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Photos: Six Nations Chiefs defeat New West Salmonbellies to win 2023 Mann Cup

New Westminster Salmonbellies battled through five games with Six Nations team before “electric” hometown crowd

The Six Nations Chiefs are the 2023 Mann Cup champions after defeating the New Westminster Salmonbellies 11-9.

Going into Wednesday’s Game 5, the Chiefs led the series three games to one, after wins Game 1 (10-7), Game 2 (13-11) in and Game 3 (8-7). The Salmonbellies won Game 4 on Monday night (11-10), sending the series to a fifth game.

Chiefs’ runner Cody Jamieson, who had 22 points in the series, was named the Mann Cup’s MVP. Dhane Smith was the Chiefs’ Player of the Game for Game 5, while Keegan Bal, who had two goals and five assists, was the Salmonbellies’ Player of the Game.

In Game 5, Six Nations was the first to get on the scoreboard, when Ben McIntosh put one past Zach Higgins. A few minutes later, Bellies’ forward Keegan Bal scored his first of the night.

New West had a 3-2 lead when the teams headed to the dressing room at the first intermission, after getting goals from Ryan Martel and a second of the period from Bal. McIntosh scored the Chiefs’ two first-period goals.

Six Nations came out strong in the second, scoring three goals in the first seven minutes, before New Westminster put one pasts Chief’s goalie Doug Jamieson. Kevin Crowley scored for the Bellies, but Six Nations responded with two more – taking a 7-4 lead to the dressing room at intermission.

The Salmonbellies were first to strike in the third, scoring three goals in four minutes, two from Haiden Dickson and one from Will Malcom.

The teams were tied 7-7  when the Chiefs responded with a scoring streak of their own, putting  four goals in the Bellies net within four minutes, to take a 11-7 lead.

With five minutes left on the clock, the Salmonbellies didn’t back down. Martel scored with 2:29 minutes left and added his third goal of the night with 28 seconds left on the clock.

With time winding down, the Bellies continued to give it their all until the final buzzer.

“I am extremely proud of the team’s effort. We never gave up until the last whistle,” said Ray Porcellato, the club’s general manager. “We are all still stinging from the loss, and some of the pain will last forever.”

Porcellato said the team takes comfort in knowing they gave it all they could to win.

“So we walked out of QPA last night with our heads held high,” said.

Paul Horn, the club’s president, agreed.

“New Westminster witnessed remarkable lacrosse over this last week,” he said. “We held our own against a very stacked team, and we did it with discipline and heart. Every single thing about this team made me proud this year and represented New Westminster proudly.”

Following the announcement of the Mann Cup MVP and Players of the Game, the Six Nations Chiefs were presented with the Mann Cup. While hoisting the Mann Cup and celebrating their win, the team stood before a section of fans who had cheered them on and drummed throughout the series.

The Six Nations Chiefs have won the coveted trophy a total of six times until tonight, with their most recent win coming in 2016.

Mayor Patrick Johnstone, who attended several Salmonbellies games, acknowledged the efforts of both teams.

“First, I should congratulate the Chiefs on winning the Mann Cup. It has been an honour to host them and their fans in Queen’s Park Arena,” he said. “And I want to thank the Salmonbellies for an incredible series, an exciting playoffs and a great season. I don’t know if I have ever been in a room as electric as Queen’s Park Arena was during these playoffs.”

On behalf of the city, Johnstone thanked everyone in the Salmonbellies’ organization for the work they did this season to win the Western Lacrosse Association championship and to bring the community together in such an amazing way.

“When do 2024 season tickets go on sale?” he added.

The Salmonbellies have won 24 Mann Cups, more than any other team, but their last championship came in 1991. The team’s goal since the start of the season has been to win its 25th Mann Cup.

The Salmonbellies lost the Mann Cup series four games to one, but they made the Chiefs work for their wins. Two games in the series were one-goal games, two were two-goal games and one was a three-goal game.

The New Westminster’s Salmonbellies path to the 2023 Mann Cup included topping the standings in the Western Lacrosse Association’s regular season, sweeping the Victoria Shamrocks in the first round of the playoffs and defeating the Langley Thunder in the WLA finals in the seventh and deciding game.

Before heading west to vie for the Mann Cup, the Six Nations Chiefs lost only four games throughout regular season and playoff play in 2023.

The Mann Cup, first awarded in 1910, goes to the winner of the national box lacrosse championships.

The solid gold trophy is permanently located in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, which is in New Westminster’s Anvil Centre.