Thunder set to battle Burnaby in home opener

by Gary Ahuja

The Langley Thunder are set for their 2019 home debut at Langley Events Centre following what must be considered a successful start to their Western Lacrosse Association season.

Facing a pair of tough road contests to open the senior A season in New Westminster and Victoria – two of the four teams who made the post-season round one year ago – the Thunder managed a split, falling to the Salmonbellies 14-9 before travelling to the provincial capital to prevail 6-4 in a defensive battle.

And now comes their home opener as they host the Burnaby Lakers (1-0) on Wednesday, May 29 at Langley Events Centre with a 7:30 p.m. start time.

The Thunder were an impressive 6-2-1 as the home side last year and their road victory on Sunday matches their entire win total as the visitors in 2018, when they struggled to a 1-8 record.

But goaltending is the great equalizer and Steve Fryer delivered a dominant performance in his return to the Thunder colours following a seven-year absence.

Fryer stopped 48 of 52 shots, a sublime .923 save percentage.

Victoria struck for two goals 55 seconds apart in the opening 4:30, but only managed another two goals over the final 55:30, with both of those coming in the third period.

And with Fryer doing his thing on one end of the floor, Langley pieced together a scoring by committee approach with six different players registering one goal apiece in the narrow victory.

Connor Robinson, Kerry Susheski, Dalton Lupul and Garrett Billings erased the early 2-0 hole with four unanswered goals to close the first period. And after neither team scored in the middle stanza, Aiden Milburn and Brad McCulley scored 90 seconds apart in the third period. The goals proved huge as the Shamrocks also had a pair in the period but could get no closer.

Milburn led the offence with a goal and two helpers, while Robinson, Billings and McCulley each registered a goal and an assist.

The victory comes on the heels of a season-opening 14-9 loss to New Westminster three days earlier.

Langley played the ‘Bellies tough for the first and third periods, but New West had a 5-1 advantage in the middle 20 minutes. The loss overshadowed a pair of big games from McCulley (three goals, five points), Robinson (one goal, five points) and Billings (one goal, four points).

The home opener is a Celebration of Langley Lacrosse with Langley Minor Lacrosse teams invited to attend the game and take part in a pre-game skills clinic. The Langley A&W will be serving up Root Beer Floats with all proceeds benefiting KidSport Langley.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. and for tickets, click here.