Lakers next up as Thunder season winds down

by Gary Ahuja

Goaltender Steve Fryer has been a rock in the Thunder net this season. Garrett James Langley Events Centre photo

They already knocked off one playoff contender this week and now the Langley Thunder hope to throw a wrench into another team’s post-season aspirations.

The Thunder travel to Burnaby’s Bill Copeland Arena tonight (Friday, July 12) for a date with the Lakers as the Western Lacrosse Association regular season hits its final two weeks.

Langley is 4-10 on the season and with four games remaining, have no shot at one of the league’s four playoff spots. But the team is coming off back-to-back victories, including a big 11-8 win over the Victoria Shamrocks on July 10.

The Shamrocks are in the thick of a five-team race for those four berths with Maple Ridge atop the standings at 18 points while Victoria, Nanaimo, New Westminster and Burnaby right behind with 16.

Victoria and Nanaimo each have five games to play while the other three have four games remaining and everyone except the Shamrocks have one game to go against the Thunder.

First up is the Lakers, a team which has beaten Langley in both previous meetings, 12-7 on May 29 and 14-6 on June 21.

The Thunder traded away some of their top-end talent to Maple Ridge, Victoria and Nanaimo, respectively, last month, but while their absence is missed, it has also opened opportunities for others to showcase what they are capable of.

“We are giving these guys a chance to show their stuff and some of them are making their mark and are going to get another look come next year,” Thunder head coach Rod Jensen explained about the team’s mindset with playoffs out of the question.

Up front, players like first-round pick Brad McCulley, as well as in-season acquisition Coady Adamson have made the most of their expanded offensive roles.

McCulley is tied for the team scoring lead with second-year player Aidan Milburn as each has 26 points on the season. Adamson has 20 points in eight games since joining Langley after scoring three in six games with Burnaby prior to the trade.

And Keegan Bell, a rookie acquired from Victoria, scored a hat trick in his last game and has five points in two games as a member of the Thunder. For the season, he has a dozen goals and 25 points in 14 games.

“Everyone gets a different role and we all have to step up and play well, have a little more weight on our shoulders, McCulley said. “I think it is awesome for the experience, I am excited for the opportunity and I think the other guys are as well.”

And while the young guys are making a name for themselves, it is a former Thunder player who has been the backbone of the 2019 squad.

Goaltender Steve Fryer returned west after last playing in the WLA in 2012 and is one of the team’s few veteran presences. And he has solidified the goaltending position, a problem which plagued the team the past few seasons.

Despite being in sixth place as a team, Fryer is top three in total saves (472) and save percentage (.840) and fifth in goals against average (8.83).

For his part, the goaltender shrugged off his numbers, saying the focus was on wins and losses and improving as the season progressed.

“You can see from the beginning of the year to now how much better we are playing as a team,” he said.

The Thunder have also received strong performances from their Junior A call-ups, who have been given a platform to showcase the rest of the league what they are capable of at the Senior A level ahead of the 2020 WLA Draft.