Kyle Buchanan’s last-minute goal was the game winner as the Peterborough Century 21 Lakers defeated the Victoria Shamrocks 9-8 to take a 2-1 series lead at the 2019 Mann Cup national championship.
Buchanan had a hat trick and three assists to lead the players, and so everyone expected that when the PA announcer began to announce “number 20…” it would be Buchanan as the player of the game. He got back in line quickly when the announcer finished, “number 23, Cory Vitarelli.”
“I was pushed!” Buchanan laughed. “I did take some ribbing for it, though. But that’s to be expected. Vitarelli had a hell of a game for us and it’s another big win.”
The veteran had two big goals for the Lakers, who played their strongest game of the series. Although the Shamrocks pushed back at times, the Lakers were confident they would prevail.
“We’re a pretty resilient group,” said head coach Mike Hasen. “We’re a confident group and we know we’re going to get the ball back.”
Thomas Hoggarth and Buchanan gave the Lakers a 2-0 lead by the 6:52 mark of the first. Chris Wardle scored a power play goal for Victoria but the Lakers responded with goals from Turner Evans and a power play marker from Buchanan.
The Shamrocks scored four straight in the second period to take a 5-4 lead.
“They’ve got nothing to lose,” said Buchanan. “We just needed to weather the storm. We’ve got some veterans in our room that were able to calm us down and I think that’s our key to the series and our key to winning tonight.”
Vitarelli tied the game at five, slipping the ball through a narrow crack between the post and goaltender Pete Dubenski.
Mark Matthews scored a power play goal 39 seconds into the third. Holden Cattoni put them up by two just 22 seconds later. Casey Jackson and Vitarelli traded goals later in the period. The Shamrocks pulled Dubenski late in the game and managed to sandwich Buchanan’s goal with two empty netters but a big save from Mike Poulin allowed the Lakers to recover the ball with seconds to go in the game.
“It feels good right now. It was another battle out there that came down to the last possession,” said head coach Mike Hasen.
“It was a close game and every game’s going to be the same,” said Vitarelli. “There’s not much between winning and losing. We’re one step closer to where we want to be but that’s it and we have to be ready to go tomorrow night.”
Games four and five will be played Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, game six is Friday and game seven Saturday. All games begin at 7 p.m./10 p.m. EDT.
Chris Boushy led the Shamrocks with a pair of goals and three assists. Tyler Pace scored twice and added two assists. Pete Dubenski stopped 47 of the Lakers’ 56 shots.
Mike Poulin made 34 saves for the Lakers.
Scoring for the Lakers:
Kyle Buchanan (3-3)
Cory Vitarelli (2-1)
Turner Evans (1-1)
Holden Cattoni (1-1)
Thomas Hoggarth (1-0)
Mark Matthews (1-0)
Shawn Evans (0-5)
Joe Resetarits (0-2)
Zach Currier (0-2)
Eric Shewell (0-1)
Kiel Matisz (0-1)