The New Westminster Salmonbellies hosted the Victoria Shamrocks Wednesday night at Queen’s Park Arena for Game 1 of their best-of-five playoff series. New Westminster holds the top seed after a stellar 15-3 regular season. Victoria struggled with consistency for most of the year, finishing 10-7-1. A big second period from Mitch Jones and Will Malcom helped lift the Salmonbellies to an 11-9 win and the early 1-0 series lead. Game 2 goes down at The Q Centre in Victoria on Friday night.

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Shamrocks hold two-goal lead early

Haiden Dickson (4:12) opened the scoring for the Salmonbellies, but Victoria came right back with a three-goal run. Tom Vaesen (6:08), Casey Wilson (10:29), and Marshal King (13:02) put the Shamrocks up 3-1. A shorthanded goal from Brandon Goodwin (15:46) halved the deficit, but Vaesen struck again (16:37 power play) to put Victoria up 4-2 after the first period. The Shamrocks outshot the Salmonbellies 17-9 in the period.

Jones, Malcom power big run for Salmonbellies

New Westminster’s fortunes would change in the second period, with a five-goal run giving them the lead. Hometown product Kevin Crowley ignited the run at the 3:04 mark. Will Malcom then went back-to-back (3:35; 9:19) to give the Salmonbellies a 5-4 lead. Mitch Jones then followed with a pair of his own (10:54; 13:54 power play) to make it 7-4. Wilson’s second on a power play (15:56) broke the run, and Liam Phillips added a shorthanded marker (18:37) to pull Victoria within one going into the second intermission. Once again, the Shamrocks held the shot advantage in the period, 16-11.

Arthur Miller scored for the Shamrocks 3:47 into the third period to tie the game. However, New Westminster would put together another run to put the game away. Justin Salt (4:26), Keegan Bal (4:53), and the hat trick goal from Jones (13:50) restored a three-goal cushion for the Salmonbellies. Chris Wardle (14:21) ended the run and brought Victoria within two, but they could get no closer. Noah Armitage (18:05) would increase New Westminster’s lead to three. King netted his second 30 seconds later to make the final score 11-9 in favor of the home team.

Mitch Jones (3g, 4a) was named 1st Star of the Game, and his teammate Will Malcom (2g, 3a) took home 3rd Star. Liam Phillips (1g, 1a) earned 2nd Star honors for Victoria. The Shamrocks outshot the Salmonbellies 50-40 for the game. Ryan Martel went 12 of 23 on faceoffs for New Westminster. Zach Higgins turned aside 41 shots in the win; conversely, Cam Dunkerley made 29 saves for Victoria.

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“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk

“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.