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A nail-biting clash: Salmonbellies defeat Chiefs in do-or-die match

New Westminster Salmonbellies keep Mann Cup hopes alive with thrilling victory
Like Game 1, shown here, it was a packed house in Queen's Park Arena for Game 4 of the 2023 Mann Cup.

The New Westminster Salmonbellies’ “Drive for 25” is still alive after defeating the Six Nations Chiefs 11-10 before a packed house at Queen’s Park Arena on Tuesday night.

With the Chiefs leading the best-of-seven series three games to none, Game 4 was do-or-die time for the Bellies.

New West started strong, taking a two-goal lead in the first four minutes of the game, before Six Nations tied it up. The teams took turns taking the lead, with the Chiefs up 5-4 when they headed to the dressing room at the first intermission.

In the second, the Salmonbellies tied up the game at 5-5 before taking a 6-5 lead on a goal by captain Mitch Jones. The hometown team’s lead, however, was short-lived, as the Chiefs scored their sixth goal of the night just over a minute later.

The teams were tied at 6-6 when transition player/defenseman Colton Clark put one past Chiefs’ goalie Warren Hill. Six Nations scored less than 30 seconds later and added an eighth soon after.

When the teams hit the floor for the third period, the Salmonbellies were down 8-7. During back-to-back slashing penalties against forward Jason Jones, the Bellies scored a shorthanded goal and the Chiefs scored on the power play.

Back at full strength, Mitch Jones put another one in the net for New West. Eight seconds later, transition player Anthony Malcom scored, giving the Bellies a 10-9 lead.

But the Chiefs weren’t quite done, with Lyle Thompson scoring on Zach Higgins with just over six minutes left in the game.

The teams were tied at 10-10, until Jeff Cornwall took a pass from Patrick Shoemay and scored a beautiful goal, giving the Bellies an 11-10 lead.

In what may have been a first in lacrosse action at Queen’s Park Arena, the crowd did the wave while the teams took a timeout late in the game.

When the Chiefs pressed to get the tying goal, the Bellies’ defensive squad battled hard. Cornwall, fighting off Chiefs players, carried the ball down the floor toward the empty net, thwarting Six Nations’ efforts to tie the game.

Cody Jamieson, who had two goals and four assists, was named the Chiefs’ Player of the Game. Jones, who had a seven-point night – three goals and four assists – was the Salmonbellies Player of the Game.

Kevin Crowley and Cornwall each had two goals for the Bellies, with Jason Jones, Haiden Dickson, Clark, and Malcom adding singles. In net, Higgins made 47 saves – including some spectacular stops that kept the Bellies’ hopes of playing another game alive.

At the other end of the arena, Warren Hill had 39 stops for the Chiefs. Jamieson, Thompson and Sam Leclair each had two goals for Six Nations, with Bryan Cole, Brendan Bomberry, Larson Sundown and Dhane Smith adding singles.

Missing from the Bellies’ lineup in Game 4 was defender Mike Messenger, who was given a gross misconduct in Game 3, which results in a two-game suspension.

Game 5 takes place on Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Queen’s Park Arena. Tickets are now on sale.

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