Thunder secure first place heading into WLA playoffs

by Gary Ahuja

Three goals and five points from Curtis Dickon helped the Langley Thunder to an 11-8 win over Victoria at Langley Events Centre on Wednesday night. The victory clinched top spot for the Thunder heading into the WLA playoffs. Ryan Molag LEC photo

The road through the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs will go through Langley.

The Langley Thunder made sure of that with an 11-8 victory in their regular season finale on Wednesday night at Langley Events Centre as they defeated the visiting Victoria Shamrocks 11-8 as Langley finished the regular season with a 12-6 mark. A Shamrocks victory would have earned Victoria top spot but instead they finish with an identical 12-6 record – as do the Nanaimo Timbermen.

A scenario exists where should the Coquitlam Adanacs defeat the New Westminster Salmonbellies on Thursday (August 4) night in the final WLA regular season game, then all four of the playoff teams would have identical 12-6 records.

Regardless of the Coquitlam/New Westminster result, the Thunder hold the tiebreaker advantage over all four teams and have won their first WLA regular season title since 2013. A Coquitlam (11-6) loss would mean the Adanacs would face Langley in the opening round while Victoria would battle Nanaimo while a victory would see a tiebreaker needed to determine which of the three would be the Thunder’s opponent in the best-of-seven series.

Langley heads into the post-season as one of the hottest teams in the league with four straight victories as only New Westminster (five wins) has won more consecutive games. And it was the Salmonbellies who were breathing down the Thunder’s necks for the final playoff spot.

Back on July 21, the Salmonbellies defeated Langley 10-6 to pull within two points of the Thunder. The win also gave New Westminster the season series, meaning they held the tiebreaker should the teams finish the regular season tied.

Langley also faced a daunting closing schedule as their final four games featured a home game against the Adanacs, a visit to Burnaby, and a home-and-home with Victoria but the team went 4-0 down the stretch to punch not only their playoff spot, but also their first WLA regular season title since 2013.

“Backs against the wall, we had to go at least 3-1, if not 4-0 to be able to get ourselves into the playoffs there and we delivered,” said Curtis Dickson, who paced the Langley attack with a hat trick and five points.

“It was obviously not the start we wanted to the year; we went through some stretches where we weren’t playing very well, but at the same time, we did some things well also. It was just a matter of learning from those mistakes,” he said.

“Guys were in and out of the line-up all year, so it was tough to get that chemistry going but we found our stride at the end there and were obviously able to clinch first.”

“Come playoff time, you are going to go through adversity no matter what the scenario is so it’s good to face it during the season (instead of) getting that wake-up call during playoff time,” Dickson added.

In Wednesday’s regular season finale, the Thunder were ahead 3-1 after one period and 6-3 through 40 minutes before Victoria would score two quick goals to get within one with 18 minutes to play. But Langley scored five of the next six goals to go up 11-6 and then bring home the three-goal victory.

Frank Scigliano finished with 45 saves as his team was outshot 53-44 and he finishes the regular season with an 8.13 goals against average and .837 save percentage, which rank him first and second, respectively, in the WLA with a game to play.

Offensively, the Thunder were led by Dane Dobbie’s one goal and six assists while Dickson had a hat trick and five points. Chase Scanlan scored a hat trick, and Robert Church (two goals, two assists) and Dylan Kinnear (two goals, one assist) rounded out the offence.

On the Shamrocks side, Steve Priolo and Jake Foster each scored two goals while Pete Dubenski made 24 saves on 35 shots and Colin Jeffrey stopped all nine shots he faced in relief.

Next up come the playoffs which begin this weekend.

“It is a new season. We know why the Mann Cup is so special is because it is a long run; you have to win three best-of-seven-game series to get it done,” said Langley coach Rod Jensen.

“We are just going to start it a game at a time, a period at a time and it is just real nice that we are playing our first game in our building and if it comes to a game seven, it is going to come in our building.”