The Burnaby Lakers may have entered the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs as the fourth seed, but the top-rated Victoria Shamrocks have had their challenges beating this gutsy team.
Tuesday’s opening game of the teams’ best-of-seven semifinal series was no exception, as the Shamrocks needed a third-period push to overtake their opponents and score a 9-6 victory.
Game 2 goes Thursday night in Burnaby, followed by game 3 back at The Q Centre, with a rare 6 p.m. start.
WLA leading scorer Rhys Duch led the Victoria attack with five goals and eight points. He was in on the final four goals of the game, scoring twice as the Shamrocks avoided a potential upset loss on home floor.
Victoria looked ready to make a rout of the game early, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first on a pair of goals by Duch and one from Doug Langlois, before Burnaby’s Robert Church connected in the final minute.
The second period saw the Lakers quietly get back into the game, tying it up on goals by Scott Jones and Church. Jeff Shattler for the Rocks and Justin Salt for Burnaby traded goals later in the period.
In the dying seconds with Victoria owning possession and goalie Adam Shute pulled for an extra attacker, Duch burst through to score an emphatic goal with 1.2 seconds on the clock to restore the lead.
Burnaby, the top-ranked defensive team in the WLA this season, wasn’t going quietly, however, as Eli McLaughlin and Josh Byrne tallied before the four-minute mark to make it 6-5 Lakers.
Discipline proved Burnaby’s downfall soon after, as first Jones, then Illja Gajic were whistled down for checking from behind penalties 42 seconds apart. Duch, silent to that point on the power play, made the Lakers pay at the 10:00 mark, scoring from Cory Conway and Corey Small.
Victoria never trailed after that, with Conway, Jesse King and Duch again scoring in a four-minute span to give the Shamrocks a bit of a cushion.
The locals outshot Burnaby 56-41 overall and chased Lakers starting goalie Zac Boychuk from the net after their third goal in the first period. The move proved a good one for the visitors, as replacement Tyler Richards played a solid game, stopping 40 shots the rest of the way and being named third star.