A 9-5 road win Wednesday over the Coquitlam Adanacs gave the Langley Thunder its second Western Lacrosse Association playoff title in as many years.
The victory at the Coquitlam Sports Centre lifted the Thunder to a 4-2 victory in games over the Adanacs in the best-of-seven, WLA championship series.
Thunder head coach Rod Jensen said the Adanacs gave his team a stern test.
"It was tough," Jensen said. "We got out of the [first round] Burnaby series pretty unscathed, with limited injuries, but this Coquitlam team, man, that's what they do - they play aggressive. We had people banged up, there."
League playoff MVP Lewis Ratcliff, who led both the Thunder and WLA in post-season points, echoed his head coach's sentiments.
"It was very tough," Ratcliff said. "They played a very good series, they have a great goalie [in Nick Rose] and they have a tough defence. It's definitely nice to get the win and not have to play another game."
The Thunder entered game six ready for war, two days after losing 7-6 to the Adanacs at the Langley Events Centre (LEC).
"Game five, we played poorly," Jensen said. "We didn't come to play. Give Coquitlam credit - their backs were against the wall, but we really came focused [for game six] and gave everything we had."
Now, the Thunder players and coaches are packing their bags for a flight to Ontario, where they will meet the Major Series Lacrosse champion Peterborough Lakers in the Mann Cup Canadian senior A championship series.
This marks the Thunder's second straight Mann Cup appearance.
"It was great to win last year after all of the hard work to get to that point, but this year is such a great feeling and validates everything," team governor Rob Buchan said, adding that despite all the talent, his club worked extremely hard to get to the Mann Cup again.
After capturing the WLA title last year, the Thunder hosted the Brampton Excelsiors at the LEC. Brampton won the best-of-seven series, and the 2011 Canadian title, in five games.
The Thunder hopes this year's Mann Cup showing has a different outcome.
"We definitely want to win the Mann Cup," Jensen said. "Everybody wants to win their last series. Unfortunately for the west, the east is on a bit of a roll in a number of ways. We've got to do our best and battle as best as we can but we're the underdogs."
A member of the Mann Cup winning Victoria Shamrocks squads in 2003 and '05, Ratcliff knows the Thunder players have their work cut out for them.
"We know we're underdogs and not many people are thinking we're going to go there and win," he said. "We might be the only ones who think we have a chance to do it. It'll be fun to go back there and play good lacrosse."
Underdog is not a role the 2012 Thunder is familiar with. During the off-season, the team added even more artillery to an already loaded offence, with the additions of Ratcliff and talented rookie Shayne Jackson.
They helped the Thunder to a WLA-best 12-6 record during the regular season, and were big parts of the championship series-clinching victory in hostile territory.
Ratcliff finished with two goals and three assists in game six while Jackson scored twice and added a single helper.
Missing the services of its co-leader in regular-season scoring Athan Iannucci (a late scratch), the Thunder still beat the Adanacs when it mattered most.
"I could have played him, he's a little banged up, so I thought if we had to go to a game seven we'd have all our ammunition," Jensen said, regarding Iannucci. "He wanted to play, but I told him it wasn't anything personal, but I wanted to go on the cautious side."
Meanwhile, Coquitlam's Dane Dobbie, who led the WLA in scoring for a good chunk of the post-season, also didn't dress. Dobbie ended up with the most goals (25) among WLA playoff scorers.
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period, and the Thunder outscored the Adanacs 5-3 in the middle frame to move ahead 6-4.
With the Thunder leading 7-5 in the final minute of play, unassisted goals from Sam Cook and Todd Stockdale put the Adanacs away.
Brett Hickey, who drew into the lineup for Iannucci, scored twice. Alex Turner also found the net for the Thunder.
The Thunder finished the WLA playoffs with an 8-2 record. The local squad swept the Burnaby Lakers in the opening round of the post-season before meeting up with the Adanacs in the championship series.
Ratcliff withstood a barrage of punishment from opposing checkers to lead the WLA in playoff scoring with 23 goals and 49 points in 10 games.
"We brought him in because that's what he does for a living: he's a great scorer who can put the ball in the net," Jensen said. "He's a pretty good physical specimen."
Ratcliff said the break between the WLA final and Mann Cup is much needed.
"It definitely gets more intense during the playoffs especially when you're playing every second day," he said. "We need a few days off, that's for sure."
Langley native Garrett Billings finished fourth in post-season points with 31, including 26 helpers, tied with Ratcliff for the WLA lead.
Iannucci was third in Thunder playoff scoring with 14 goals and 22 points in nine games.
Up next: the Ontario champion Peterborough Lakers, who downed the Six Nations Chiefs (Billings' former team) in five games in the MSL playoff championship series.
The Lakers/Thunder series schedule is:
Game 1: Friday, Sept. 7
Game 2: Sunday, Sept. 9
Game 3: Monday, Sept. 10
Game 4: Wednesday, Sept. 12
Game 5*: Friday, Sept. 14
Game 6*: Saturday, Sept. 15
Game 7*: Sunday, Sept.16