The New Westminster Salmonbellies proved built for endurance, putting a four-goal deficit in the rearview mirror en route to a 13-11 victory Sunday over the Victoria Shamrocks at Queen's Park Arena. The win clinched the club its first Western Lacrosse Association playoff title since 2010.
Having locked up a 4-1 series decision New West now gets to host the Mann Cup, which begins Sept. 8 in New West.
In a game of halves, the visiting Shamrocks rode a crest of opportunities over the first 30 minutes, to take a 7-3 by the eight-minute mark of the second period.
The Salmonbellies responded with force, counting five straight goals, including tallies by Logan Schuss, Mike Messenger and Kevin Crowley in a span of 1:50, before the Islanders tied it late in the middle frame. The two teams then began trading the lead, with the 'Rocks getting ahead 11-10 with 9:57 left in the third on a goal from Josh Fagan.
But New West continued to show that they had more in the tank, counting the equalizer with 4:32 to play off the stick of Mitch Jones. Three minutes later, Crowley walked the goal line from the left side and tucked a tight angle shot under the 'Rocks Aaron Bold to give the home team a 12-11 lead. Messenger counted his second of the night with 39 seconds left on the clock into an empty net.
Alexis Buque turned back 38 shots en route to earning the championship final's Most Valuable Player award.
"For me, when I think of MVP I think of this team. I couldn't do it without them," said Buque. "I only got one segment and my defence closed the door and made sure I could see the ball. Without them, this whole team is MVP. It's not me, it's a unit and I couldn't have done it without these guys. These guys are my family and I need them now more than ever (because) we want four more (wins)."
More to come....