Game 1 Recap: Thunder strike first in WLA finals

by Gary Ahuja

Robert Church celebrates a first-period goal as the Langley Thunder defeated the New Westminster Salmonbellies 11-9 at Queen's Park Arena on Wednesday (August 16) night in Game 1 of the Western Lacrosse Association Finals. Church scored four goals and finished with eight points in the victory. Ryan Molag photo

The Langley Thunder led from nearly from start to finish in taking Game 1 of the Western Lacrosse Association Finals.

The New Westminster Salmonbellies would open the scoring 27 seconds into Wednesday’s best-of-seven series-opening game at Queen’s Park Arena, but Connor Robinson tied the game less than a minute later before Robert Church scored three straight to give the Thunder the lead the rest of the way in an 11-9 victory.

Langley led 5-1 after a period and 9-6 through 40 minutes before New Westminster twice got to within a goal but could never pull even. They were held scoreless over the final 6:23.

Church was the game’s first star following his four-goal, eight-point performance.

He said the team was able to move the ball and hit their shots, especially early which was key to building a lead in a hostile environment.

“We were relentless on loose balls and getting resets and took advantage of that. Credit to the D and Frankie played unbelievable as usual and held them in the end,” Church said.

“It is going to be a battle. They have no let-up. Couple of times we would get three, four-goal leads and they kept battling back and they played really hard until the end. It is going to be like that all series.”

Curtis Dickson – the game’s third star also had a hat trick to go along with his six points, while Dylan Kinnear scored twice with Dane Dobbie and Robinson each adding a goal and two helpers.

Frank Scigliano was solid in goal with 42 saves as Langley was outshot 51-50. Zach Higgins made 39 saves in the Salmonbellies net with Mitch Jones leading the team offensively with a goal and three assists. Keegan Bal added a pair of goals, Kevin Crowley – the game’s second star – had one goal and two assists also had a multi-point night.

Langley scored once on the power-play on three chances – although their last opportunity was the final 16 seconds after New Westminster’s Ryan Martel was assessed a five-minute high sticking major and game misconduct. The Salmonbellies scored twice on four chances.

“Our offence was flying and really set the tone for us and our defence was able to shut the door,” said Langley coach Ian Poole.

“It is always a good feeling when you come out with a gutsy win like this. It is never easy to win a first game on the road in the playoffs, especially in an atmosphere like this, but it always feels good when you bring the effort, and it paid off in the end with what we came for.”

The series now shifts to Langley Events Centre for Game 2 on Friday night (August 18) at 7:30pm. The Thunder will also be auctioning off their special game-worn jerseys with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Tessa Beauchamp Foundation. Click here to learn more about the event or to bid on the jerseys.