In what was likely the tightest playoff race in Western Lacrosse Association history, the Langley Thunder have clawed their way into the post-season.
At regular season’s end, the Thunder, Maple Ridge Burrards, and Burnaby Lakers finished tied with 9-9 records.
Despite being demolished 14-5 by the Victoria Shamrocks to close out their campaign on Friday, the Langley senior As grabbed third spot, all due to the New Westminster Salmonbellies edging Burnaby 9-8 on Thursday.
Here’s why, according to the WLA:
Burnaby Lakers and Langley Thunder lose [their final games of the regular season].
The Burnaby Lakers, Langley Thunder, and Maple Ridge Burrards would be in a three-way-tie at 18 points. Additionally, each team won a three game season series, also resulting in a three-way-tie. Tie break then goes to collective goals for and goals against differential across each tied series; Langley Thunder +5, Maple Ridge Burrards +3, Burnaby Lakers -8. The Langley Thunder and Maple Ridge Burrards would be in the playoffs seeded 3rd and 4th, respectively.
Because of this, the Thunder knew prior to Friday’s game that they had a playoff spot locked up.
“It was a dogfight,” Thunder head coach Rod Jensen said. “It was kind of weird, kind of neat to see it [the playoff picture] come down to the last day.”
Now the Thunder are gearing up to play the Salmonbellies, who are rolling into the playoffs on a five-game win streak while placing second in the standings with a 12-6 record.
“I think we’re going to have a good opportunity to beat them,” Jensen said. “They’ve got a good solid lineup, with some big boys. They play an aggressive style and we’ve got to match their intensity. We’ve got guys who can handle that style so we’re in pretty good shape that way. As long as our players hold the fort we should be fine.”
The best-of-seven series begins tonight at Queen’s Park Arena in New Westminster with game two slated for Thursday at the Langley Events Centre, with a 7:45 p.m. opening faceoff.
Defenceman Brett Mydske has respect for the Salmonbellies but at the same time, believes the Thunder has what it takes to beat them.
“I think we’re pretty confident right now,” Mydske said. “We started getting progressively better as the season went on, and we’ll be peaking at the right time going into New West series.”
And to dust off the cliché, every team starts the playoffs with a perfect record.
“It doesn’t matter where you finish, so long as you make the playoffs,” said Mydske, who is also a member of the National Lacrosse League’s Edmonton Rush, and who made Team Canada’s roster for 2015 FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championship taking place in September.
All three regular season meetings between the Thunder and ’Bellies have been close, with New West winning 6-5 May 27, the Thunder posting an 8-6 win June 18, and New West taking the rubber match by an 8-7 count July 15.
Regarding the ’Bellies, Mydske added, “for sure we can beat them. They are a good lacrosse team but if we play the way we can play, we have a good shot. We match up pretty well against them.”
Jensen said the Thunder have “no excuses” heading into the series.
“We’ve been a bit inconsistent, but we have a full lineup here,” he said.
Blowout to cap campaign
Any hopes the Thunder had of going into the post-season with a smidgen of momentum were destroyed by the mighty Shamrocks, who finished on top of the WLA standings with a 14-4 record and are now facing the Burrards in their best-of-seven, opening round playoff series.
Friday at Victoria’s Q Centre, the Shamrocks led 4-1 after the first period, 10-3 after 40 minutes, and out-scored the Thunder 4-2 in the final frame.
The Shamrocks’ Corey Small with five goals and two assists and Scott Ranger with four goals and two assists were named first and second stars of the game, respectively.