Lakers stage immaculate comeback
The Burnaby Lakers played perhaps the most important 20 minutes of the club's 28-year history last night.
Down three goals and facing elimination in its first round, best-of-seven playoff with the Victoria Shamrocks, Burnaby scored five unanswered goals in the third period to defeat the visitors 8-6 and force a Game 6 at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre on Friday.
To many in attendance, few would have anticipated what seemed an unlikely outcome after the first two periods of play.
Burnaby started Game 5 with guns a blazing, outshooting the Shamrocks 21-9 but with little on the score sheet to show for all their efforts.
In fact, Victoria held a 2-0 lead with three minutes left in the frame, including a shorthanded goal on a breakaway assisted by Victoria goalie Aaron Bold, who looked totally on his game and scarcely beatable in the first period.
Dane Stevens closed out the period with a timely unassisted goal off a rebound and Eli McLaughlin tied it up 2-2 early in the middle stanza on a power play.
But minutes later Burnaby lost its way and the lead, falling behind 6-2 as infractions, a lack of loose balls, few shots on goal and the simple inability to pass and catch gave the Shamrocks a distinct advantage that they capitalized on with four goals in seven minutes, including a pair on delayed penalties.
Robert Church got one of the goals back late in the period but the momentum appeared to have clearly swung in Victoria's favour.
As events turned out, nothing could have been further from reality.
Just four minutes into the final frame, a hero emerged.
Scott Jones, who was scoreless in his only other start in the playoff series with Victoria, sparked the comeback with his first of three goals in the period, finishing off a nifty give-and-go with right-side partner Tyler Digby.
"I knew we were down three (goals) a couple of times and we scored five in a row. We're never out of it," said Jones. "After the first period, we had 22 shots but as long as you're getting the shots, one of them is going to drop."
Jones potted his second of the game with a baseline cut to the net seven minutes later. He got the game-winner just four minutes after that on a similar move to the goal.
Minutes earlier, Church, who led all scorers with a five-point evening, had knotted the contest at 6-6 with his second tally of the game on a wild cross-floor pass off the side board that fell cleverly into the crafty right-hander's stick.
Digby, who had three points in the final period, collected the insurance marker with his fourth of the playoffs.
Burnaby's four-goal splurge in a five-minute span, beginning midway through the third period might well have proved untimely had it not been for the shutout goalkeeping of Eric Penney, who stoned the Shamrocks in the final frame.
In fact, Penney was flawless from the 13th minute of the middle period to the end of the game to chalk up his second win of the playoffs.
Hats off to the Burnaby back end that helped kill off five Victoria power plays and held the 'Rocks to just eight shots on goal in the final 20 minutes.
Chris O'Dougherty and Ilija Gajic, who stood in for the injured forward Jason Jones on the left side, both stood out with meaningful minutes when out on the floor.
New head coach Peter Tellis was pumped after the game by the manner with which the Laker runners took the outcome of the game into their own hands in the closing period.
"They hadn't shown that before and that's what was missing. It was awesome and I want more of it," said Tellis after the game.
Game 6 returns to Victoria on Sunday, while a possible seventh and final game would be played back in Burnaby on Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Garrett James.