By Janice Huckin
The Shamrocks took a giant step toward the league leaders Friday as they gutted out a 9-7 victory over the visiting Burnaby Lakers at the Q Centre.
The game had a little of everything as the score was close throughout, with lots of hard hitting, tough defense, outstanding goaltending and plenty of special teams action. Starting goaltenders were Adam Shute for the home team and Tyler Richards for the Lakers. It was Burnaby getting on the board first, rookie Josh Byrne lighting the lamp at 3:09, getting in close. Victoria replied at 4:48, Rhys Duch scoring from the dotted lineto tie things up. The Rocks took a lead at 5:32, a couple of transition players moving the ball up the floor as Ethan Garland got the ball to Doug Langlois on the run. Burnaby tied things up at 6:49 with a goal from the stick of Jason Jones at 6:49, a shot that Shute got a piece of but couldn’t quite corral. Duch added his second of the night at 7:38, that goal coming just 18 seconds into a power play off some great ball control around the front of the net. Burnaby got back even at 14:28 when Justin Salt scored a shorthanded goal on a run off a loose ball and then took a 4-3 lead at 19:17 when Dane Stevens got in close and scored a power play marker. Despite being behind 19-16 on the shot board, the Lakers held the 4-3 lead on the scoreboard heading into the dressing room after 20 minutes.
The visitors increased their lead just 28 seconds into the middle frame with another power play goal from Stevens, putting a quick stick just inside the post from the side of the crease. Victoria replied with a pair of goals, the first coming from Jesse King, playing his first game of the season in front of the home crowd. That came at the 59-second mark and Chris Wardle tied the score at 1:25 with a quick stick in close. Penalties gave the Lakers yet another chance at a power play, Eli McLaughlin putting his team ahead at 6:20 from the side of the net late in the 30-second clock. Victoria’s offense started to gain some momentum after that, as the Rocks rattled off 3 straight goals to end the period. Corey Small started things off at 9:49 with an absolute howitzer from outside the dotted line. King collected his second of the contest at 15:32 after some great ball control and Ian McShane added a power play marker at 16:42, again off some quick passes in close. That gave the Shamrocks an 8-6 lead after two periods as they held a 22-11 edge in shots on goal in the period.
Not much scoring in the third period as the heat seemed to take its toll on the players and the floor, with much wiping up taking place. Victoria scored at 7:11, Wardle picking up his second of the night with a quick stick from the side of the net and an extra attacker on the floor for a delayed penalty call. Tyler Digby replied for the Lakers at 7:59 and that was as close as they would get on this night.
Rhys Duch led Victoria’s offense with 2 goals and 4 helpers and was named the game’s first star while team captain Corey Small also had 6 points on a goal and 5 assists. Chris Wardle and Jesse King each had a pair of goals as well with singles coming from Doug Langlois and Ian McShane. Jeff Shattler chipped in a trio of assists and Adam Shute kicked out 37 of the 44 shots he faced to get the win. Tyler Burton, winning 14 of 17 faceoffs was named the third star of the game.
The win moves the Shamrocks to within 4 points of the league-leading New Westminster Salmonbellies with 3 games remaining while the Bellies have just 1 left in their schedule. The Rocks will make up one of those games Saturday as they travel to Coquitlam to face the Adanacs in their 3rd game in 4 nights. They return to the Q Centre next Friday to host the Nanaimo Timbermen in a 7:45 pm start. It will be Fan Appreciation Night with plenty of prizes and a pre-game tailgate party.
While the match-ups and dates have not yet been set, Shamrocks playoff tickets go on sale Tuesday at the Shamrocks office.