Mann Cup Logo 2013The second game of the Mann Cup championship series proved to be just as exciting as the first, this time with the Six Nations Chiefs scoring a pair of late goals from Cody Jamieson and Colin Doyle in the closing minutes.
The Chiefs evened the best-of-seven series with the host Victoria Shamrocks at 1-1 and more than doubled their offensive output from the opening game in the process in front of a spirited sellout crowd at Bear Mountain Arena in Victoria.
According to the official stats, Jamieson scored three goals and added three assists (truthfully, they miscredited him with Steve Keogh's PP opener but it made up for them giving Kasey Beirnes his first goal in Game 1). What is indisputable is that Jamieson drilled in the game winning goal on a perfect outside shot with 3:30 remaining, and Doyle (1G, 2A) added the insurance marker to make it 10-8.
Responding to their first playoff loss of the season, the Chiefs stars came to play, especially in the second half of the game.
But their star of the night was Alex Kedoh-Hill, who sat out in the opening game; in Game 2, he led the Chiefs with three goals and was a pest on the floor and constantly busting his butt looking for loose balls, setting tough picks and helping his team in any way possible.
Shamrocks stars Jeff Shattler (3G, 3A) and Rhys Duch (2G, 2A) led the Shamrocks offence but the squad ran into a desperate Six Nations team.
The teams exchanged 29 penalty infractions for 61 minutes in a spirited affair and both squads saw plenty of time on five-on-three man advantages.
The Chiefs showed some late desperation. Trailing 8-7, Junior-aged rising star Johnny Powless scored to tie the game and gave the squad a momentum boost.
Six Nations held the Shamrocks off the scoreboard in the final 12 minutes of the game, largely due to good rebound control by Evan Kirk and intense defence that, for the most part, kept the Shamrocks shooters outside.
A few themes emerged following Game 2 that will be interesting to monitor.
1. Jet Lag Gone: Six Nations was the better team for the second half of the game and looked to have settled into the series (fewer dropped balls, crisp plays, better transition, and smarter help defence). Victoria, on the other hand, looked disoriented with many turnovers in transition (some uncontested). It must be driving the coaching staff nuts.
2. Protect the Goaltender: Both teams saw their goaltenders run over in the second game. Shamrocks netminder Matt Vinc was nailed by Jamieson and looked to be in some discomfort late in the third and struggled to control rebounds from then on, allowing two goals on six shots after the contact. Chiefs starter Kirk was run twice - once by Tory Gardner in the first period and (I thought accidentally) by Nolan Heavenor in the third period.
3. Stay out of the Box: The referees set a tone in Game 2, calling several technical penalties (open bench door, illegal equipment, checking in the crease) and then some of the dirty stuff (an elbow called against Shattler on a pick on Rory Smith, a vicious slash from Jon Harnett on Kedoh-Hill in the third period). I wouldn't be surprised if Harnett is a healthy scratch for Game 3.
4. Powerless Powerplay for Six Nations: The Chiefs have only scored two goals on 14 opportunities in the series, shocking for a team with such a depth in scoring. They'll need to pick it up especially in these close games. The Shamrocks powerplay is 6/19 but without the services of Game 1 MVP Jesse King (he's returning to Ohio State) and with Corey Small already reportedly done for the season with a knee injury, it won't get any easier. Both teams are succeeding in getting players open inside.
5. Transition Potential: The Shamrocks were stymied several times by Kirk (he made 43 saves on 51 shots and was solid for Six Nations) who bailed out his team. Victoria is just a touch quicker and if they can start burying their transition opportunities, it could be the difference in the series.