By -Janice Huckin
The Victoria Shamrocks took to the floor Wednesday and, in a tight defensive battle, defeated the Peterborough Lakers 7-5 in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead in the 2015 Mann Cup.
Nothing new between the pipes, Aaron Bold and Matt Vinc starting in net for the Rocks and Lakers respectively. The Shamrocks got on the board first and it was defender Steve Priolo doing the deed, scoring on a sub shot from the dotted line at the 3:37 mark. Cory Conway made it 2-0 at 7:04 with a quick stick from right in front, Conway making the start after missing games 3 and 4. The defense and Victoria’s great speed on transition gave Mitch Jones the opportunity and he buried it at 15:45, that goal coming on an assist from goaltender Bold and it was 3-0 for the home team. Before the period ended, Mark Steenhuis would get the Lakers on the board, a goal that appeared to be dangerously to being scored from in the crease. That goal came at 18:11 and that was how the period ended, with the Shamrocks up 3-1. Interestingly the stingy Victoria defense held the Lakers to just 1 shot until the 9:46 mark of the period. Shots on goal after 20 minutes favoured Victoria 12-8.
The Shamrocks also opened the scoring in period 2, Rhys Duch connecting from in close just 18 seconds into the period, that goal coming shorthanded. Peterborough then got on a 3-goal run to get things even before Victoria would find the back of the net. First it was Corey Vitarelli tallying at 6:23, a play on which he most definitely was in the crease. That was followed up just 16 seconds later by a power play marker off the stick of Curtis Dickson. At 12:39, after Turner Evans held off three Shamrocks defenders, he cut to the net and added a shorthanded marker and there it was, 4-4. Victoria would manage one more before the period ended, Scott Ranger getting to the front of the net and burying it at 17:41. Once again, Victoria outshot the Lakers but only by a 15-14 margin and they had the one-goal lead on the scoreboard.
Talk about your defensive battles, just one goal was scored in the third period and that was by the Lakers’ Shawn Evans at the 6:36 mark, off a loose ball and getting in alone. Unfortunately, the third period in particular was marred by the worst officiating so far in the series. Two Victoria goals were waved off for crease infractions – the referees had apparently now figured out where the crease was. Meanwhile the rough stuff was ignored – instead of giving penalties, the referees were pulling players off of other players and sending them to their bench. The refereeing hasn’t been great thoughout, in some cases barely ok but tonight was unbelievable and the fans certainly let them know it. In any event, the period ended with the score tied 5-5 and we were going into overtime for the first time in the series.
In the Mann Cup the teams play a full 10-minute overtime and if no winner is declared, a 10-minute sudden victory period is played. Fortunately for the Shamrocks and their fans, it never got that far although it was fingernail biting time for many. Corey Small finally found the back of the net with a hard shot from the dotted line at the 5:15 mark. The Shamrocks’ Dan MacRae was then charged with a 2-minute holding penalty (incidentally there was a run on holding calls throughout the game). As the Rocks were trying to run the clock and kill off the penalty, another holding call was made against Peterborough’s Robert Hope. That meant, no ragging the ball but the Shamrocks did manage to control the play and at the 9:23 mark Dan Dawson finally showed his ‘dangerous’ side and fired a shot from the dotted line late in the 30-second clock to seal the victory.
One side story of the game was that Rory Smith did not dress for the Shamrocks which meant Peterborough had to find someone else to chase around the floor. Both goaltenders were named their team’s respective MVP of the game as Aaron Bold kicked out 32 shots while Matt Vinc made 39 saves. Game 6 is Friday night at the Q Centre and the Shamrocks are hoping to end the jinx of the last 3 years and pull out the victory to bring the Mann Cup back to Victoria after a 10-year absence.