All indications were that it would be a tough playoff series between the Victoria Shamrocks and the Burnaby Lakers and if game 1 was any precursor, the predictions were right on. It took almost the full 60 minutes before the Shamrocks put the Lakers away with a 9-6 victory in game 1 at the Q Centre Tuesday.
Adam Shute got the start in goal for the Rocks with Zak Boychuk getting the nod at the other end of the floor. The Shamrocks came out flying with Rhys Duch scoring the first goal of the game at 1:43 with a bullet from outside the dotted line. Doug Langlois made it 2-0, collecting a long outlet pass from Shute and finding the back of the net at the 6-minute mark. Duch added another just 22 seconds later, faking a back pass but shooting from inside the dotted line. That was the end of Boychuk’s night as he was replaced by Tyler Richards in the Burnaby cage. It was a pretty physical game with 7 penalties called, including a couple of majors late in the period. Victoria’s Ian McShane was assisted from the floor and did not return to the game. Burnaby managed to solve Shute at the 19:17 mark, Robert Church finding twine on a shot that appeared to go off the post then the goaltender over the goal line. Shots on goal favoured Victoria 20-9 but the Shamrocks did not score on Richards and held a 3-2 lead after 20 minutes.
Penalties cost the Shamrocks a pair of power play goals early in the middle frame. Scott Jones sent a shot that again Shute seemed to get a piece of but then saw it go over the line. At 7:17, Church picked up his second of the night at 7:17 with a hard shot from the dotted line and things were knotted at 3. Victoria regained the lead at 9:25 on a Jeff Shattler shot from the dotted line but Burnaby got that one back at 14:31 as the Lakers intercepted a pass in their defensive end and got the ball up the floor to Justin Salt who got in close. With just a couple of ticks left on the clock, Victoria once again took the lead on Duch’s third of the game, that coming on a bullet from the dotted line with the goaltender on the bench for the extra attacker. Shots on goal were much closer, only 16-15 in Victoria’s favour and Burnaby was definitely dictating a lot of the play but the Shamrocks had the 1-goal lead at 5-4 after two periods..
The Lakers tied things at 5 very early in period 3, Eli McLaughlin getting on a run and beating Shute just 39 seconds in. They took their first lead of the contest at 3:40, Josh Byrne scoring on a backhander in close. Burnaby seemed to be picking off passes while the Shamrocks were missing the nets on many shots and the home crowd was definitely getting a little restless. Duch kept up his strong game, however, scoring at the 10-minute mark to bring the Rocks even, finishing off some quick passes with another bullet from well out. Suddenly the home team seemed to get a second wind – or maybe just their first really. Cory Conway found the back of the net at 12:56 with a shot from the centre dotted line. Jesse King who played a solid game but couldn’t seem to find the net finally found it at 16:21, picking the top corner from outside the dotted line to make it 8-6 for the Shamrock. Just 35 seconds later, Duch, once again in his sweet spot just outside the dotted line, scored his fifth goal of the game to provide the margin of victory.
Victoria will be happy to have drawn first blood in the series but Burnaby gave them all they could handle and then some. Rhys Duch led the attack with 5 goals and 3 assists to take first star honours. Tyler Burton was the game’s second star, winning 13 of 17 faceoffs. Cory Conway, Jeff Shattler, Jesse King and Doug Langlois had the other Victoria goals while Corey Small chipped in 4 assists. Adam Shute went the distance for the win, stopping 35 of the 41 shots he faced.
Burnaby goaltender Tyler Richards was named third star, making 40 saves in relief. Robert Church led the Lakers offense with a pair of goals and 1 assist. Game 2 in the series is Thursday in Burnaby with a 7:45 pm start and the teams return to the Q Centr4e Friday, August 12 for game 3 – that will be a 6:00 pm start.
In the other WLA series which also started Wednesday, the visiting Maple Ridge Burrards defeated the second place New Westminster Salmonbellies 13-9 to take a 1-0 lead with game 2 scheduled for Maple Ridge on Friday.