The Victoria Shamrocks hosted the Maple Ridge Burrards Friday for Game 1 of their best of seven Western Lacrosse Association final playoff series at The Q Centre and won by the score of 9-4 to the delight of 1,587 Shamrock faithful.
The Burrards turned a few heads when they defeated the regular season champion New Westminster Salmonbellies in four straight games during the first round of the playoffs. The Burrards had finished the regular season in fourth place with a modest record of 9-8-1.
The Shamrocks got to the final by taking out the Nanaimo Timbermen in five games, winning four straight after losing the opener at home.
Friday’s start was a demonstration on how to play team defence for both sides. The deadly pairs of Curtis Dickson and Ben McIntosh for the Burrards and Jesse King and Casey Jackson for the Shamrocks were held at bay for the first seven minutes.
The stalemate was broken when the Burrards were penalized at 6:33 for too many men. Mike Tebbutt served the penalty.
King opened the scoring one minute later (7:33) by tucking the ball in stick-side on goaltender Frank Scigliano. King, Rhys Duch and Rob Hellyer worked the ball around for some time, before King was given just enough space by a Maple Ridge defender to turn and fire the cross-goal marker.
At exactly 15-minutes and after a long spell of excellent defensive play by the Shamrocks, Brad McCulley buried the ball, going five-hole on Scigliano. Casey Jackson earned the only assist on the goal. Scigliano was moving laterally and McCulley shot the ball between his legs from 30-feet out.
The Shamrocks scored again 25 seconds later, to go up 3-0. Tyson Gibson scored from Hellyer and Jackson.
During the second period, Curtis Dickson scored twice at 6:12 and 7:54 to get the Burrards within a goal at 3-2.
“He is going to get his points,” said Coach Bob Heyes. “They lost, but expect a completely different game from them Sunday in Maple Ridge. They are going to shoot a whole lot more.”
It appeared that Dickson was the only Burrards player who was firing the ball.
With 6:12 remaining in the second, King scored his second goal of the game shorthanded. It was assisted by Chris Wardle and Priolo. With a minute remaining in the frame Matt Yager scored a five-hole shot from 10 feet in front of Scigliano, to retain their three-goal lead.
The Shamrocks scored three backbreakers during the third period. At 27 seconds Duch buried the ball on a pretty passing play from Priolo and Derek Lloyd.
At 8:52, Wardle turned off the side boards, drove straight to the Burrards’ goal and made no mistake, burying the short-handed marker from Hellyer and King.
With Scigliano pulled in favour of the extra attacker, the Shamrocks were under siege for nearly a minute, but the Burrards couldn’t get on the inside to fire clean shots on Adam Shute. One favourable bounce towards Priolo and he was gone for a clear-cut break-a-way – with an empty net and a scrambling Scigliano – who had no chance on the play – Priolo scored at 15:41 into the empty net to put the game out of reach at 9-4.
“Shute played well and stopped the shots that he needed to,” said Heyes. “Again, keep in mind, the Burrards will play a much more aggressive game on Sunday, so we have to be ready for that and just play our game.”
Asked about Priolo’s game Heyes said, “No one plays defence like he does. He plays a full-floor game, in an age of half-floor ball.”
Priolo agreed, “I am in favour of the full game. The half-court game is good when you have specialists up front and specialists on defence, but personally, I prefer the full court game.”
The Shamrocks outshot the Burrards 39-38.
Victoria went 2/5 on the man advantage, while the Burrards went 1/4.
The teams play Sunday in Maple Ridge, then return to The Q Centre for a 6:30 game on Tuesday.