Before his team’s best-of-seven series against the New Westminster Salmonbellies began, Langley Thunder head coach Rod Jensen predicted his team would be able to compete with the ’Bellies.
Judging from the scores of games three and four, he was right.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, both those scores tilted in favour of the Salmonbellies, who swept the Thunder in four straight to move onto the Western Lacrosse Association final, where they will meet the powerhouse Victoria Shamrocks.
Even though it was over in four, it wasn’t an easy series for the Salmonbellies, who eked out wins of 8-7 Saturday at Queen’s Park Arena and 10-8 Monday at the Langley Events Centre to close out the series.
“We were in the games, but we just weren’t able to get over the top,” Jensen told the Langley Advance on Tuesday. “Last night, we had more energy, we were doing everything right but their goalie made some saves. They persevered and were able to score a couple of goals in the end to get the victory.”
Jensen said the Thunder had higher expectations going into the post-season. “We had a good lineup. We thought we had enough to get through this series. Regardless of what we did, they found a way to answer. I don’t know if they carried the play all the time but they carried the scoreboard. I think it shocked everybody that we got swept. Even though the games were tight, losing two in our own building was tough.”
The series opener was reasonably tight, too, with the ’Bellies winning 15-12 on Aug. 4 at Queen’s Park.
The only one-sided affair was game two, which the Salmonbellies won by a 10-5 score.
In what turned out to be the final game of the series Monday at the LEC, the Salmonbellies’ Jordan McBride snapped an 8-8 tie with what turned out to be the game winning goal at the 12:37 mark of the third period.
The Salmonbellies’ Colton Clark added an insurance marker with 1:34 to go in regulation to close out the scoring.
The Thunder bolted out to a 3-0 lead on goals from Steve Hinek with a pair and Athan Iannucci.
The Salmonbellies stormed back with three unanswered markers to tie the game 3-3 before Brett Mydske put the Thunder ahead again, 4-3.
Clark tied the game at 4-4 before the opening period was through.
The Thunder held a 6-5 lead going into the third period and the teams traded goals in the middle frame before the Salmonbellies went ahead for good.
Hinek with a pair of goals and Jacob Ruest, Lewis Ratcliff, and Alex Turner with a goal and two assists each led the Thunder’s offence in a losing cause.
For the Salmonbellies, McBride, Crompton, and Clark each scored twice and added an assist while Keegan Bal scored a single to go with two helpers.
FINAL BUZZER: The WLA playoff final features the top two teams from the regular season: the first-place Victoria Shamrocks (14-4) and the second-place Salmonbellies (12-6).
The defending playoff champion and 2014 Mann Cup finalists Shamrocks dispatched the Maple Ridge Burrards in four lopsided, albeit very physical, games in their best-of-seven set.