Series Preview: Thunder set to battle Timbermen

by Gary Ahuja

For the second straight post-season, the Langley Thunder are set to face the Nanaimo Timbermen. But while last year the two teams met in the Western Lacrosse Association Finals, this time around it will be in the semi-final series and will be a best-of-five series rather than the traditional best-of-seven.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that the Thunder again hold home-floor advantage with the series kicking off on Tuesday, August 1 at Langley Events Centre. Game two will shift to Nanaimo’s Frank Crane Arena on August 3 before game three is back at Langley Events Centre on August 8. If necessary, game four would be in Nanaimo on August 10 and the fifth and deciding game is set for Langley Events Centre on August 14.

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The games at Langley Events Centre have 6:30pm start times while the ones in Nanaimo get underway at 7:00pm.

The Thunder finished with a 14-4 record and 28 points, good for second place in the WLA standings with an 8-1 home record while they were 6-3 as the visitors.

Langley used a nine-game winning streak to jump out to a 10-1 start to the season, before finishing 4-3 down the stretch. The final seven games also featured a pair of overtime games, with Langley going 1-1 in the 3-on-3 sudden-death format. Of the team’s four losses, two came at the hands of Timbermen (at home in overtime, and on the road) and then road losses in Victoria and New Westminster. Nanaimo was also the only WLA team to take the season series over the Thunder, having won two of three contests.

Following a 4-4 start to the season, Nanaimo rattled off six straight victories to cement their playoff position, before finishing in third place at 12-6 with 24 points.

The season series saw Langley win 10-5 in Nanaimo on June 3 before the Timbermen won the next two meetings, 10-9 in overtime at LEC on July 12 and 16-8 in Nanaimo on July 23. The eight-goal margin of defeat was the largest of Langley’s four losses as their previous three defeats came by a combined four goals.

As a team, Langley averaged 10.72 goals per game, which ranked them second/third in the WLA. They also finished with a +50 goal, differential, second in the league as they allowed a WLA-low 7.94 goals against.

Nanaimo was third offensively at 10.28 goals per game and fourth defensively, surrendering 9.17 goals against. They also finished third in goal differential at +20.

Leading the way this season for the Thunder has been goaltender Frank Scigliano, who led the league in goals against average (6.59), save percentage (.858) and wins (12).

Offensively, Robert Church led in points (76) and was second in goals (32) with Dane Dobbie tops in goals (34) and runner-up in points (69). Each player finished tied for second in points per game at 4.6, trailing Curtis Dickson, who had 5.5 points per game. Dickson finished the regular season with 22 goals and 44 assists in just a dozen games and his assists were second in the WLA, despite missing six games.

The Thunder also had plenty of secondary scoring with five other players scoring a dozen or more goals: Connor Robinson (16 goals, 19 assists), Chase Scanlan (14 goals, 12 assists), Tristan Kirkham (13 goals, 7 assists), Nathaniel Kozevnikov (12 goals, 17 assists) and Dylan Kinnear (12 goals, 5 assists).

Church and Kirkham each had three-game winning goals, tops on the team.

While Scigliano has been a workhorse in the Thunder goal, the Timbermen have split duties between Justin Geddie and Devlin Shanahan. Geddie was 7-3 with a 9.13 goals against average and .807 save percentage while Shanahan was 5-3 with a 9.15 GAA and .819 save percentage. Shanahan has played eight of the past dozen games.

The bulk of the Nanaimo scoring has come from Zach Manns, who led the WLA in points (89) and assists (45) and was second in goals (44) while playing all 18 games. His 4.9 points per game ranked fifth in the league.

Taggart Clark (23 goals, 56 points) and Jon Phillips (22 goals, 52 points) finished second and third on the team in scoring, while defender Adam Wiedemann has added secondary scoring in transition with 7 goals and 24 points.

On special teams, Langley was second on the penalty kill (.688) and third on the power play (.408). They also scored a WLA-best 13 short-handed goals and finished +17 in total special teams’ goals (when factoring in short-handed goals scored and allowed).

And in face-offs, the Thunder hold the edge, having won 215-177 (.548) compared to Nanaimo’s 174-230 (.430).