Last-second save preserves Black Fish victory

by Gary Ahuja

Six goals and one assist from Brian Gillis helped the Black Fish hold off the Shooting Eagles 16-15 to open the Arena Lacrosse League West Division season on November 13 at Langley Events Centre. Ryan Molag LEC photo

For much of Sunday’s game between the Black Fish and Shooting Eagles, neither team’s offence had much difficulty finding the back of the net. But with his team nursing a one-goal lead in the dying seconds, Black Fish goaltender Matt Hills came up with a game-clinching save, preserving his team’s 16-15 win over the Shooting Eagles.

The two teams were playing the Arena Lacrosse League West Division season opener on Sunday afternoon at Langley Events Centre.

The Shooting Eagles’ last-ditch effort to extend the game saw the team work the ball to Garrett Winter, who cut across the crease but his diving shot was foiled by Hills’ glove.

“They beat me down low a couple of times near the end of the game, so the only going through my mind is I have to save this. We got the job done and on to the next one,” Hills said.

Hills had entered the game for the third quarter.

“It is a little tricky; you have to keep your body warm and just be ready for anything. You just have to stay humble and be ready to rumble,” Hills said about beginning the game on the bench for the first half.

Black Fish coach Rod Jensen said the plan all along was to give both goalies 30 minutes, adding that Hills’ timely save also bailed out the head coach since he had designed the defensive play he wanted his team to run in the situation.

After the Shooting Eagles scored the first two goals, the Black Fish rattled off a 6-0 run and never trailed again, although their opponent managed to get back within a goal on six separate occasions.

“Came down to the last shot. I thought both teams competed hard. We kept getting a two, three goal lead and they kept battling back, so good on them,” Jensen said.

Offensively, the Black Fish were led by the trio of Ryan Jones (3+5), Brian Gillis (6+1) and Anthony Buono (2+4). Gillis was a late addition to the team but Jensen was impressed by the instant chemistry he showed with Jones.

The rest of the Black Fish offence came from a pair of Brendan Shea goals and singles from Laszlo Henning, Ryan Jensen and Ari Stevens. Jensen and Henning also had two and three assists, respectively.

Ryan Atkinson had started the first half, allowing eight goals on 26 shots with Hills making 14 saves on 21 shots. Thomas Ungaro played entire game for the Shooting Eagles with 39 saves on 55 shots.

Winter (2+4), Dylan Lacroix (2+3), Declan Fitzpatrick (3+2) and Mark Yingling (1+3) led the way offensively for the Shooting Eagles, with Rhys Blake and Coady Adamson each scoring twice and finishing with three points. Cody Nass (1+1), Spencer Bromley (1+1) and Aidan Murphy (1+0) had the other goals.

Shooting Eagles coach Adam Smith saw some good in his team’s debut but knows allowing 16 is not a recipe for a success.

“When you score that many, you expect to win. You expect your defence to stop them, but the reality is, it is our first game out there, and our defence is coming from different provinces and different countries, and all different levels of lacrosse, so you need a little bit to figure out what the systems are and to gel together,” he said.

“The sentiment was that the looks they were looking for and they were trying to do were the right things. There is rust. If we knock that rust off and still keep the right looks and the right things, then we should be OK.”

Shooting Eagles' Coady Adamson celebrates his team's goal during their Arena Lacrosse League West Division season opener on November 13 at Langley Events Centre. Ryan Molag LEC photo