Story courtesy Paul Horn/New Westminster Salmonbellies, photo courtesy Ryan Molag/Langley Events Centre.
Bellies fans paid for 60 minutes of lacrosse on Sunday night, but they got 72 minutes instead. Keegan Bal’s fourth goal of the night allowed New West to walk off the floor with the win, and a 2-1 lead in the WLA Finals.
The game started with New West breaking the ice on a Haiden Dickson goal 5 minutes in. Both goalies had made some stellar saves to start the game, but things quickly changed over the next 15 minutes. Langley answered with three goals of their own (Clay Scanlan, Dane Dobbie, then Robert Church), taking advantage of rebounds and second opportunities. But Keegan Bal found the net at the 14th minute on a powerplay, and Wil Malcom tied the game at 3 with a shorthander just 90 seconds later. It wouldn’t last, as Dane Dobbie deposited a powerplay goal for Langley at 17:53. The Bellies looked like they‘d be heading to the room down by one, but Langley called a timeout and executed a 5-pass setplay that lead to a Chase Scanlan goal in the last second. It was Langley’s second buzzer beater in the series… and it was a harbinger of things to come.
The second began well for the Thunder who scored twice before the Bellies could find the net (Curtis Dickson, then Dane Dobbie with another PPG). Indeed, Langley’s defense and goal-tending was working well and New West would be held scoreless until the 15 minute mark. Altogether, the New West sticks had been silent for 20 minutes, but Haiden Dickson changed that at 14:57. Dylan Kinnear restored the lead, but Haiden would not be deterred. He scored two more times and the Bellies ended the period still down by a margin of 2 goals.
Fired up by the Dickson’s last minute heroics and a now-very-loud crowd, Keegan Bal started the third period with two early and consecutive goals, just 13 seconds apart. We were once again tied.
Back and forth we went in an absolute duel of defenses and goaltenders. Finally, at 14:21 of the third, Noah Armitage drove to the net without the ball and received a beautiful pass from Will Malcom. It was the rookie Armitage against the veteran Scigliano, and Armitage would not be denied. His first of the series put the Bellies up by a measly one goal, with nearly six minutes left.
But the defensive heroics continued and the 1-goal lead seemed destined to hold up. With 44 seconds remaining, Langley called a timeout and tried another setplay. This time, they were not successful. Bellies‘ defensive vet Brandon Goodwin regained the ball and crossed centre where he received a solid hit, knocking the ball loose. The Fish retrieved the loosie and called a timeout. They would need to get the ball out of their zone and kill the next 18 seconds to win the game.
Langley pressed Mitch Jones and his two closest outlet players, giving Jones little choice but to longbomb the ball to deep into the corner of the arena. Two Bellies battled for it, but Langley squeeezed it out and sent a Hail Mary pass down the floor to Dane Dobbie who was perched near the New West crease. With just two seconds left, Dobbie put it behind Higgins and tied the game. Off to overtime we’d go.
After a short 2-minute break, the 10-minute overtime began. Unlike hockey, playoff lacrosse overtime is not sudden victory until the second OT frame. They would play for 10 minutes, no matter who scored first. And it was Langley who scored first. Connor Robinson picked a good time to get his first of the night as Brett Mydske took a penalty that had the crowd up in arms. It was 10-9 Langley with less than 7 minutes remaining.
The Bellies appeared to struggle when it came to putting together an equalizing play. The Thunder were jamming up the middle and eliminating clear shots and passes, but things came together at 6:13. Kevin Crowley earned his first goal of the night and squared things up. After 10 minutes, we were still tied at 10-10 and double OT would be needed.
The Thunder won the face-off to start the sudden victory frame and they attempted another quick-passing play, but it fell apart and the Bellies took the ball to the north end. Things were scrambly and it looked like New West might not get off a quality shot, but Keegan Bal got the job done. At 1:57 his subshot ended the game and gave the Bellies the first home win In the series.
The Three Stars for the night were 1st: Haiden Dickson (4-0-4), 2nd: Curtis Dickson (1-6-7) and 3rd: Zach Higgins (42 saves on 52 shots for an 80.8% save percentage). Keegan Bal earned Stonehaus Realty Player of the Game honours after going 4-2-6, including the OT winner.
Dane Dobbie had a big night with 4 goals and 3 assists, but he was the only multi-goal scorer for the Thunder. Connor Robinson, both Scanlan brothers, and Kinnear each had one goal.
The Bellies saw 5 assists from Mitch Jones. Crowley, Malcom and Armitage added singles to the 8 combined goals from Bal and Haiden Dickson.
So far, New West has averaged 11.2 goals per game in the playoffs, and their powerplay is working 41% of the time. The New West penalty kill is at an impressive 65%.
Langley is averaging 10.9 goals per game in the playoffs, with a powerplay rating of 28% and penalty-killing at 55%.
Game 4 will be played at the Langley Event Centre Tuesday, Aug 22, at 7:30. Tickets are available at the gate and at their website.
Game 5 will return to Queens Park and tickets can be purchased on their website or at the gate.