The Victoria Shamrocks went into Queen’s Park Arena not even 48 hours after the Salmonbellies eliminated defending champion Maple Ridge Burrards but came out on the short end of a 9-7 score in the opening game of their best-of-seven final series. The game was fast-paced with very few penalties and lots of end-to-end action, exactly the way lacrosse should be played.
Alexis Buque got the start for the home team while Aaron Bold started for the Rocks and it was the Bellies opening the scoring Mitch Jones tallying at 2:55 with a quick stick as he went to the net. The home team opened up a 2-goal lead at 7:10, Zach Herreweyer scoring from just inside the dotted line. The Shamrocks made the best of their only power play opportunity in the game, Corey Small connecting at 11:30 from the dotted line. Rhys Duch drew the Rocks even with a buzzer beater, an unassisted goal off a rebound from the side of the net. Duch was in the line-up for the first time in the playoffs and making his presence immediately felt. Shots on goal favoured New Westminster 19-13 but they were knotted at 2 on the scoreboard.
If the teams were just feeling each other out in the opening frame, both offenses came out flying in the middle period as they combined for 9 goals with numerous lead changes. Victoria scored first, Jr. ‘A’ Shamrocks call-up Danny Smith going coast to coast on transition to find twine at 4:55. They went ahead by a pair at 7:55 when Paul Brebber seemed to surprise goaltender Buque with a quick shot from outside the dotted line. With goals coming in pairs, New Westminster did in fact answer with 2 of their own. First it was Mike Donaldson scoring at 9:20 from outside the dotted line on transition then Connor Robinson, a Jr. ‘A’ Salmonbellies call-up, tied the score at 4-4 at 10:56 with a shot from well outside the dotted line. Victoria regained the lead on a goal by Evan Messenger at 12:33 late in the 30-second clock and from outside the dotted line. That was the first of 5 goals in just over two minutes. New West got a pair of goals from Mitch Jones at 13:14 and 13:28, both of those coming from in close and it was 6-5 for the home team. Not for long, however, as Messenger picked up his second of the game for the Rocks at 14:11 from pretty much the same spot as his earlier. Young Robinson gave the Bellies the lead at 14:54 from way outside the dotted line and that made it 7-6 for the home team as the teams headed into the dressing room after 40 minutes. There were no penalties called in the period and shots were even at 19 apiece.
The Salmonbellies scored just 2:17 into the final frame, Justin Goodwin picking up a loose ball and running the floor to beat Bold. They made it a 3-goal lead at 16:43, Logan Schuss scoring a power play goal after a prolonged possession and numerous shots. Victoria managed to pull within a pair at 17:02, Duch getting his second of the game diving across the crease after evading his check but they were unable to get any closer despite having the attacker on the floor and Bold on the bench. Victoria was assessed the only 2 penalties in the period, not surprising on the mainland really, and New West held the edge in shots on goal 18-15 in the period and 56-47 overall.
Rhys Duch and Evan Messenger led Victoria’s offense with a pair of goals each, Duch also contributing 2 assists. Paul Brebber chipped in a goal and 2 helpers while Corey Small and Danny Smith had the other goals and Casey Jackson had 2 assists. Duch earned third star status with his performance.
For the Salmonbellies it was Mitch Jones (former Shamrock) with 3 goals and 2 assists and Logan Schuss also with a 5-point night on a goal and 4 helpers. Connor Robinson had 2 goals and an assist. Alexis Buque was named the game’s first star with Jones second star.
Next action is back at the Q Centre on Tuesday, August 20 at 6:00 pm. In interviews during the intermissions both team general managers predicted a good and quite likely a long series. Come out and get in on the action as the winning team will play host to either Peterborough or Six Nations in the Mann Cup in early September.