Curtis Dickson may not know it, but Tristan Kirkham wore No. 17 in junior and No. 71 in college because of Dickson.
These days, Kirkham wears No. 6 as a rookie with the Langley Thunder and now finds himself on the receiving end of passes from Dickson.
Dickson set up one of Kirkham’s three goals on Wednesday night, as the Thunder defeated the New Westminster Salmonbellies 9-7 in Western Lacrosse Association action at Langley Events Centre – improving to 2-1 with the victory. New Westminster fell to 1-1.
Kirkham (3+0) and fellow rookie Jake Bowen (2+1) scored five of their team’s nine goals, while Dickson (3+2) and Jordan Roberts (1+0) had the other tallies.
Dane Dobbie and Robert Church finished with four and three assists, respectively.
So far this season, Kirkham has scored in all three games and has five goals in that span. He said his teammates have instilled a sense of confidence in him.
“One thing we talked about was when I played last year (as a call-up) I didn’t shoot a lot because of those bigger names. So just having the confidence in myself to shoot and them telling me to find my shots,” Kirkham said.
With such a stacked offensive lineup – Dickson, Dobbie, and Church entered the game with 15 points apiece in two games – Kirkham said it opens up opportunities for the rest of the players, which he and Bowen have capitalized on.
“Those guys are going to get a lot of attention and it opens more alleyways for us. They bring a lot of attention and effort and knowledge, so we just have to pick their brains,” Kirkham said.
“Knowing they are going to get a lot of attention; we just have to slip into those sweet spots.”
Langley coach Curt Malawsky said that no matter the level, secondary scoring is always key.
“Both Kirkham and Bowen can shoot the piss out of the ball. Those were big goals for us early to get us going,” he added.
Langley never trailed in the game and was ahead 9-5 with half a period to play before New Westminster scored goals 21 seconds apart to pull within a pair – but could get no closer as they had just 69 seconds left to attempt a comeback.
Frank Scigliano made 50 saves (.877) as the Thunder were outshot 57-50.
“He made the huge saves when we needed him to. He is a brick wall back there and plays excellent for us,” Malawsky said.
“We soaked some shots; we got some big loose balls. You have to learn how to win and how to win the tight ones, so that was a bonus.”
The game marked Malawsky’s first behind the bench for the Thunder, and while happy with the result, he knows work still needs to be done.
“I thought it was a little chaotic, to be honest. We had a lot of guys yelling at the referees… we have to clean up some of that stuff. You could really lose your focus if you focus on what the referees are doing. I thought they did a good job; they were consistent both ways,” the coach said.
Another area to improve is situational awareness.
“We forced some shots off multiples, we were a bit scrambled there at the end, we weren’t taking care of the ball; but it wasn’t a lack of effort. I thought the guys competed really hard, they played for each other. I thought that side of it was good,” Malawsky said.
Mitch Jones (2+3) and Ryan Martel (2+1) had two goals apiece for the Salmonbellies, with Jordan McBride, Ilija Gajic and Haiden Dickson scoring once each, and Cam MacLeod stopped 41 shots in goal.
Of note, Dickson and Kirkham were the first and third stars, respectively, while Jones was the second star.
Langley Thunder is back in action on Saturday, June 3, as they head back to Vancouver Island, this time to face the Nanaimo Timbermen in a rematch of the 2022 WLA finals. Game time is 5 p.m.
Then, the team’s next home game at Langley Events Centre is Wednesday, June 14, when they host the Coquitlam Adanacs.
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