Thunder, Shamrocks set for series showdown
If the regular season is any indication, the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs should be quite the battle. The four playoff teams all finished with identical 12-6 records, requiring several tiebreakers to determine the playoff seedings and when all the math was done, it was the Langley Thunder who emerged as the No. 1 seed.
Their reward for top spot? A date with the defending WLA champion Victoria Shamrocks.
The other series pits the Coquitlam Adanacs against the Nanaimo Timbermen with Coquitlam holding home-floor advantage.
The Thunder will host the Shamrocks in game one on Saturday (August 6) at 4:00pm at Langley Events Centre.
All games can be streamed at https://www.wlalacrosse.com/wlatv
“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 Thunder 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.”
The Shamrocks raced out of the gates with six wins in their first seven games and were 7-2 at the midway point of the season before going 5-4 over the second half to finish at 12-6.
The Thunder were 3-4 at one point in the season and 8-6 with four games to play, holding just a one-game lead as they tried to lock down the final post-season berth. But the team finished 8-2 over their final 10 games – tied with Nanaimo over that span – and won their last four games to win their first WLA regular season title since 2013.
“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,” said the Thunder’s Curtis Dickson. “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.”
The Thunder had a pair of 30-goal scorers in Dane Dobbie (37) and Robert Church (30) while Chase Scanlan had 29 and Dickson tallied 27. Dobbie was second in the league in goals, assists (43) and points (80) while Dickson was fourth in assists (41) and fifth in points (68).
Church was third on the team with 61 points and Scanlan (44 points) was fifth while captain Connor Robinson finished fourth on the team in scoring (18 goals, 45 points) despite playing in just 11 games.
The Victoria offence is keyed by the King brothers with Jesse King leading the league in points (99) and assists (67) and fourth in goals (32). Marshal King was third in goals (33), assists (42) and points (75).
Jacob Ruest (21 goals, 56 points), Larson Sundown (26 goals, 51 points) and Jake Foster (18 goals, 39 points) round out the team’s top five in points.
Frank Scigliano led all WLA goaltenders with an 8.13 goals against average and he was second with an .837 save percentage, while going 9-5 for the Thunder. Steve Fryer won both of his starts, posting a 9.50 GAA and .827 save percentage.
For the Shamrocks, Pete Dubenski has gone 7-3 with a 10.13 GAA and .780 save percentage while Colin Jeffrey was 4-3 with a 9.67 GAA and .745 save percentage.
The Thunder special teams finished first on the power play (42-for-91, .462) and second on the penalty kill (30 goals allowed on 83 chances, .639). Victoria was third with the man advantage (39-for-90, .433) and fourth on the PK, surrendering 36 goals on 90 opportunities, a .600 success rate.
The Shamrocks did lead the league in short-handed goals as they scored 14 when playing a man down. Langley was second in that category with a dozen goals.
And when calculating all special teams’ goals, Langley was first at +17 and Victoria was second at +11.
Goals For/Goals Against
Victoria enters the post-season leading the league in goals per game (12.7) and Langley is fourth (10.3) while the Thunder are third in goals against (8.88) compared to the Shamrocks who are fourth (9.5). Victoria is also first in goal differential (+58) and Langley comes in at +25, which was fourth.
Langley won the season series 2-1 with Victoria winning 18-7 on June 19 before the Thunder took the final two, 13-12 on July 29 and 11-8 on August 3, in both teams’ final regular season game when a victory would have ensured the Shamrocks first place. The first two games were played at the Q Centre in Victoria.
Scanlan scored nine goals and five assists in the season series for Langley while Dobbie finished with three goals and 12 assists. Both Langley goaltenders saw action in the three games with Scigliano stopping 66 of 86 shots (.767). Fryer made 48 saves on 60 shots (.800).
For Victoria, Jesse King had three goals and a dozen assists while Marshal King scored six goals with seven assists. Dubenski played in all three games with a .773 save percentage. Jeffrey came off the bench in the August 3 game and stopped all nine shots he faced.