The Victoria Shamrocks hosted the Nanaimo Timbermen for Game 3 of their first-round Western Lacrosse Association playoff series at The Q Centre and won by the score of 11-8, but not after some nail-biting action.
Nanaimo won Game 1 by the score of 12-11 in double overtime. The Shamrocks defeated the Timbermen 8-4 Friday in Game 2 in Nanaimo, where the Timbermen went 8-1 during the regular season.
At 2:18 of the first, the Timbermen continued with their transition game. Goaltender Charles Claxton fired a breakaway pass to Gord Phillips at centre. He made no mistake going over top of Adam Shute’s right shoulder.
The transition game continues to be a big part of Nanaimo’s style of play, often starting with goaltender Claxton. Two days prior, Claxton agreed to terms on his first National Lacrosse League (NLL) contract with the Rochester Nighthawks. The 6’4” 24-year-old Prince Rupert native said, “I am very honoured to be selected by such a sought-after organization like the Rochester Knighthawks, who have (won) multiple championships. There are such big names that play for this organization; I am just proud to be a part of it.”
Claxton was pulled after 29:41 of play, midway through the second period when the Shamrocks got up 8-4.
Claxton played a strong game until that point, however was out of position on the eighth goal and Coach Caleb Toth had seen enough.
“He was too far over. He didn’t play a bad game but I decided that at that time it was right to put Mike DeGirolamo in goal. He played well, but the goaltenders did let in a couple of easy ones.” said Toth.
At 9:32, Claxton misplayed the ball as it bounced off the glass at the half boards. Zach Christiansen jumped at the loose ball and raced Claxton back to the next. Christiansen won the race and scored to put the Shamrocks up 2-1.
At 16:02, while on the powerplay (4 on 3), Casey Jackson gathered up the loose ball, paused for a moment and threaded a seeing-eye shot to Claxton’s right side to put the Shamrocks up 3-1.
“You can’t let Jackson get the ball; he is going to score a minimum of two a night. We have to put pressure on him,” said Toth. “You can’t let him wind up like that, he is a talented player.”
At 17:37, Nanaimo again activated their transition game. Adam Shute misplayed the errant ball, almost letting in a goal, Nanaimo gained possession before Shute was settled into his crease. Drew Belgrave dug out the ball, fired it out front to Mason Pynn, who shot it to Shute’s glove side.
Asked if he thinks that the Shamrocks have figured out the Timbermen’s transition game Coach Bob Heyes said, “No, the transition is still a big part of their game. We have played better, but all it takes is a couple of bad decisions for them to put the ball in the back of the net. We haven’t shut it down, but we are aware of what’s going on.”
Tyson Gibson scored on a tremendous effort, where he received the ball from Jesse King, dove through the air and deposited the ball stick-side on Claxton.
With two seconds remaining in the first period, 21-year-old Calgary native Cam Wengreniuk brought the Timbermen to within a goal (4-3). Wengreniuk plays in the NCAA for the division 1 Grand Canyon Lopes. He is a three-time All-American.
At 1:03 of the second period Jackson would score another of his five goals ala Kevin Alexander with a floor shot, Hellyer and Christiansen assisted on the play. Jesse King scored at 2:46 from nearly the same spot as Jackson’s goal – 25 feet out low, glove-side.
Victoria scored three of the next four goals during the second, and then Nanaimo turned up the heat getting the next three goals to nearly erase the 8-4 deficit to get within one, 8-7.
At 19:25, Gibson scored his second of the game with a patented Shamrocks style goal, slipping into the slot he received a pass from King, Gibson made no mistake going five-hole on DeGirolamo.
Perhaps the shot of the game was Jackson’s fifth; a precision marker that he released off the floor, but found the top-right corner.
King, as it was announced earlier in the game, was voted the most popular player by the fans, earned a two-minute penalty for slashing. On the ensuing Nanaimo powerplay they scored their eighth goal at 12:45, it was a Jon Phillips marker from Chase Fraser. The Shamrocks held Nanaimo off the scoresheet the rest of the way.
The Shamrocks outshot the Timbermen 51-49. Nanaimo’s powerplay went 2/4, while Victoria managed 3/5.
The teams play Game 4 in Nanaimo on Tuesday, then back to Victoria for Game 5 on Friday.
EXTRA: Arguably, the star of Game 2 and 2016 regular season scoring champion Rhys Duch was a scratch on Sunday. For Game 1, the hometown crowd was unusually sparse and the visitors from Nanaimo seemed to take up half the seats. Heyes called out the Victoria fans, who showed up Sunday and were vociferous in their cheering.