Written by Janice Huckin
August 7, 2014, Victoria (ISN) – Down 6-5 after the first period, the Shamrocks blew the game open in the middle frame scoring 6 unanswered goals on their way to a 13-8 win in game 1 of their WLA semi final series against the visiting New Westminster Salmonbellies.
Greg Harnett and Brendan Ranford prepare for the first face-off. (Photo: Kasey Eriksen ISN)
Starting goaltenders were Matt Flindell for the Shamrocks and Alexis Buque for the ‘Bellies and it was the visitors getting off to a quick start as Curtis Hodgson tallied just 59 seconds in, off a play broken up and a shot that went 5-hole. At 2:57 New West went up by a pair, this time Jordan McBride finding twine.
Salmonbellies’ Jordan McBride remains confident while keeping the ball in his stick. (Photo: Kasey Eriksen ISN)
Victoria woke up suddenly and scored a pair of goals just 35 seconds apart to pull even. Jesse King answered at 4:01 with a high, hard shot from the dotted line and Corey Small followed up at 4:36 with another from well out. The visitors regained the lead when Jr. ‘A’ call-up Josh Byrne scored at 5:37, a shot that Flindell got a piece of.
Salmonbellies’ Colton Clark tries to stop Shamrocks’ Karsen Leung from shooting the ball. (Photo: Kasey Eriksen ISN)
The home team then got on a 3-goal run started off some great transition speed as Ethan Garland got the ball to a breaking Matt Yager and he made no mistake at 6:43. At 7:30, King picked up his second of the game in close and Small picked up his second on a power play at 9:27 to give the Rocks a 5-3 lead.
Shamrocks’ Dahne Smith keeps his eye on his teammates while Salmonbellies’ Jesse Fehr tries to distract him. (Photo: Kasey Eriksen ISN)
Suddenly, the visitors returned the favour and got on a 3-goal run of their own starting with Jesse Fehr’s unassisted goal off a loose ball at 10:09. They got a power play goal off the stick of McBride at 16:44 and Logan Schuss found the back of the net at 17:39 on a shot that didn’t look that dangerous but somehow got behind Flindell. That was how the period ended with the Bellies up 6-5 despite being outshot 15-12. For a team that was so solid defensively all season, it was a bit disconcerting to see so many goals in the first period of a playoff game.
Salmonbellies’ Colton Clark keeps the Shamrocks at bay. (Photo: Kasey Eriksen ISN)
Never fear, the real Shamrocks came out in period 2 and shut down the Bellies while notching 6 unanswered goals. Rhys Duch scored on a bullet from the centre of the dotted line at 2:24, that goal coming on the power play – good to see the power play clicking at this point in the season. At 2:40 Small collected his hat trick marker, the third of what would eventually be 7 in the game off a quick stick from the side of the crease.
A ‘Ben McCullough’ fan isn’t afraid to show his Shamrock pride. He comes running in for a quick ‘hi-five’ from his favorite player. (Photo: Kasey Eriksen ISN)
He added another just a minute later, finishing off some great ball control and opening up an 8-6 lead. Scott Ranger scored from the side of the crease at 14:25 and Small added a couple more before the period ended, the first coming at 15:04 from the side of the crease and than adding a power play marker at 18:44 on a break. Victoria heavily outshot the visitors 25-15 in the period and were full value for the 10-5 lead on the scoreboard and Flindell was sharp in not allowing a goal.
Game 1 showed its chippy side. (Photo: Kasey Eriksen ISN)
The Rocks kept rolling in period 3, Small picking up another at the 6:59 mark off a rebound in front. Tyler Burton added an unassisted goal at 8:54 to make it 13-5. It looked like the referees wanted to give the Bellies a chance as there were 3 simultaneous Victoria penalties at 13:52 when there was already one Shamrock in the box.
Despite the obvious advantage, they managed just one goal on the series of power plays, McBr4ide getting his hat trick marker at 15:09 with his team holding a 5-on-3 advantage. That put an end to Flindell’s shutout streak of 37:30 in the game. Colton Clark added an unassisted goal at 17:54 but that was too little too late.
At one point, there were four Shamrocks in the penalty box. (Photo: Kasey Eriksen ISN)
After a sluggish first period, there were a lot of highlights for the victorious Shamrocks including Corey Small’s 9 point night on 7 goals and 2 helpers. Jesse King had 2 goals and 3 helpers with singles coming from Tyler Burton, Matt Yager, Scott Ranger and Rhys Duch who also chipped in 3 assists.
Dhane Smith added 7 assists and was a solid contributor at both ends of the floor. The Shamrocks swept the 3 stars with Corey Small, Dhane Smith and Matt Flindell going 1, 2, 3. They also went 3 for 5 on the power play which is a good sign. Hopefully the officiating can keep up with the level of play as the series goes forward – it was not good in game 1.
By the end of the game, Corey Small tucked away 7 goals, taking home 9 points. (Photo: Kasey Eriksen ISN)
For the Salmonbellies, Jordan McBride scored three times, Logan Schuss had a goal and 2 assists with 4 other players tallying once. Buque gave way to Neil Tyacke between the pipes with 11:06 left in the game. Tyacke faced 7 shots without allowing a goal,
The series moves to New West for game 2 Friday at 6:00 pm and back for game 3 at the Q Centre on Sunday, also a 6:00 pm start. It promises to be a hard-hitting, physical series and, although the crowd was on the small side for the series opener, it will hopefully grow as the series progresses.