The Shamrocks knew they would have to play better than they had late in the season and they did just that as they won game 1 of their semi-final series against the Burnaby Lakers 9-8 Thursday on the mainland.
Aaron Bold and Eric Penney were starting goaltenders for the Rocks and Lakers respectively and the Shamrocks got off to a quick start, Casey Jackson giving them the lead just 52 seconds in with a hard shot from outside the dotted line on the first shot of the game. He made it 2-0 at 2:10 with a sub shot from the dotted line and assisted on Corey Small’s goal at 4:04 as Small faked and shot overhand to make it 3-0 Shamrocks. That was all the scoring in the opening frame as both defenses battened down the hatches. Burnaby held the edge in shots on goal by a 17-11 margin but the Rocks had the 3-0 lead on the scoreboard.
Burnaby got back in the game early in the middle period, Robert Church tallying at the 43-second mark with a quick stick in front. He followed it up with his second at 1:51, going across in front of Bold to pull the home team within a goal. Victoria replied with 3 straight to take a 4-goal lead beginning with Josh Fagan’s goal at 4:49, going to the net. Cody Nass followed up at 4:59, picking up a rebound in front. At 7:38 Jr. ‘A’ Shamrocks call-up Danny Smith took the ball on a transition run and surprised Penney when he went to the net and put the ball behind the goaltender. An unassisted goal, the first for the talented speedy Smith. Before the period ended, Burnaby managed to get a couple of goals back, Church picking up his hat trick marker at 13:45 on the power play from the dotted line and Cam Milligan getting the Lakers within a pair at 14:49 off a rebound right in front. That was how the period ended, with the visiting Shamrocks up 6-4 despite being outshot 17-11 again in the period.
The Lakers kept their momentum going early in the final period, Dane Stevens scoring at 3:11, another power play goal on a quick stick from the side of the net. The Rocks pulled ahead again with the next 3 goals, all of which they would need as the game clock ran down. First it was Jackson picking up his hat trick marker at 4:49, diving across in front of the net. He added his fourth of the contest on the power play at 7:14 with a hard shot from outside the dotted line. Sheldon Burns made it 9-5 Shamrocks at 13:55 on a run, catching Penney not quite settled in his crease after leaving the floor for an extra attacker. Chalk up another for those transition guys, Tyler Burton picking up the assist. The Lakers didn’t quit as they managed 3 more before time ran out, the first from Milligan, his second at 15:33, followed by Stevens’ second at 19:02 and Church’s 4th at 19:38, the latter 2 being scored with an extra attacker on the floor and the net empty as the teams played 4-on-4. They had one final chance with 3 seconds left but couldn’t make it count as the Shamrocks come back home for game 2 with a 1-game lead in the series.
Casey Jackson led Victoria’s offense with 4 goals and 1 helper to be named the game’s first star. Corey Small chipped in a goal and 5 assists while Cody Nass, Josh Fagan, Sheldon Burns and Jr. ‘A’ call-up Danny Smith had singles. Aaron Bold kicked out 41 of 49 shots to earn second star honours. Despite being without several regulars at the back end, the Shamrocks were strong defensively with solid performances from Steve Priolo who continues to be a catalyst on the floor as well as several others stepping up in the absence of the Harnett Brothers, Ben McCullough and Tyler Hass.
For Burnaby, all the scoring came from the sticks of 3 players: Robert Church had 4 goals and 3 assists to be named the third star of the game. Dane Stevens and Cam Milligan each had a pair of goals with 1 and 3 assists respectively.
Game 2 is set for the Q Centre on Saturday, August 5 at 6:00 pm. Note the early start time to allow for the visitors travel plans.