WLA Finals Game 5: Thunder Take 3-2 Series Lead

Story courtesy Gary Ahuja/Langley Events Centre, photo courtesy Ryan Molag/Langley Events Centre.

The Langley Thunder are one victory away from a Western Lacrosse Association championship.

Following a pair of overtime games – with each team prevailing on their respective home floors – Langley took the pivotal Game 5 by a 6-4 score on Thursday night at Queen’s Park Arena.

Mimicking Game 4 where goals were hard to come by the offences were again challenged to find space to create opportunities, and when they did manage to get shots on goal, Langley’s Frank Scigliano (34 saves on 38 shots) and New Westminster’s Zach Higgins (46 saves on 52 shots) were there to shut the door.

The score was tied at four with a period to play before Nathaniel Kozevnikov and Dane Dobbie scored goals on back-to-back Thunder possessions for the final margin of victory.

Trailing 6-4 with just over 10 minutes to play, the Salmonbellies did have a pair of power-play opportunities but could not get the ball past Scigliano and a stingy Thunder defence, which kept getting sticks in lanes and preventing the New Westminster offence from getting clean looks.

“That is just sheer will and belief in each other and trusting the guy next to you,” said Langley coach Curt Malawsky. “Guys were sacrificing their bodies to get in shooting lanes and we tried to make it difficult for them.”

The Thunder were without Connor Robinson after the captain was injured in the second period on an interference penalty.

“When they dirty a player like that … I have always taught the guys, beat them on the scoreboard. You don’t need to go to the gutter, you don’t need to take someone’s head off. Get retribution and the best retribution is on the scoreboard. That third period, that was for Con-Rob,” Malawsky said.

Robert Church and Curtis Dickson led Langley with a pair of goals apiece, with Church adding three assists for a five-point game and first-star honours. Scigliano was the second star while the Salmonbellies’ Mitch Jones was the third star following a one-goal, three-point game, which was tops for his team. Keegan Bal, Kevin Crowley and Will Malcom had the other goals.

Game 6 is set for Saturday night at Langley Events Centre at 7:30pm as the Thunder look to punch their ticket to host next month’s Mann Cup championships against the Major Series Lacrosse champion Six Nations Chiefs.

“We have a lot of guys that have won a lot of championships but the hardest one to get is the last one, so we have work to do still,” Malawsky said.

Should the Salmonbellies stave off elimination, Game 7 would be on Tuesday (August 29) at Queen’s Park Arena.