The Langley Thunder is making a habit of winning close games.
The Thunder won its third contest in a row, all by one-goal margins, after edging the Burnaby Lakers 9-8 Wednesday at the Langley Events Centre.
The squeaker of a win gives the Thunder a 1-0 lead in the teams’ best-of-seven Western Lacrosse Association semifinal series.
With the Lakers’ Peter McFetridge off for high sticking, Thunder sniper Lewis Ratcliff snapped an 8-8 tie on a Langley powerplay with 35 seconds to go in the third period.
The game-winner was Ratcliff’s third goal of the night, to go along with three assists.
Shayne Jackson tallied two goals, while Athan Iannucci, Joel McCready, and Kyle McEwen also scored for the defending WLA playoff champion Thunder.
The Thunder carried an 8-6 lead into the third period before the Lakers stormed back with goals from Dane Stevens and Colton Clark.
Clark’s goal knotted the score at 8-8 with 2:09 remaining in regulation, to tie the game.
“We had control of the game, but we had a few mishaps at the end and gave them a chance to get back into it, but we closed it out at the end,” Thunder head coach Rod Jensen said. “We have a veteran team and we regrouped and capitalized on the penalty.”
The star-laden Thunder including National Lacrosse League veterans Iannucci, Ratcliff, and Billings are, on paper, the favourite to repeat as playoff champions of the west, but they aren’t looking past the Lakers.
While Langley won the regular season title with a 12-6 record, they finished just four points clear of fourth-place Burnaby (9-7-2).
“All we can do is get better,” Jensen said. “We’re in a playoff series right now. This [Lakers] team can sneak up and bite us if we’re not careful here.”
The third period of Wednesday’s game was a good example of how dangerous this Lakers team can be. But Jensen believes the Thunder have yet to show their full arsenal.
“I’m optimistic we’re going to have one of those games where everything goes good, and we build a lead and we run a team out,” Jensen said. “We’re just about ready.”
The series continues Friday at Burnaby’s Bill Copeland Arena. Game time is 7:45 p.m.