Tonight’s game recap comes from WLA contributor, Patrick McMillan. Photo is courtesy of Kevin Light Photography.
As the Six Nations Chiefs tied the series 2-2 after last game’s fantastic showing from the red hot Brandon Miller and the Chiefs defence, the Victoria Shamrocks knew they had to get back to the basics offensively in order to solve the Chiefs. Cody Jamieson has been giving the ‘Rocks all that they can handle, and now with Stephen Keogh ramping up his play as of late, Six Nations is looking more, and more dangerous as this series progresses.
The Victoria Shamrocks kept with the steady hand in Matt Vinc in net after an excellent showing last game making a total 38 saves, and again Matt Flindell was in the wings. After getting pulled early in game 3, the Six Nations Chiefs have gone with Brandon Miller and haven’t looked back; the veteran goaltender made an impressive 47 saves last game and looked stellar in relief – of now back up, Evan Kirk – in game 3. With Blair Pinnock drawing out of the line-up for the ‘Rocks, rookie Adam Brown saw his first action of the 2013 Mann Cup as well as transition man Kory Kowalyk seeing the floor for the first time. The Six Nations Chiefs kept the same line-up as game 4, sticking with Tom Montour who found himself on the roster for the first time that night.
With the Shamrock faithful still buzzing from the very entertaining tussle between tough guys Tory Gardner and Rory Smith, and both players back on the floor, the table was set for game five. With a fairly even, back-and-forth start to game 5, both teams rattled a few shots off the junctions behind both goalies, however neither beat the iron. The Chiefs were continuing to get inside and create a disturbance for the Shamrock defenders as they have done all series while the Chiefs defenders were forcing the ‘Rocks shooters to keep around the perimeter. As he has done so often for his team, Cody Jamieson was the one to get the Chiefs on the board first; as he picked up a loose ball off the sideboards, ran like he was cutting across the dotted lines, planted his feet and fired it over about 3 screens. Matt Vinc never had a chance. The next goal wouldn’t come until the 14:06 mark, about 7 minutes later and on the power play as Rhys Duch took a cross-floor pass from Mitch Jones, and on a 2-on-1, he whipped it across to Jeff Shattler who had Miller at his mercy for the open netter. Karsen Leung wasn’t far behind as he scored off the following face-off from Dylan Evans to put the ‘Rocks up by 1. After Brandon Miller was beginning to look unbeatable, the Victoria Shamrocks were up by one early with all the momentum, but Kedoh Hill would make the ‘Rocks pay and even the score for Six Nations only a few minutes later. With the game beginning to even out again in terms of pace and chances, both teams were getting similar steps towards the goal, before Johnny Powless took a backhand feed from Colin Doyle in tight, and with a few fakes up high, he deposited it into the empty net behind Vinc to give the Chiefs a 3-2 lead with only 0:27 remaining in the period.
The second period saw the Chiefs starting to take a handle of the game with the Shamrocks barely keeping up as they were continuing to get in tight on the ‘Rocks and get a lot of chances in front of the Victoria crease. Vinc was still playing superbly and was giving his boys a chance to turn the tides in their favour and finish offensively, but Six Nations would just snatch any momentum the ‘Rocks would build away. Powless, who closed out the first period, would fire one in on Vinc to give the Chiefs a 4-2 lead. After a close call at the other end of the floor where Shamrocks sniper, Duch thought he had a sure goal, the ‘Rocks were slow getting out of the offensive zone and Jamieson streaked off the bench and after taking a pass from Jesse Gamble, he whipped one in to the bottom corner. With the table completely tilted towards to the Chiefs, Victoria needed a big goal to get themselves back in the game; and they would get that goal, and from such an unlikely source as Shamrock spark plug Tory Gardner who took a pass in tight from Duch and, cutting through the middle of the floor covered in defenders, bounced one in on Miller, beating him low. Only a few seconds later after the following face-off, Cory Conway would find his defender sleeping in the corner and, cutting towards the crease, he would take a beautiful pass from Scott Ranger and finish in the top right corner to get the Shamrock faithful back on their feet, now only down 5-4. But any signs of a comeback would be quickly shutdown by Chiefs gunner, Jamieson as he’s left with just enough room to get his hands free to fire a bullet past Vinc to make it 6-4 Chiefs. With the ball in the Six Nations Chiefs sticks in the final seconds of the period, Jamieson cut across the dotted lines at full speed, and just as he got to the other side of the floor, Doyle would pop out for a pass, take a step in and blast one in on Vinc with only one second remaining in the period. Score at the end of the second period, 7-4 Six Nations Chiefs.
The Six Nations Chiefs held the game in their hands, it seemed like the floor was tipped in their direction all game with every loose ball, every shot, every pick-and-roll and every save. The Victoria Shamrocks had to do something as Miller and the Chiefs defence were making it impossible for the ‘Rocks snipers to get any sort of breathing room. So, at the beginning of the third period the Victoria Shamrocks called the stellar goaltender on his equipment; the goalie, followed by a pair of players representing each team and an official, walked down the hallway to determine Miller’s fate in the remaining 20 minutes of the game. The Shamrocks exited the hallway victorious, slapping Brandon Miller with an illegal equipment minor penalty and a game misconduct. Undeterred, the Chiefs fought out of the shorthanded ‘opportunity’ thanks to the big body and soft hands of Stephen Keogh who scored a beauty man-down goal on the penalty kill to give the Six Nations Chiefs some life again. After killing off the remaining time off the penalty and with Evan Kirk in between the iron in relief of Miller, Kedoh Hill would score a squeaker to give the Chiefs a 9-4 lead only 2 minutes into the third period. With no luck solving the new Chiefs goaltender, who the Shamrocks had chased out of net in game 3, the ‘Rocks figured they would try their luck with goalie number two. Victoria would again call the Chiefs goalie on illegal equipment and again be successful. With their starting goalie and relief expelled from the game, the Chiefs were left with no other option as to dress a player already on the roster. Colin Doyle would be the guy exiting the dressing room with a mix and match outfit of his teammates’ equipment. Thanks to a Powless minor penalty prior to the goalie ‘switch’, the Shamrocks were on a 5-on-3 power play. After saving his first shot on net, Mitch Jones had the goalie reaching across his crease as he took the one-timer pass from Conway to finally give the ‘Rocks some life. A few minutes later, Duch would unleash a bouncer on Doyle, going top corner into the mesh. The newly crowned goalie made a few key saves through the Shamrocks barrage of shots as he kept active in net, turning away most shots he faced. The Shamrocks would be rewarded again, just a few minutes after the last goal, as Shattler would take the pass on the wing and sling it in on Doyle, and with a huge fist pump to the Victoria fans, the ‘Rocks would feel the momentum as the Chiefs were only up 9-7. Once the tough Chiefs defence would tighten up and Doyle would settle into goal, they let Stephen Keogh do his thing; Keogh took the pass from Jamieson and like a battering ram would force his way in close and fire one on Vinc, this one another squeaker past the ‘Rocks goalie to possibly put a stop to the Chief’s slide. And of course who else, who score the exclamation mark but Keogh as he whipped a laser in on the Shamrock defence to give the Six Nations Chiefs a 11-7 lead. Keogh not only scored three in the game and most notably the two big goals at the end of the third period, but he also was their biggest penalty killer, giving the Chiefs defence any and all the rest they needed and most importantly giving Doyle a break in goal.
The final score of game 5 in Victoria was the Six Nations Chiefs 11, the Victoria Shamrocks 7. Game six goes Friday, September 13 at 7:00 as both teams get a well-deserved break on Thursday.