Series Preview: Salmonbellies stand in way of Thunder repeat bid
Will it be the Langley Thunder winning a second consecutive Western Lacrosse Association championship or will there be a new champion as the New Westminster Salmonbellies attempt to capture their first league title since 2017?
That will be determined over the course of the next two weeks as the teams embark on the WLA Finals, a best-of-seven championship series.
The WLA Finals begins August 16 at New Westminster’s Queen’s Park Arena as the Salmonbellies hold home-floor advantage thanks to their 15-3 regular season record, two points ahead of the second-place Thunder who finished with a 14-4 mark. The series shifts to Langley Events Centre on Friday, August 18 with game 3 back at Queen’s Park Arena on August 20. Game 4 is set for LEC on August 22. All four games have 7:30pm start times.
But of New Westminster’s three losses, two came at the hands of the Thunder with Langley winning the season series 2-1. The Thunder won 9-7 at home back on May 31 and 13-5 on June 29 before the Salmonbellies won 15-13 on July 6. The last two games were both played in New Westminster.
The Salmonbellies defeated the Victoria Shamrocks 3-0 in the best-of-five semi-final series while Langley needed four games to eliminate the Nanaimo Timbermen 3-1.
The Thunder were led by captain Connor Robinson, who scored six, five, five and three goals, respectively, in his team’s four games, finishing the series with 19 goals and 25 points. He finished the series with a .442 shooting percentage and his 6.3 points per game placed him second.
Secondary scoring for Langley came courtesy of Curtis Dickson and Robert Church, with each scoring nine goals. Dickson also dished out 14 assists and Church finished with a dozen. Dane Dobbie – who missed the opener – finished with one goal and 12 assists. Dobbie did lead the team in the regular season with 34 goals.
In goal, Frank Scigliano carried over his dominant play from the regular season where he was named the WLA’s Top Goalie as he led the league with 6.59 goals against average and an .858 save percentage while posting a league-best 12-1 record. He was also tops among goalies with five assists and second in total saves with 497.
In his team’s four playoff games, Scigliano’s GAA sits at 7.07 while his save percentage is at .872.
At the other end of the floor, Zach Higgins was in goal for all three New Westminster games, finishing with a 9.68 GAA and .804 save percentage.
Offensively, Mitch Jones leads all WLA players in post-season scoring with 7.0 points per game and a league-high 15 assists. Will Malcom (5-8) and Keegan Bal (2-11) each chipped in with 13 points while Haiden Dickson – who was the WLA’s co-MVP during the regular season following a 50-goal campaign – led the Salmonbellies with eight goals during the team’s sweep of the Shamrocks. They also have Kevin Crowley (20-27) who averaged 5.2 points per game during the regular season.
The teams finished one-two in the regular season for both goals scored and against with the Thunder the league’s stingiest team, allowing 7.94 goals against while the Salmonbellies were tops at 11.44 and Langley was second at 10.72.
But in the post-season so far, the Thunder are tops in both categories with 11.75 goals scored versus 7.20 allowed. New Westminster averaged 11.33 goals while allowing 9.67.
Both teams ranked third and fourth, respectively, in both power play and penalty kill percentage. The Salmonbellies went 4-for-11 (.364) with the man advantage and killed five of 11 short-handed chances (.545) to rank third while the Thunder sat fourth in both categories, scoring 3 power-play goals in 10 opportunities (.300) and allowing eight goals on 17 short-handed chances (.529). The teams were 1-2 during the regular season on the penalty kill with New Westminster tops at .697 while the Thunder were right behind at .688. The Salmonbellies power play was also No. 1 at .560 and Langley third at .408.