The Armstrong Shamrocks travelled to Kamloops with a short bench to face off with the Kamloops Rattlers in Week 3 of the Thompson Okanagan Senior Lacrosse League and squeaked out a gutsy 8-6 win thanks to exceptional goaltending by rookie netminder Conner Senn and supported by stellar team defense.
The Shamrocks started the game with only 14 runners and lacked defensive depth, but the team responded with great two-way play by the offensive unit and played sound transitional lacrosse.
Armstrong opened the scoring when Kyle Versteeg was levelled with a borderline hit from Lee Black but regained his feet and ripped a long side shot in response. Brett Hawrys made the score 2-0 on a partial breakaway. Kamloops sniper AJ Lockwood, a former Shamrock, scored back-to-back goals to tie the game 2-2 after the first period.
The Shamrocks were awarded a two-man advantage early in the second period and scored on the power play when Joel Castle took a cross-crease pass and buried a one-timer behind Rattlers starting goalie Stu Foord. Versteeg scored his second of the game to take a 4-2 lead but the Rattlers scored a short-handed marker to keep the game close. Castle ripped his second of the game on a laser point shot that beat Foord to take a 5-4 lead into the second intermission.
Kamloops came out strong in the third. The Rattlers scored on a nice behind the back goal and tied the game on a controversial play where the Shamrocks took a shot that was clearly saved by the arm of Foord but the refs missed the shot and the shot clock expired. While the Shamrocks offense awaited the possession and shot clock reset the refs awarded the ball to Kamloops and Lockwood waltzed in behind the Shamrocks defense to take a 6-5 lead.
Shamrocks sniper Steve McIlwrath took exception a little too aggressively with the officials and was ejected, putting the team down two runners after defensive specialist Brandon Northcott was sidelined with a lower body injury resulting in the Shamrocks having only 13 runners on the bench. Steve Clark ripped a shot on the power play to tie the game 6-6. Then Versteeg scores his hat trick goal taking a pass from Hawrys from behind the net and potting a top cheese shot to take a 7-6 lead.
With less than 5 minutes remaining in the game the Shamrocks were assessed a 4 minute double minor penalty for checking from behind after Colton Greeno and Clayton Schlaak collapsed on the Rattlers offensive player right in front of the Shamrocks goalie. Greeno was assessed the minor and the Shamrocks short man backstopped by Senn managed to keep the Rattlers snipers at bay killing the entire double minor. As Greeno left the penalty box he fought for a loose ball on defense and streaked down the floor scoring on the breakaway burying a five-hole shot on Foord for his first goal as a Shamrock and more importantly to give the team an 8-6 lead with 18 seconds to play. The Shamrocks won the ensuing faceoff and ran out the clock for the road victory.
“The guys played a great team game tonight and it was great to see Connor get his first win in net” said Shamrocks coach Ryan Nitchie. “I thought Jamie Cockerill and Devin Rodger along with Clayton Schlaak and Blake Fredrickson logged some hard minutes on D and played their hearts out. I was also really impressed by the way Brett Hawrys stepped up to play on the defensive end and all the offence guys played a role on D and short man to earn the team win.”
Shamrocks lefty sniper Joel Castle commented after the game: “It’s been a long time since we’ve been tested like that and it felt good to have to step up our game and have to really earn a win.”
The TOSLL takes a week off for the upcoming long weekend and resumes play on Friday, May 24, when the Shamrocks will host the Rattlers at the Nor -al Sports Centre. Game time is 8 p.m.