It’s tight at the top of the Western Lacrosse Association, with four of the seven teams sitting within three points of each other.
The second-place Shamrocks hosted the last-place Langley Thunder Friday at The Q Centre, winning by the score of 11-5. Wednesday the two teams played in Langley and the Thunder gained just their second win of the season despite a spectacular goaltending effort by Cody Hagedorn. The Thunder won 6-5.
Hagedorn stopped 50 of 56 shots to earn Player of the Week honours, while the Thunder’s Davide Diruscio faced just 35 shots. The Shamrocks just weren’t on.
Asked what the difference was between the two games, Corey Small said, “Tonight I think we just played within the scope of our game. I think Wednesday we tried to be a little too fancy and went for some of those low-percentage passes and low-percentage shots, which took the wind out of our offence. Turnovers are a killer. Wednesday they had double the number of shots, not because they were playing better, but because we were turning over the ball.”
“Today was about valuing the ball, taking more higher percentage shots and not giving it up.”
Friday, it was a matter of forcing the Thunder to open up the game a little for the offensively-minded Shamrocks. The game got off to a slow start with the first goal coming from Mike Triolo at 7:45 of the first. He was waiting deep in front of Diruscio and received a short pass from Corey Small; Triolo turned and snapped a high one home. Chris Wardle earned the second assist on the play.
The game was tied up at 11:56 as Dylan LaCroix scored his first of two from JP Kealey and Tyler Pace.
The game came to life at the end of the first period with Dallas Wade serving two minutes for illegal cross-checking at 17:54. Triolo again worked his short-handed magic ragging the ball, waiting for Thunder defenders to allow an opening. He slipped through a pair of defenders after they avoided a holding call. He broke in and got a shot off. The period ended 1-1, with the shots favouring the guests 11-10.
The first period looked like a repeat of Wednesday night’s sleeper.
At 4:26 of the second, Josh Fagan scored short-side on Diruscio from a Chris Wardle set-up. The second assist was credited to Dallas Wade. Small added to the lead 2:32 later with a low shot, knee height. Casey Jackson and Triolo assisted. The goal came at 6:58.
Small’s goal opened the game up and shifted the momentum.
At 9:35, LaCroix earned his second of the night, firing through a screen, just as the shot clock wound down. Kealey earned the only assist on the play. At 10:06, Small scored again with Diruscio facing the wrong way and out of his net, Jackson assisted. Sheldon Burns added to the lead 12 seconds later with an unassisted marker.
Time for a goaltending change; out went Diruscio for Zack Wickett. Small scored on his first shot at Wickett, from Jackson. It was a hat-trick goal for Small, which forced another goaltending change, Diruscio was back in.
One shot later, Greg Harnett scored from Small and Evan Messenger. The Thunder called a timeout with the score 7-2, Shamrocks.
Asked what changed between the first and second periods, Coach Bob Heyes said, “We had to get back to what made us successful. Our defence was more physical, sacrificing the body. The mentality when we have been successful in the past is making the physical plays.”
“I am really happy for Cody Hagedorn, he played an outstanding game on Wednesday. I think Hagedorn has learned to make those key saves like he did tonight. Goaltending isn’t something that we built our team around, but making those key saves are important and he did that tonight.”
The Shamrocks had scored four times in the space of 1:41. It was just what the doctor ordered. It was a 27-shot, eight-goal period, which ended 9-2.
During the third period, the Thunder defence tightened up again, but Jackson scored his second of the game from Wardle and Harnett at 10:44; it was another low shot to fool Diruscio.
With the score 10-5 and Diruscio scrambling back into the net after being pulled in favour of the extra attacker, Ethan Garland shot the ball into the gaping net.
The Shamrocks outshot the Thunder 46-35.
Small ended up with five points on 3 goals and 2 assists. He entered the game with the lead league in goals, assists and points; he now has 29g-39a-68pts in 13 games.
With the win, the Shamrocks leapfrog the Burrards for first overall while sporting an 8-4-1 record, while Maple Ridge are 8-4-0 and idle on the night.
The Burnaby Lakers also won tonight and they too leapfrogged Maple Ridge and sport an 8-3-1 record. They defeated the New Westminster Salmonbellies 13-7.