Backdropped by photos of Armstrong championship teams from 1909 and 1995-1997, Shamrocks head coach/GM Ryan Nitchie rallied the green and gold in his address ahead of Game 3 of the Rowcliffe Cup (formerly Shaw Cup) final Wednesday night.
“Since 1908 with the inception of the Shaw Cup, this community has taken a lot of pride in what it means to be lacrosse champions,” said Nitchie. “You are all a part of that legacy and keeping that trophy in Armstrong means something to our team and means a lot to this community.”
The words resonated as the Shamrocks showed a gutsy performance by coming from behind to stop the Kelowna Raiders 8-6 and sweep the series 3-0.
The Raiders went up 2-0 but it was 4-4 after the first period.
“We were a little slow at both ends of the floor to start.” said Nitchie. “Our defence was playing a little tight and our offense was squeezing their sticks a little.”
Kyle Versteeg notched his first of two on the night with a crease shot on the power play. Milan Marcetta scored his first of two with a blistering rising sub shot that found top cheddar.
Victor Wiens scored on the ensuing face off which was immediately answered by Willy Hanley off the next face off. Joe Brown levelled the score late in the first with a pin-point shot that found the top corner.
The Rocks settled down in the second period with both team’s defence and goaltending coming up big. The Shamrocks’ penalty kill was superior forcing the Kelowna powerplay to give up the ball and then seeing the offensive unit rag the majority of a penalty to Drew Hassard.
Hassard stepped out of the penalty box and took a lead pass and buried it to give Armstrong a 5-4 lead. Cam Nelson was awarded a penalty shot on a breakaway but was stoned by Raiders’ goalie Tanner Belsham.
Jamie MacGregor scored on the crease with one second remaining on the shot clock to make it 6-4. Joel Castle registered the goal of the night on the powerplay, diving to catch a pass along the crease and then one-timing it while in full flight to give the Rocks a 7-4 lead. Wiens scored late in the period while shorthanded to make it 7-5 Rocks after 40 minutes.
The Raiders counted their second shorthanded goal to make it a one-goal game in the third but Marcetta cut across the middle and powered a shot through Belsham for insurance.
“Full credit to Kelowna who didn’t quit and played an exceptionally good game tonight – they made us work for this win at both ends of the floor and it was a great way to end the season with a great game,” added Nitchie.
League leading scorer Brett Hawrys and playoff leading scorer Steve Clark were both kept in check all night and not allowed any goals by a stingy Raider defence
“They were double- and triple-teaming me and Hawrys all night but that opened up other guys which helped to spread the scoring,” said Clark, a captain along with Hawrys and Nelson.
The game was in sharp contrast to the first two games which featured nearly 300 minutes in penalties. The game saw only 10 minutes in penalties assessed to each team.
“It was great to play a good game of lacrosse that saw some great end to end action and skill plays,” said Nitchie, whose team is eligible to participate in the provincial championships in Prince George in August but lack of player commitment to attend will end the 2017 season.
“It’s unfortunate as I think this team could easily defeat the best from the Lower Mainland and PG but we just don’t have the numbers between work and family commitments,” added Nitchie.