It was not the Shamrocks’ weekend as they dropped a pair of games after winning their home opener a little over a week ago. They travelled over the Malahat Saturday to take on their island rivals, the Nanaimo Timbermen, dropping a 12-9 game. That was followed by a home floor 9-8 loss Sunday to the defending league champion New Westminster Salmonbellies.
In Saturday’s contest, the Shamrocks played catch up most of the game, having held the lead only once, taking a 5-4 lead early in the second period. The Timbermen outscored the Rocks 4-3 in the middle period and 4-2 in the final frame to take the win. Chris Wardle, Casey Jackson and Tyson Gibson each had a pair of goals for the Shamrocks. Danny Smith, Alec Molander and Josh Fagan had singles while Rob Hellyer and Jesse King contributed 3 and 4 assists respectively. Nanaimo had the edge in shots on goal 54-44 and were led offensively by Chase Fraser with 4 goals.
Sunday at the Q Centre it was a similar story in terms of playing catch-up. Starting goaltenders were Alexis Buque for the visiting Salmonbellies while an injury to Cody Hagedorn had the Shamrocks calling up the Coquitlam Jr. ‘A’ star Christian Del Bianco. It was New Westminster opening the scoring 1:37 into the game, Jason Jones scoring off a rebound in close. A power play resulted in success for the Shamrocks as Casey Jackson scored just 14 seconds into the man advantage with a hard, low shot at 11:44. The visitors replied at 13:03, Jordan McBride connecting from just inside the dotted line. The newly-acquired Rob Hellyer picked up his first goal as a Shamrock at 13:30 from outside the dotted line. The Rocks got on a 3-goal run, Chris Wardle tallying at 16:39 with a bullet from the dotted line around a defender. Steve Priolo made it 4-3 at 16:47, the fourth goal in a 47 second span, off the faceoff and at 17:52 Jackson picked up his second of the game. That goal will be on highlight reels as goaltender Buque took a slash at him behind the net and could not get back in time as Jackson reached around to find twine. The visitors battled back within a goal at 18:15, Mitch Jones getting on a run. That made it 5-4 for the home team heading into the middle period.
The second period saw the ‘Bellies outscore the Shamrocks 3-1, including the first two of the period. Lyndon Bunio got on a break, taking an outlet pass from Buque and scored at 2:28 to tie the score. They then took the lead on Mitch Jones’ second of the game just 31 seconds later off a rebound in front. Jesse King brought the home team back even at 3:17, getting in close but before the period ended, Jason Jones picking up his second at 10:56, unassisted. The score after two periods was New West 7, Victoria 6 and shots on goal were even at 40 apiece.
The Salmonbellies extended their lead 1:19 into the final period, Bunio getting his second, picking the top corner. Victoria responded with a power play goal at 5:14, Wardle’s second goal of the game with a quick stick low from the side of the crease. The teams traded goals late in the game, Mitch Jones getting the hat trick at 15:05 and King getting his second of the contest for Victoria at 15:43 on the power play.
The result drops Victoria to fourth in the standings with a record of 1-2 while the Salmonbellies remain unbeaten at 3-0 early in the season.
Victoria got a pair of goals from Chris Wardle, Casey Jackson and Jesse King, the latter adding 5 assists for a 7-point night. Singles came from Steve Priolo and Rob Hellyer while Rhys Duch contributed 3 assists. Christian Del Bianco made 47 saves on 56 shots, some of the spectacular variety to be named the game’s second star.
Mitch Jones led New Westminster’s offense with the hat trick and 1 assist. Jason Jones, Jordan McBride and Lyndon Bunio each had a pair. Alexis Buque and Jason Jones were given first and third star billing.
Next action for the Shamrocks is a road game Wednesday when they will take on the Langley Thunder. They return to the Q Centre at 6:00 pm next Sunday, June 10 to try and even their season series with the Nanaimo Timbermen.