The New Westminster Salmonbellies will be battling against the Six Nations Chiefs in the 2023 Mann Cup.
The Bellies and the Langley Thunder faced off in Game 7 of the Western Lacrosse Association Sr. 'A' final at Queen’s Park Arena Tuesday night (Aug. 29).
When the final buzzer sounded, the Bellies had defeated the Thunder 12-7 before a sold-out crowd of more than 3,300 fans.
"It was just a great turnout, and I thought the crowd really helped us," head coach Rory McDade told the Record after the game. "The guys were really excited."
To few fans' surprise, the top two teams in the Western Lacrosse Association's regular season took the series to seven games.
The Thunder struck first, winning the opener 11-9 at Queen’s Park Arena, but New West bounced back to defeat Langley 13-8 in Game 2. The Bellies took a 2-1 series lead after an exciting 11-10 win in double overtime Game 3.
But the Thunder tied up the series with a 6-5 overtime win in Game 4 and took a 3-2 series lead with a 6-4 win in Game 5. Facing elimination, New West headed to the Langley Events Centre for Game 6, where the Bellies won 9-6 – and set the stage for Tuesday’s Game 7 at Queen’s Park Arena.
"You know, coming back from three games to two, the guys just grind it, right?" McDade said. "That's kind of our motto for last three months: grinding it out."
McDade said the Bellies’ defence played great and the team had "big performances" from goalie Zach Higgins, who was named the playoff’s MVP.
"Great job for him; a big leader for us," McDade said. "Will Malcom was amazing; just dominating out there."
Malcom, who had four goals and three assists In Game 7, was the game’s first star. Higgins, who made 40 saves on 47 shots was the second star and Dane Dobbie of the Thunder, who put four goals behind Higgins, was the game’s third star.
The Salmonbellies started the 2023 season with one goal in mind: to win the club’s 25th Mann Cup.
"We are already talking. The first goal is done, and now we move on to the next one," McDade said.
"Six Nations is an unbelievable team. So, preparation starts tonight."
New Westminster last competed for a Mann Cup in 2017, losing four games to two to the Peterborough Lakers.
Nine years earlier, in 2009, the Bellies’ bid for a Mann Cup was quashed in a heartbreaking loss against the Bramptom Excelsiors in Game 7 at Queen's Park Arena.
New Westminster's most recent Mann Cup came in 1991, when the Salmonbellies swept the Brooklin Redmen and hoisted the prestigious trophy at Queen's Park Arena.
The Mann Cup, which is housed year-round in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in Anvil Centre, is awarded annually to Canada's senior men's box lacrosse champions.
The Western Lacrosse Association champion and the Major Series Lacrosse champion competed in a best-of-seven series, with eastern and western teams alternating as hosts of the championship.
The Mann Cup will be played at Queen’s Park Arena starting in September. More details to come.
McDade said competing in the Mann Cup is going to be an amazing experience for the team and an opportunity to be part of the club's history.
"We get a chance to write our own story," he said.