Stripping off his helmet and gear in the dying seconds, the look on Six Nations Chiefs goaltender Colin Doyle's face at the end of Game 5 of the Mann Cup said it all: satisfaction and relief.
And yes, that was not a typo: goaltender Colin Doyle made six saves on nine shots in the final 11:04 of the third period, replacing goaltenders Brandon Miller and Evan Kirk who were ejected for illegal equipment. Doyle, who had a goal and an assist in the first two periods, earned player of the game honours for his performance, which included an assist while playing as goaltender, as the Six Nations Chiefs overcame the rulebook, adversity and the Victoria Shamrocks to win 11-7 and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Mann Cup championship series on Wednesday night. (Box Score / Tournament Info)
Toward the end you'll see him in these video highlights from lacrosse fan and photographer/videographer Kasey Eriksen:
Game 6 will be played at 7 p.m. PST on Friday night Sept. 13 – but it was Wednesday night that had a more Friday the 13th flavour, at least in the third period.
With the Chiefs leading the Shamrocks 7-4 entering the final period, the Shamrocks looked for a distinct edge and requested an equipment inspection on Six Nations’ starting goaltender Miller who has been lights out in the series thus far. He was found to wearing illegal leg pads and assessed the automatic minor penalty and game misconduct. Kirk went in to replace him.
Down a player, with Tom Montour serving the minor for Miller’s illegal equipment, Chiefs forward Steve Keogh scored shorthanded, splitting through two Shamrocks’ defenders to the cage and deking out Matt Vinc to put Six Nations up 8-4.
Then, just as the illegal equipment minor finished, Montour popped out of the box, grabbed the ball and scored to put the Chiefs up 9-4. It was all the momentum they needed. So it seemed.
Kirk came in to replace Miller and stopped all eight shots he faced. With just over 11 minutes remaining in the game, the Shamrocks requested an equipment inspection on Kirk. He too was found to be illegal and assessed a minor and game misconduct.
Cue the bizarre.
Teams are allowed to dress 18 runners and two goaltenders in any sanctioned box lacrosse game in Canada, as is the case with the Mann Cup. With both goalies ejected for the Chiefs – as happened to Victoria in Game 4 of their Western Lacrosse Association semifinal series with Burnaby – they had to dress a player and had just 10 minutes to get the player into goaltender gear.
Doyle, who had been playing very well to that point offensively, volunteered to don the gear. Asked if he had played in net before, he told reporters “Monday night oldtimers in Kitchener in my home town.”
“The pace of the shots is a little bit different,” Doyle said. “I was a little stressed out in there, but Keogh and the guys did something special to go get me a couple more (goals) and alleviate the load for me.”
Doyle’s heroics and team-first performance was just one of several great story lines on the night.
Victoria had clawed back to within two goals scoring two goals against Doyle. But Keogh gave them momentum once again and scored a timely goal to end a Victoria run and silence the sellout crowd of over 2,900 at Bear Mountain Arena once again.
Keogh played especially well in the third period,; he did it all: killing penalties, undressing defenders and scoring three timely goals. His ragging of the ball in the third period was sensational.
Cody Jamieson, who had his best game of the series, had a 10-point night (the official stats only list him with nine but he clearly had another assist for three goals and seven assists). Jamieson scored a critical goal in the second period that changed the tone of the game, too. After Shamrocks forward Rhys Duch thought he’d scored for Victoria – the ball spun along the goalline but just stayed out – the Chiefs caught the Shamrocks off-guard and used the long second-period change to their advantage as Jesse Gamble fed Jamieson for a crucial goal to put them up 5-2.
Alex Kedoh-Hill (officially 2G, 2A, but he somehow got credited with Montour's goal so really has 1G, 2A) and Johnny Powless (2G, 1A) also had strong games as offensive depth aided the Chiefs.
Jeff Shattler was strong for the Shamrocks with two goals and three assists, but the host squad struggled to get interior pressure on the Chiefs’ bigger, tough and agile defensive unit. In particular, Rob Marshall and Rory Smith were blocking shots on the penalty kills with Doyle in net, sacrificing body for team gain.
And maybe you can’t blame Victoria for doing what they thought they needed to get to Miller – the Chiefs goaltender has 102 saves on 112 shots for a .911 save percentage and a 4.22 goals against averaging in 142 minutes – numbers unheard of in lacrosse, let alone in a championship series.
The Chiefs didn’t see it that way.
On Twitter, Miller wrote: “We are talking about embarrassing our great sport over a fraction of an inch! Well done @WLAShamrocks. #Momentum”
After the game, Six Nations head coach Rich Kilgour carefully voiced his displeasure with the tactic.
“That’s all that matters, all their shenanigans and what went on there doesn’t matter right now,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what the Mann Cup is about, in my own opinion. I know they’re trying to win and I guess you can give them credit for that.”
Five Other Game 5 Facts
1. Mike McNamara and Greg Harnett were both ejected for an altercation midway through the second period that saw McNamara pull Harnett down the tunnel near the Six Nations bench. Referees Greg Pepper and Mark Gardonio were quick to respond, pulling the players apart quickly and avoiding a true mess.
2. Adam Brown and Kory Kowalyk played their first games of the series for the Shamrocks but were both quiet on the stats sheet.
3. Vinc has looked ordinary and human the past two games allowing a series-high 11 goals – two made him look very shaky – in the game. In Game 1 and Game 3, he was outstanding. He has allowed 19 goals on 88 shots in the past two games after surrendering just 20 goals on 112 shots in the first three games. We’ll see how he responds in Game 6 on Friday.
4. Montour is playing in just his second game back, returning from a sliced wrist tendon that he suffered this past summer.
5. Less of a Game 5 fact, but more of a salute to Scott Carnegie of London, Ont., who we pay respect to as a firefighter – given it’s the anniversary of the Sept. 11 plane crashes in New York City from 12 years ago. It’s time to recognize not only the sacrifice he makes to his community but also to recall the players competing for this Mann Cup have day jobs and are true amateur athletes who play for the love of the game in the summer season.
Follow me @AndyWatsonBC on Friday night for the 6th - and possibly final - game of the 2013 Mann Cup.