Three goals unlucky for Lakers in playoff opener

Bad luck came in threes for Burnaby in Game 1 of the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs.

The Burnaby Lakers were victimized three times on the first four shots of the game and were forced to play catch up the rest of the way in a 9-8 loss to the Victoria Shamrocks at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre on Thursday.

Victoria jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the opening four minutes of the best-of-seven series, including a pair a minute apart by former Laker and first star Casey Jackson.

Eric Penney minimized the first-period damage with a sparkling show of goalkeeping in the 16th minute, stopping both Josh Fagan and Steve Priolo on a four-on-four transition break to keep the period deficit at three.

To start the middle period, the Lakers clawed back two goals with a double a minute apart from Lakers captain and game star Robert Church.

But Victoria rallied with another three tallies in a three-minute span to comfortably lead 6-2 midway through the frame.

Church again led the Burnaby comeback, scoring his third of the game on a well executed power play chance and a minute later threw a shot on goal that rookie Cam Milligan pounced on burying the rebound to cut the deficit to two heading into the second interval.

Dane Stevens drew the Lakers to within a single goal early in the third period, finishing off a low cross-floor pass at the left crease from Church.

But Jackson caused double trouble again for Burnaby, scoring back-to-back counters, including a clever diving backdoor cut to the crease that sparked the Shamrocks' resurgence.

With less than five minutes left to play and down four goals, Milligan notched his second of the game on the the third of Burnaby's three power play markers.

Forced to pull Penney for an extra attacker, Burnaby struck twice in the dying minute to pull within one on Steven's second of the game and Church's fourth half-a-minute later.

In hindsight, Burnaby made too many unforced catching errors and were a step slower off the ball than the 'Rocks, who pressured the home side effectively in the series opener. Second star Aaron Bold stopped 41 shots in the Victoria cage.

But to their credit, Burnaby kept pushing forward, outshooting the visiting Shamrocks 49-36, while making good on three of its six power play opportunities and holding Victoria to just one goal with the man advantage. 

Nathan Klein did well in the face off circle, beating Calgary pro Tyler Burton 10 of 19 times on the restart.

"We knew they were going to score their goals, we have to focus on what we do best," said Jackson, who earned the game's first star. (The defence) did a good job of pressuring the ball and whatever their focus was, they did a heck of a job tonight."

Milligan had a five-point outing in his first taste of the WLA post season for Burnaby. Stevens and Eli McLaughlin both contributed three points to the Lakers offence.

Church led all scorers with four goals and seven of the Lakers eight total points but said expect both teams to pay better.

(The Shamrocks would) probably say they didn't play well, either," Church said following the game. "We're going to be fine on the floor. It's a seven-game series for a reason. It's only Game 1."

Game 2 will be played in Victoria on Saturday with the third meeting scheduled back in Burnaby at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre on Monday, Aug. 7 at 6 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Garrett James