May 20 - Nanaimo Timbermen 6 @ Victoria Shamrocks 18 Game Recap

 Nanaimo Timbermen 6 @ Victoria Shamrocks 18

A Historic Opening Night

By Lucas Wilson

 Shamrocks Nation was treated to an unbelievable experience on Friday night at the 100.3 The Q Centre. The atmosphere in the arena was electric beforehand, as the Shamrocks celebrated the 2015 Mann Cup championship one last time. But once the ball dropped and the action began, the Shamrocks made it abundantly clear: they are still the team to beat. Led by a record-breaking, 17-point performance by Cory Conway, the Shamrocks dominated the Nanaimo Timbermen by a score of 18-6.

Inspired by the raucous crowd, the Shamrocks came out firing on all cylinders in the first period. Just five minutes in, two goals by Corey Small and a goal each from Rhys Duch and Chris Wardle made it 4-0. The relentless attack would continue, and by the end of the first period, the score was 11-2 for the Shamrocks. Remarkably, Conway had a point in every goal with one goal and ten assists. This set a new WLA record for points in a single period, but Conway was just beginning to rewrite the record book.

The Shamrocks continued their dominance in the second period, outscoring the T-Men, 5-0. In his first game as captain of the team, Corey Small had seven goals after 40 minutes. The second period also saw a couple of rookies find success on offence. 2016 Shamrocks draft pick Thomas Moffat added a goal, and Nova Scotia native Ian McShane scored his first of two goals on the night. Along with a goal of his own in the second, Conway assisted the other four goals in the period, which brought his point total up to 16. That tied the single-game point record, set by Jim Douglas in 1941. It is often said that records are meant to be broken, but there’s usually a good reason why some records stand for over seven decades. With 16 points in just two periods, Conway had made it look easy.

As the third period began, it seemed inevitable that a goal or an assist from Conway would come quickly. Every time Conway was on the floor there was a buzz in the arena, as the fans were well aware of the history that they were observing. Offence did not come as easily for the Shamrocks in the third. Halfway through the period, the Shamrocks had added just one goal, which Conway had no involvement with.  He had plenty great chances for a point, but Timbermen goalie Mike DeGirolamo made a couple of impressive saves to shut the door on Duch and Small, on great passes from Conway. After Nanaimo added a couple of goals in the third, a nervous energy entered the Q Centre, as fans wanted to see Conway get rewarded with the record. At the 3:25 mark of the third, the fans got what they wanted. Conway fired a pass to Small, who got it over to Duch, who shot it passed DeGirolamo. The crowd immediately erupted into a standing ovation, which lasted well into the resumption of play. In his first lacrosse game since hoisting the Mann Cup in September, Conway had put together one of the single greatest performances in WLA history. The Timbermen would add a couple of late goals, but the final buzzer sound with a score of 18-6. Shamrocks goalie Cody Hagedorn had a good performance, making 36 saves on 42 shots, but all eyes were on Conway and the dynamic Shamrocks offence.

Shamrocks fans need no reminder that the first game of the season should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the Shamrocks lost their first two games of the season to Nanaimo in 2015 but ended up with one of the best seasons in franchise history. But after such an incredible game, it is hard not to be excited about the team’s potential in 2016. It is worth noting that the Shamrocks were playing without key players Jesse King, Tyler Burton, and Greg and Jon Harnett. Perhaps Shamrocks Nation has yet to see just how good this team can be.

 

Three Stars:

 ★★★: Rhys Duch 3 goals, 9 assists

 ★★: Corey Small 7 goals, 4 assists

 ★: Cory Conway 2 goals, 15 assists

 The Man of the Hour

 It was not difficult for Conway to put his remarkable performance into words. “It’s just about us continuing with our process, believing in our process,” said Conway. “I’m a guy who passes the ball, so I have to rely on the people I’m passing it to, to finish those chances, and tonight they were able to do so.” Despite coming out of the gate with 11 points in the first, Conway was never thinking about setting records. “It’s a rough contest,” said Conway. “I’m not thinking about a record, or anything like that. I’m just thinking about that moment in time, and I’m trying to effectively distribute the ball, go about my job, and find my teammates and help them succeed.” It was easy to tell that Friday night’s performance meant a lot to Conway, and he was playing with a chip on his shoulder as well. Despite being one of the elite playmakers in the game, he was not invited to a NLL camp. “Anytime you don’t get invited to an NLL training camp, it’s obviously disappointing,” said Conway. “Not only for myself, but for the people that believe in me, and put a lot of trust in me. I take this game quite seriously. I put a lot of time and energy into it, and some people very close to me have make a lot of sacrifices to put me in these positions. It’s unfair for them to be put through that as well. Ultimately, any team in the NLL that wasn’t successful this year… it’s tough luck.” The disappointment of not making getting a chance to play in the NLL, along with some injury concerns gave some doubt as to whether or not Conway would return to the Shamrocks. “I think it’s safe to say that I’m back, I’m healthy, and I’m ready to contribute and help my team win a lot of games this season,” added Conway. After Friday night’s performance, it’s also safe to say that Shamrocks fans are glad that Conway is back for 2016.

 Coach Heyes’ Thoughts

 Coach Heyes provided a unique perspective on the magnitude of Conway’s accomplishment. “I’ve had the privilege to play lacrosse with the game’s greats,” said Hayes. “I’ve seen some phenomenal stuff out of them. Tonight’s performance is right up there. That is a record that is phenomenal. Cory has worked so hard to get his body in shape so he can perform like that.” Heyes also had praise for Small, who also put up impressive stats in his first game as captain. “We made him the captain this year because he leads by example on and off the floor,” said Hayes. ”Him and Duch have a great chemistry, and with Conway in there now, it’s great.” Moving forward, the coach thought that the first game of the year was important for the younger players who cracked the lineup.  “I was happy for them,” said Heyes. “I think we really needed that competition to create that confidence in the guys, so that they know they belong here… These guys have worked hard. This is a dream for them to play Senior A, and they’re living that dream. They had a great game tonight.”

Island Rivalry

From start to finish, the intensity of the Island rivalry was evident. Within the first five minutes of the game, helmets and gloves were flying and the penalty box was jammed. In total there were 86 penalty minutes between both teams. Often in the middle of the ruckus was Shamrocks defenseman Ben McCullough, who explained the intensity of the rivalry. “With the Island rivalry, both teams want it so bad,” said McCullough. “It turns into a grudge match all game. Back-and forth. Fighting hard, hard work, hard battles, and hard slashes. It’s fun, it takes its toll on you, but in the end we came through with the big win.” McCullough got the crowd energized early with some rough stuff with Nanaimo’s Tyson Roe, who stands a full foot taller than him.  Roe was looking for a fight, but McCullough merely looked up and laughed in his face. “That’s my type of game; trying to get under people’s skin,” said McCullough. “There’s a time to fight, and there’s a time to walk away. If you need to spark your team, you spark your team, but I didn’t need to tonight because our O took over and scored a ton of goals. ”

The Island rivalry will continue in Nanaimo next Saturday, and T-Men will have a shot at revenge after a dominant performance by the Shamrocks. The night before, the Shamrocks take on the New Westminster at home. Tickets can be found at the tabs above.

STATS

Complete Game statsà  HERE

Victoria Shamrocks regular season stats to date à  HERE

Victoria Shamrocks player stats à  HERE

Gme video Highlites àHERE

Next Game: Home May 27 @ 7:45pm vs New Westminster Salmonbellies, The Q Centre