A King may trump all, but on Sunday at The Q Centre, it was a matter of keeping up with the Jones’s as in Mitch and Jason Jones, who led the Western Lacrosse Association first place New Westminster Salmonbellies to a 9-8 victory over the Victoria Shamrocks.
It was the Salmonbellies third straight win to start their 2018 campaign. The last time the teams met, the Salmonbellies took out an injury-riddled Shamrocks in five games during the WLA finals. Expectations would be that the Shamrocks would be up for this game.
Sunday, Jason Jones opened the scoring at 1:37. It was a scrambled play in front of the Shamrocks net.
After a lot of ball watching in their own end the Shamrocks finally got on the board at 11:44. Casey Jackson buried a hard shot from 30-feet out, while Lyndon Bunio was off for tripping. The goal was assisted by Jesse King and Rhys Duch.
Jordan McBride and Brandon Ranford combined at 13:04, to take the lead back, 2-1, but the Shamrocks came right back at 13:30 with a WLA-first goal by Rob Hellyer, assisted by King and Jackson.
Hellyer, a 25-year-old native of Lion’s Head, ON, is one of the top offensive players in lacrosse today.
The 5’8” 180-pound right-hander was one of the top scorers this year in the National Lacrosse League with the Toronto Rock. In 89 career games with the Rock, Hellyer has scored 154 goals and added 272 assists for 426 points.
McBride, who led the Salmonbellies, with five points on the night, put away an outside shot on an innocent looking play, with the 3:59 left in the first.
Thirty-eight seconds and 46 seconds later, Chris Wardle and Steve Priolo scored to put the Shamrocks up 4-3. It was Priolo’s first game back to the lineup this season. Seconds later, Shamrocks goaltender Christian Del Bianco made a tremendous save on McBride who was left all alone.
With 2:08 remaining in the first, Jackson scored his second of the period, unassisted.
The Salmonbellies came out on a mission during the second period, scoring two quick goals, which gave them control of the play. They outscored the Shamrocks 3-1 in the period to go to the dressing rooms with a 7-6 lead.
Bunio and Mitch Jones both scored by 2:59 of the second, then King scored from Duch and Wardle on the only marker of the second period for the Shamrocks.
“We got enough shots off and I think played well enough, but we need to have more pop in our offence,” shared King. “As a group, I don’t think the effort was there in the first period.”
Early in the third period, Wardle and Bunio traded goals, their second each at 1:19 and 5:14, respectively. King and Jackson earned assists on the play.
At 11:00 Mack Mitchell missed on a clear-cut breakaway, with a pump-fake, he went high, but nothing doing. The Shamrocks needed that shot to go in.
Both teams called late time-outs and the Shamrocks pulled the goalie in favour of the extra attacker, but the Salmonbellies goaltender Alex Buque was the player-of-the-game as he put up a brick wall, late.
“He is a great goalie, he is tough to beat and he kept his team in there tonight,” said coach Bob Heyes.
Alexis Buque was on fire for the game, the 5’10” 225-pound goaltender from Whitby, ON starred in the NCAA in field lacrosse for Davenport University and American International.
Shots at the end of three periods were 59-56 for the Shamrocks.
EXTRAS: The Salmonbellies are led on the scoresheet by Delta’s Mitch Jones, who earned four points Sunday to take his season total after three games to 16. He is racking up points at double the rate he did in 2017, where he collected 62 points in 17 games. However, the 27-year-old is nearly matching his outstanding 6.5 points per game rate from the 2017 Mann Cup Championships. He contributed 39 points in six games.
As expected, Casey Jackson, Jesse King and Rhys Duch lead the Shamrocks with 16, 17 and 12 points, respectively. The three broke-out with big second and third periods during their home opener against the Lakers. Jackson and King scored five goals each, while Duch picked up nine assists in that game.
May 24th the Salmonbellies opened the season at home with a 13-6 win over the Burnaby Lakers and followed up that win with an 8-7 victory over the Nanaimo Timberman.