Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde. That’s about how the playoffs have gone for the Victoria Shamrocks and their Jekyll/Hyde personas played out period by period in game 4 of their best-of-seven final series against the New Westminster Salmonbellies Friday night at the Q Centre. Ahead 3-1 after the first, the Rocks trailed 8-4 after the second and fought back to tie the score at 8-8 after regulation to force overtime. Unfortunately the Bellies scored the only goal in the extra 10 minutes to come away with a 9-8 win and a 3-1 lead in the series heading back to Queen’s Park Arena for game 5 on Sunday.
Victoria head coach Bob Heyes expected his charges to come out strong early and they did that, opening up a 3-0 lead before the visitors would find the back of the net. Starting goaltenders were Aaron Bold and Alexis Buque, as in all previous games. Rhys Duch opened scoring at 4:05, with Bold on the bench for an extra attacker, a move that seemed to shock the Salmonbellies as there was no delayed penalty. Duch fired from outside the dotted line to make it 1-0 for the home team. At 5:15 Joe Resetarits gave the Rocks a 2-0 lead, scoring from right on Buque’s doorstep and at 7:06 Chris Wardle, got in close and put a bouncer between the legs of Buque to make it 3-0, Wardle one of the few players consistently getting inside. New Westminster finally responded at the 13:49 mark, Kevin Crowley scoring a power play goal from in close, the Bellies enjoying a 2-man advantage as Victoria was assessed the only 2 penalties in the opening frame, unfortunately within a minute of each other. Shots on goal were 16-13 for New Westminster but they were behind 3-1 on the scoreboard.
The Shamrocks seemed to disappear in the middle frame as the Salmonbellies rattled off 5 straight before the home team would find the back of the net again. Crowley picked up his second of the game at 1:57, although he appeared to be in the crease to do so. Mitch Jones got the score knotted at 3 at 6:56 from outside the dotted line and Zach Herreweyers gave the visitors their first lead of the game at 7:50, in very very close. Crowley picked up his hat trick goal at 9:12, going to the net at which point Bold was relieved very briefly by Cody Hagedorn. Joel McCready made it 6-3 for the visitors at 13:08 from outside the dotted line before Duch picked up his second for the Shamrocks at 15:30 from outside the dotted line. The Bellies would add two more before the period ended, Justin Goodwin tallying at 15:47 and McCready adding his second of the game at 18:30, after a successful New West penalty kill and a break around the defense. That was how the period ended as shots on goal were even at 17 apiece.
Somehow between periods the Shamrocks seemed to get the message they were behind and they rolled off 4 unanswered goals while giving up only 8 shots and no goals in the third period. First, it was defender Jake Archdekin getting things done, going on a transition run from end to end to score unassisted at the 2:06 mark. Another goal courtesy of the defense got the Rocks to within a pair at 8:55, this time it was Tyler Hass going coast to coast. Corey Small then picked up a power play goal just 13 seconds into the man advantage, finishing off a series of quick passes. Duch picked up the hat trick at 19:42, tying the score at 8 with his team playing shorthanded although Bold was on the bench to even out the manpower. Shots on goal were 18-8 for Victoria and it was a new ball game with 10 minutes of overtime to come.
The Shamrocks started the extra period down a man as Mike Triolo was assessed a 5-minute penalty and a game misconduct late in the third but New Westminster’s McCready was surprisingly penalized just 1:32 into the extra period. Mainland teams appear to bring their own referees to the island, which arrangement is not reciprocated on the mainland. In any event, both teams had chances but it wasn’t until the 6:24 mark that the ‘Bellies’ Logan Schuss found the back of the net from just inside the dotted line. Victoria was unable to respond and dropped the 1-goal decision and finds their ‘backs to the wall’ as the sports cliché says.
Rhys Duch led the Shamrocks attack with 3 goals and 1 assist to earn second star honours. Corey Small added a goal and 3 helpers with singles coming from Chris Wardle, Tyler Hass, Joe Resetarits and Jake Archdekin. The Rocks were tagged with 21 minutes in penalties on 5 infractions while the Salmonbellies were remarkably penalized 5 times for 10 minutes.
Kevin Crowley had 3 goals and 3 assists for the victorious Salmonbellies to be named first star while Alexis Buque got third star, kicking out 47 of 55 shots.
Game 5 is Sunday at Queen’s Park Arena, another 6:00 pm start and could propel the Salmonbellies on to host the Mann Cup. Should the Shamrocks prevail, the teams will return to the Q Centre on Tuesday, August 29 at 6:00 pm for game 6.
Out in Ontario the Peterborough Lakers hold a 2-0 in their best of 7 league final against the Six Nations Chiefs with game 3 scheduled for Sunday.