After shutting out the Armstrong Shamrocks for nearly half the game, the Kelowna Raiders are one win away from their fifth straight Shaw Cup.
The Raiders shook the Shamrocks 7-4 in Game 1 of the best-of-three Thompson Okanagan Senior Lacrosse League championship Wednesday night at the Nor-Val Sports Centre.
The Urban brothers, Jordan and Brendan, caused fits for the Shamrocks’ defenders. Jordan connected on a powerplay 8:10 into the first period.
“Armstrong always plays hard here, they’re always going to give you a good run for your money. If you play them hard, it gives you a chance to win,” said Jordan, who was the first star with 2+1. His younger brother finished with 1+2.
The Shamrocks were held off the Jumbotron until Andrew Schwab scored unassisted 13:45 into the second and got the crowd of more than 250 back into the game.
“It wasn’t so much what their defenders were doing to us, but more what we weren’t doing on offence,” said Shamrocks’ coach Pat Nelson. “We weren’t agressive and we had too many perimeter shots.”
Raiders’ netminder Graham Cousins made 32 saves and was the second star.
“He was phenomenal. It felt like they had a lot of good shots, especially in the first period, and he just stood on his head and kept us in it,” said Jordan. “He gave us a chance to gain some momentum, build up a lead and carry it out for the rest of the game.”
The Shamrocks scored two more goals in the next 3:18, from Jamie Cockerill and Steve Clark.
Tempers flared after Jordan Urban sniped his second with 35 remaining in the second period. In order to restore justice, the refs ushered team to their locker rooms and added the 35 seconds to the third period.
The Raiders led 5-3 after two and were in command 7-3 when Cockerill added his second in the late stages of the third.
Jacob Illichman, Cody Ridden, Victor Wiens, and Joe Brown supplied singles for the Raiders.
Shamrocks’ netminder Chad Pieper turned in a strong performance with 27 saves.
“We have the pieces that can make this happen,” said Nelson. “We need to put it all together and play as a team.”
Game 2 goes tonight 7:30 p.m. at Kelowna Memorial Arena. If required, Game 3 returns to Armstrong Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
A Raiders win gives them the rare five-peat and it’s something that is beginning wear on the Shamrocks’ vets.
“Some of our new guys don’t really know what the Shaw Cup is about, but our vets are really motivated to bring the Cup back to where it belongs,” said Nelson.
The Shamrocks finished tied for first with the Raiders at 7-3, but sat in second because of their head-to-head record.
The Shamrocks filed a protest about the Raiders playing with an illegal player and TOSLL commissioner Elinor Hinds ruled in favour of stripping the Raiders of their last four victories for dressing an illegal player – Evan Helgeson.