If you’d have told me that the Shamrocks would be travelling across the pond for game 6 after taking a 3-0 series lead against the Burnaby Lakers, I’d have checked to see if you had a fever. But that’s exactly the situation after the Lakers came into the Q Centre Wednesday and, on the strength of a 5-goal third period, beat the Shamrocks 11-6. The Shamrocks now have a 3-2 series lead and will return to the Bill Copeland Arena Friday to try once again to move onto the WLA finals against the Maple Ridge Burrards, who made their reservations with an 11-10 win against the New Westminster Salmonbellies, winning that series 4-1.
The Lakers gave Zak Boychuk the start Wednesday with Tyler Richards out of the line-up for a second straight game while at Victoria’s end it was Adam Shute between the pipes with Cody Cook as his backup. Burnaby opened the scoring at 5:28 when Justin Salt scored a shorthanded marker on a breakaway. I know, how does that happen, right? Shorthanded breakaway. They took a 2-0 lead on a power play goal from Josh Byrne at the 13:11 mark before the Rocks replied with a power play marker of their own at 16:54, that coming courtesy of playoff scoring leader Rhys Duch, cutting to the net. The Shamrocks held the edge in shots 18-11 but they were down 2-1 as the teams headed to the dressing room.
The home team got a bit of jump early in the middle frame, Jeff Shattler finding twine just 48 seconds in and the Rocks took the lead when Corey Small tallied at 5:05 going to the net. It was especially good to see Small find the range as he has been somewhat snake bitten in the first 4 games of the series. Unfortunately that was the first and only time the Shamrocks would hold a lead and it was shortlived at that as Burnaby came back to tie the score at 5:46, Salt once again doing the deed with a quick stick from the side of the net. They regained the lead at 8:25 when Scott Jones broke from the bench after a successful Burnaby penalty kill to go to the net and beat Shute. Victoria got back even with a goal from Jr. ‘A’ Shamrock call-up Marshal King at 9:17, after some good ball movement offensively. Eli McLaughlin gave the visitors a 6-5 lead at 11:41 and the teams traded goals again before the period ended. Small added his second for the Shamrocks at 15:51, working around a defender to get in close. But Salt, not normally known as a scoring machine, collected his hat trick marker and his second shorthanded goal at 18:22 on a break to make it 6-5. Shorthanded break – déjà vu? Again, it was the Shamrocks sending a lot of shots towards the Burnaby net, 28-11 in the second period. Once again they were on the short end on the scoreboard.
Victoria came back to tie the game at 3:22 of the final frame, Small getting his third of the contest with a hard shot from the dotted line but after that it was all Burnaby as they rattled off 5 unanswered goals. It was a very almost surreal scene to see fans leaving en masse because their team was behind by a bunch as opposed to having put the game away.
The Shamrocks are without a doubt a beaten-up team but in many years of watching them, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen them play with what appeared to be hopelessness. They for sure miss the contributions of Jesse King and Cory Conway on offense and it was by far one of Adam Shute’s less sharp performances at a time when they needed him to be at his best. Having said that, they still hold the series lead. A bright spot was Corey Small coming up with a 3 goal, 2 assist performance to be named the game’s third star. Small has contributed but goals have been hard to come by. Another bright light was the contribution of the three junior ‘A’ call-ups. Braylon Lumb, Jesse King and Cole Pickup played hard and King came up with a goal. Jeff Shattler and Rhys Duch each had a goal and added 3 and 2 assists respectively.
Burnaby goaltender Zak Boychuk made 48 saves, not all of them difficult, but still important, to earn first star honours. Justin Salt, who scored 5 goals all season, had the hat trick for Burnaby and was named the game’s second star.
So back to the mainland they go for game 6 on Friday, August 19. That will be an early start – 6:00 pm at the Bill Copeland Arena. Meanwhile the Maple Ridge Burrards will sit on the sidelines and watch to see who they will play in the WLA final for the right to travel to Ontario for the Mann Cup in early September.