What a difference a week-and-a-half can make.
Langley Thunder players and coaches woke up Monday morning, May 26, with the realization that they had stumbled to an 0-3 start to their Western Lacrosse Association season.
Adding to the misery, they were licking their wounds from a 15-3 drubbing at the hands of the host Maple Ridge Burrards the night before.
Jump ahead to late Friday night, June 6, and the Thunder are arguably the surprise team of the WLA.
They had just handed the Burnaby Lakers their first loss of the season, beating the hosts 12-8 at Burnabyâ€™s Bill Copeland Arena.
The victory was the Thunderâ€™s third straight win and evened their record to 3-3.
To kick off the streak, the Thunder avenged their blowout loss to the Burrards by beating them 11-7 at the Langley Events Centre (LEC) on May 28.
â€œItâ€™s a combination of things,â€ Thunder head coach Rod Jensen said, regarding his teamâ€™s recent string of success. â€œAgainst Maple Ridge, we got really embarrassed [on May 25], so the next game was a pride game, and our first home game, and that got ourselves going a little bit. Then we were able to have a full week off between games, andâ€¦ get two wins at home with a very young team.â€
The surprise element isnâ€™t simply attached to the Thunderâ€™s win streak, but also that they are going to battle each night â€“ during the early part of the season, anyway â€“ missing a veritable whoâ€™s who of North American boxla stars.
The surprise element isnâ€™t simply attached to the Thunderâ€™s win streak, but also that they are going to battle each night â€“ during the early part of the season, anyway â€“ missing a veritable whoâ€™s who of North American boxla stars. Notable NLL snipers Dane Dobbie, Garrett Billings (on the IR), Adam Jones, Mark Matthews, and Shane Jackson, along with key defenders Mike Grimes and John Lintz, just to name a few, arenâ€™t with the team.
To climb out of the hole, the Thunder have leaned on a pair of veterans: lefty Alex Turner leads the team in goals (12) and points (28) while towering Athan Iannucci is tied with Turner for the team lead in assists (16) and has notched eight goals.
â€œThe four guys who have stood out have been Alex Turner, Athan Iannucci, Ian Poole, and our captain, Matt Leveque,â€ Jensen said. â€œThey have provided not only leadership, but a solid base.â€
As well, 6â€™7â€ goaltender Brodie MacDonald has weathered the early season storm, and has started all six games for the Thunder.
â€œBrodie is the backbone of our team. Heâ€™s our last line of defence,â€ Jensen said. â€œI also give credit to the four seniors who are holding the fort.â€
Jensen considers MacDonald to be the best goaltender not only in Western Canada, but the entire country.
â€œAt the end of the day, we have a real advantage over a lot of the teams,â€ Jensen said. â€œHe makes difficult saves look very easy.â€
Thunder 12, Burnaby Lakers 8
Leading 8-6 after 40 minutes of play, the Thunder out-scored the Lakers 4-2 in the third period to seal the victory.
The Thunder scored the final two markers of the night, off the sticks of Iannucci and Turner (with one minute to go in the game) to give themselves some breathing room.
Iannucci led the way offensively with a six-point night, on two goals and four assists.
Turner notched a hat trick while adding a pair of assists to his totals.
Also having a productive night for the Thunder was Daniel McQuade, who tallied twice to go along with a single assist.
Brett Baron (who added two assists), Poole, and Tom Johnson rounded out the Thunder goal-scorers.
Thunder 13, Coquitlam Adanacs 10
The Thunder improved to 2-0 at the Langley Events Centre with a win over the Adanacs last Wednesday, June 4.
Langley exploded for nine goals in the second period, turning a 4-2 deficit into an 11-8 lead. The Thunderâ€™s Johnson scored three of his four goals on the night during the middle stanza.
The teams exchanged two goals apiece in the third period.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Johnson had tallied four times, Turner finished the night with eight points including two goals and six assists, James Rahe notched a hat trick and one assist in his regular season debut, and Tyler Melynk scored a pair of goals.
Iannucci scored once and added five assists, and Adam Will had a three-point night on a goal and two helpers.
FINAL BUZZER: The Thunder will face a huge test this Wednesday (June 11), when the WLA-leading (and 4-0) Victoria Shamrocks visit the LEC to take on the Thunder at 7:45 p.m.
Tickets are available at the LEC box office.
Jensen knows the Thunder will have their work cut out for them Wednesday, and is guardedly optimistic when it comes to the remainder of the 18-game campaign.
â€œWeâ€™re excited about the three wins, but the [team] is young so there will be a lot of ups and downs,â€ he said.