The Victoria Shamrocks rode a natural hat trick by Jesse King in the third period to a 5-4 win in Game 1 of the Mann Cup finals Friday night. King scored the only three goals of the third—in a four and a half minute stretch culminating just before the midway point—to lead the Shamrocks to victory in a game in which they outshot the Six Nations Chiefs 44-30.
The Chiefs looked flat in the first period but came out of it leading 3-1 thanks to some timely shooting and big saves from Evan Kirk against the Shamrocks transition game. Cody Jamieson opened the scoring for Six Nations three and a half minutes into the game and Kirk made the lead stand up for almost six minutes until Ben McCullough took off with a loose ball and buried a shot in transition just as he was knocked to the floor.
Johnny Powless restored the Chiefs’ lead just over a minute later when he took a perfect pick and roll pass from Jamieson and scored from on top of the Victoria crease. Craig Point connected on a laser from outside just over a minute from the end of the period.
Point scored again to open the second period on Jamieson’s third straight assist to extend the lead to 4-1. The Chiefs began to do a better job of limiting the Shamrocks transition opportunities as the period went on, but Rhys Duch took advantage of a power play chance to pull Victoria back within 2 goals at the 5:02 mark.
Victoria, which had totals of 22 and 14 shots in the first and second periods, respectively, were only able to generate eight in the third frame. King made the most of them, though. His nicest goal was a sharp behind-the-back shot in traffic right on top of the crease. His hat trick gave the Shamrocks the lead and goalie Matt Vinc and the Victoria defence made it stand up. Jesse Gamble had a great chance to tie things up when he picked off an errant pass and broke in alone with seven and a half minutes to play, but Vinc turned aside his shot. Forty-five seconds later, Stephen Keogh rang a hard shot off the goalpost.
The Chiefs final chance to tie came just as the third period expired. The ball was knocked loose in the Chiefs zone and a quick long pass reached Jamieson with just a couple of seconds to play. Vinc made the game-saving stop and the Shamrocks headed home with the series’ first win.
King, called up from the Shamrocks Junior a team, only found out he’d be able to play in the series about a week ago and won’t be able to stay long. “I have to go back [to Ohio State] on Sunday, unfortunately, but I’m just glad to be able to be here to help out when I can,” King said after the game.
The young lefty, who scored 4 goals in five playoff games with the Shamrocks, admitted to being nervous early on in the game but said he got more comfortable as it went along. “The coaches said just keep shooting. I was a little nervous sometimes but you just let that go and you just shoot and when one goes in it’s like, oh that’s not hard, and you just keep going. Our other players gets me open because they have to worry about everyone, we have such a good offence.”
Chiefs’ Head Coach Rich Kilgour said his team had been expecting Victoria to try to run on them but it’s hard to see just how fast the Shamrocks are until you’re on the floor with them in person. “You say, oh yeah, we can stop transition, but until you see it and get a handle on it, it’s tough. We prepared for it. They ran on us a little bit early but the O got pretty good about getting off and shutting down their transition and turning it into a good defensive battle. They were one better than us tonight. Hopefully we can change that up tomorrow.”
Much like they adjusted in-game, Kilgour said his team will try to make some adjustments before Game 2. “It was a great game,” Kilgour said. “Thank god it’s a best of seven and not a one and done like the winter time. We’ll regroup and go from there.”
Game 2 goes Saturday night at 7pm PT/10pm ET. Jamieson was named player of the game for the Chiefs and King was selected for the Shamrocks.Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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