By Janice Huckin
The Shamrocks swept their series against the Nanaimo Timbermen with an 11-8 victory over their island rivals at the Q Centre Friday night and in doing so, clinched first overall and home floor advantage through the WLA playoffs. Unlike last season, when the T’Men took 2 of the 3 match-ups, Nanaimo was no match for a Shamrocks team intent on finishing first. They held period leads of 4-1 and 9-4 on the way to the win.
Starting goaltenders were Cody Hagedorn for the home team and Pete Dubenski for the visitors. The Shamrocks ran up a 4-0 lead before the Timbermen found the back of the Shamrocks net. Captain Corey Small got things started at 5:55 with a sidearm low shot from outside the dotted line. I love it when the defense gets in on the scoring and Tyler Burton got it done with an unassisted tally at 7:09 getting on a run. Both defenses were playing solid lacrosse and it wasn’t until 14:19 when Rhys Duch made it 3-0 Victoria off a rebound, scoring from the centre of the dotted line. Chris Wardle’s power play goal at 15:07 made it a 4-goal lead with a quick stick from the side of the net. Just under a minute later, at 16:05, Chase McIntyre finally solved Hagedorn and that is how the period ended. The shots on goal were 18-11 in Victoria’s favour and they had the 4-1 lead on the board.
Just 50 seconds into the middle frame, Duch scored his second goal of the night, getting in close and shooting behind the back, that goal coming with his team down a man to make it 5-1. Nanaimo replied at 2:34, Colton Clark scoring on a quick stick from the dotted line. The teams traded goals once again, Doug Langlois scoring for the Shamrocks against his former team at 4:03 with a hard shot from well out and Matthew Benedict replying for the Timbermen at 5:15. Victoria put together a 2-goal run, Small collecting his second of the night at 6:59 with a bullet from outside the dotted line and Jeff Shattler going to the net to beat Dubenski at 9:31. Jake Cullen got one back for the visitors at 15:02, a shot that appeared to deflect off someone in front and Victoria closed out the scoring at 17:22 on Wardle’s second of the night as he caught the ball high and tucked it in low. Nanaimo was closer in shots on goal in the period, outshot 19-17 but they were still a long way back on the scoreboard.
Give Nanaimo credit, they didn’t quit and outscored the home team 4-2 in the final period as well as outshooting them 12-11. Duch got things going once again for the Shamrocks at the 55-second mark with a shot late in the 30-second clock from the dotted line. Nanaimo came back with a pair off the sticks of Brandan Smith and the second of the game from McIntyre. Duch managed to sandwich in one more at 6:26, collecting a pass on a run to the net but the Timbermen closed out the scoring with a goal from Kyle Hofer just 12 seconds later and Pascal Coombs rounded out the game at 14:07 with Nanaimo’s 8th goal.
Victoria swept the 3 stars with Rhys Duch, Jeff Shattler and Chris Wardle going 1-2-3 but you could have made a case for Pete Dubenski between the pipes for Nanaimo and also for Tyler Burton who once again dominated in the circle, winning 11 of 15 faceoffs. Duch finished with 4 goals and 2 assists while Corey Small had 2 goals and 3 helpers. Chris Wardle had 2 goals and 2 assists, Jeff Shattler chipped in 4 points on a goal and 3 helpers and Cory Conway had 4 assists. Other goals came from Tyler Burton and Doug Langlois. Cody Hagedorn had 33 saves to pick up the win.
The win clinches first place for the Shamrocks, despite being tied in points with the New Westminster Salmonbellies. The Rocks have one game left as they travel to Coquitlam for the second consecutive Saturday, August 6 to take on the Adanacs and finish up the WLA regular season.
With positions now established, regardless of Saturday’s outcome, the Shamrocks will take on the Burnaby Lakers in a best-of-seven semi final starting Tuesday, August 9 at the Q Centre. That game starts at 7:45 with game 2 to follow Thursday in Burnaby and game 3 back at the Q Friday, August 12 but with an earlier – 6:00 pm start.