matthews, who was relatively quiet in their semi final series, leading the way with the hat trick and 1 helper. Garrett Billings added a goal and 4 assists, while Brodie MacDonald kicked out 47 of the 53 shots he faced.

If game 1 is anything to measure by, this will be a tough defensive series with goaltending being one of the keys. It is very unlikely there will be a sweep here as both teams match up very well. Game 2 will be at Bear Mountain Friday at 7:45 pm.