Comeback Kids! Shamrocks fend off Bellies with big 3rd.

31Q5972The Victoria Shamrocks relied on strong goaltending and aggressive defensive play to strike first at home in the best-of-seven Western Lacrosse Association championship final on Friday.

In Game 2 on Monday, the always dangerous offence — and specifically the transition game — kicked into gear at just the right time for the two-time defending league champions.

The Shamrocks scored four unanswered goals in the third period to pull off a come-from-behind 10-9 victory over the host New Westminster Salmonbellies. Victoria takes a 2-0 series lead into Game 3 on Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. at The Q Centre in Colwood.

Captain Scott Ranger’s hat-trick goal with 4:31 remaining held up as the game-winner. Goaltender Aaron Bold did not allow a goal on 12 shots in the third as he and the defence turned stingy.

“It took us a couple of periods to settle into what was working for us,” said Shamrocks head coach Bob Heyes. “I challenged our transition guys to lead the way and they did a good job for us tonight.”

No one said it was going to be easy and the Salmonbellies proved that, scoring five goals over the final seven minutes of the second period to assume a 9-6 advantage.

The Salmonbellies took a 4-3 lead into the first intermission after a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes in which the Shamrocks were outshot 21-18. Junior call-ups Josh Byrne, Nathan Stewart and Connor Robinson all provided a spark in the form of first-period goals for the hosts.

Victoria battled back to grab a 5-4 lead on Karsen Leung’s short-handed goal at 12:16 of the second but Keegan Bal tied it up on the same power play 35 seconds later.

Salmonbellies head coach Steve Goodwin said after Game 1 that his team needed to focus on shutting down Corey Small and Rhys Duch and utilize home-floor advantage. They did it for 40 minutes as Small was kept to a goal and two assists while Duch had two helpers.

Leung had two goals off transition. Defenders Dan MacRae, Jon Harnett and Tyler Burton all scored for Victoria, as did Cory Conway.

“Karsen, Dan and Jon all had huge goals off transition and Ranger and Dan Dawson had a great one-two game as well,” said Heyes.