The biggest game of lacrosse season so far turned out to be the most exciting, too.
The Victoria Shamrocks edged out the Nanaimo Timbermen 9-8 on Wednesday at Frank Crane Arena as the night’s central figure, Scott Ranger, scored the game-winning goal with one minute left.
It was Ranger’s first visit back to his old arena in a green Shamrocks jersey.
“Obviously coming into my home barn – I’d grown up playing here – is a little bit difficult thing,” Ranger said. “But it’s just a lacrosse game.”
That said, there was high intensity all the way through the Western Lacrosse Association matchup. Ranger ended up with a four-goal game, but he paid a price for it as the Timbermen defenders gave their former teammate a rough ride.
“I think there’s some guys that don’t really like me over there,” Ranger said.
Zak Boychuk, T-men goalie, said facing Ranger and Cory Conway was extra motivation after those players requested trades in the off-season.
“It’s obviously going to piss off the guys who stay here and battle through it…” said Boychuk. “But those are two guys it’s hard to keep off the scoresheet … Maybe next time we can try a couple more hack and whacks at them.”
Nanaimo held a 3-2 lead after one, Victoria led 5-4 after two and then the third period was back and forth. The T-men had chances to snap the tie, as they got a couple of transition chances in the last five minutes, but couldn’t convert. Ranger ended up scoring his game winner inside post after getting a pick from Rhys Duch.
“It wasn’t a designed play. When you have that much talent on the floor you just find the open guy…” Ranger said. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care who scores the winners.”
Kaleb Toth, coach of the Timbermen, said the more-experienced Shamrocks had a better idea of what it takes to pull out a close game like that. He said his guys need to all want to make an impact at those key moments late in games.
“A veteran team tends to stay a little calmer in situations like that,” Toth said.
The new Shamrocks captain said the Timbermen were hard to play against.
“They may not have the talent but they’ve sure got the work ethic and that’s going to go a long way for that squad,” Ranger said.
Boychuk, the game’s second star with 41 saves, said he thought Nanaimo’s offence and defence both played well.
“That was our best effort and it shows we can hang with any team in this league,” he said. “If we put our chances in in the third period I think it’s a different outcome.”
Ryan Keith led Nanaimo’s offence with a hat trick, Cody Bremner had two goals and four assists and Cayle Ratcliff had a goal and five helpers. Jake Emms and Graham Palmer also scored.
“Every time Victoria scored, [our] offence went back and got a goal for us which was good to see,” Toth said. “So hopefully this gives them a little confidence that they can go out and they can score against one of the best teams … We can build off this.”
GAME ON … The Coastal Windows Timbermen (1-4) host the Burnaby Lakers (1-3) on Sunday (June 9) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena … Nolan Heavenor had two goals for Victoria, Conway had one and other Shamrocks scorers were Duch and Jeff Shattler. Josh Phillips made 32 saves for the win.