Thunder await first-round opponent

by Gary Ahuja

Robert Church scored five goals and finished with seven points as the Langley Thunder closed the Western Lacrosse Association regular season with a 14-4 record thanks to a 9-6 win over the Burnaby Lakers on July 26 at Langley Events Centre. Ryan Molag LEC photo

They won and now they wait.

The Langley Thunder wrapped up the Western Lacrosse Association regular season on Wednesday, closing with a 9-6 win against the visiting Burnaby Lakers at Langley Events Centre.

And with their 18-game regular season in the books, the Thunder are relegated to the sidelines to see how the remaining games unfold. More specifically, Langley awaits the results of the New Westminster Salmonbellies’ final two games to see which team comes in first place and which team takes second.

With a record of 14-4 – and a franchise-best .778 winning percentage – the Thunder currently sit in top spot with 28 points, two ahead of the second place Salmonbellies (13-3, 26 points) who play Maple Ridge on July 27 and finish on July 29 against Nanaimo. Two New Westminster victories would relegate Langley to second place while a split would leave the teams tied but the Thunder hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Nanaimo (12-5, 24 points) and Victoria (8-7-1, 17 points) are locked into third and fourth place, respectively and one of these Island teams will be Langley’s first round opponent when the WLA playoffs begin in the first week of August.

Leading the way against Burnaby was the game’s first star, Robert Church, who scored five times and finished with seven points in the victory, while goaltender Frank Scigliano was the third star following his 39-save performance on 45 shots.

Dane Dobbie (2+3), Dylan Kinnear (1+1) and Tristan Kirkham (1+0) had the other Thunder goals.

“Last game before playoffs, we wanted to come out and have a good showing. We played well at times, lacked at times, but we got the win,” Church said, adding that his five-goal performance was a “nice confidence boost” heading into the post-season.

“Big credit to Frankie and the defence – they were awesome tonight. We capitalized on our power plays and then got some goals late and held on.”

The Thunder have been just 3-3 in their past six games and were coming off their most lopsided loss, a 16-8 defeat in Nanaimo on Sunday.

“Nanaimo came out blazing and we didn’t match them at all. They played well and took it to us, so it was big for us to come back and get the win and give us a chance to come in first,” Church said.

“It was a massive, massive game for us. We really needed to put our right foot forward and really put a good effort into our systems and get going in the right direction,” added Reece Callies, who played a key role in defending the Lakers’ Jacob Dunbar.

Dunbar led Burnaby with 42 goals this season, which ranks the rookie third in the WLA entering the final few games.

Thunder coach Curt Malawsky said focusing on Dunbar was key to the team’s defensive game plan.

“He is a good goal scorer and always moving around; we wanted to make sure we were physical with him and try to limit his touches on the ball,” he said.  

“We had Callies and Bobby Kidd on him and I thought both those guys played really well. We kept the shots to the outside and when that happens, Frankie does a great job.”

The Lakers’ Toron Eccleston was the second star after scoring four of his team’s six goals with Dunbar and Connor Watson each potting a goal and an assist. Keegen Melenychuk matched Scigliano with 39 saves.

Langley went 2-for-2 on the power play while their penalty kill allowed one goal on three chances.