It was difficult finding fault with New Westminster’s 9-2 win over Nanaimo on Thursday.
The senior A Salmonbellies played a near-textbook match against the visiting Timbermen, getting stellar goalkeeping from first star Alexis Buque and aggressive defence led by game stars Shane Bennett and Ian Hawksbee.
New West also ran the floor with a flair on transition and scored with a high shot percentage that eventually solved the keeping of T-Men keeper Zak Boychuk, who blanked the ’Bellies in the opening 20 minutes.
Richard Lachlan got the Salmonbellies started with his sixth goal this season.
Logan Schuss then put the ’Bellies into the lead for good on a brilliant unassisted goal off a turnover in the offensive zone, scoring on his wrong hand.
Minutes later, Sean Robinson scored what proved to be the game-winning goal from the left crease.
Captain Curtis Hodgson capped New West’s unanswered four-goal period with a solo score on transition.
New West also killed off a five-minute penalty to close out the second period without any damage to the scoreline.
“We still have stuff to improve on, but our young guys are flying, which is nice,” said veteran Tyler Crompton, who opened the final period, muscling his way up floor to score on a solo break that was all heart.
“We have a long way to go,” said Crompton, who went to three earlier Mann Cup finals with the Salmonbellies. “Everyone will keep getting better. But as long as we’re getting better, I like where we’re at.”
Schuss led New West with two goals and two assists. Keegan Bal also had a four-point outing.
Buque, who dazzled in the ’Bellies cage, sparkled with a 0.946 save percentage, including a hugely acrobatic second save off Cayle Ratcliff at the end of the second period.
Crompton went as far as to compare this year’s team to the Salmonbellies’ glory teams of 2009 and ’10.
“In my eight years, this is one of the closest units,” he said. “We’re the tightest we’ve ever been. We have more depth, no matter who’s on the floor.”
New Westminster hosts the Burnaby Lakers at Queen’s Park Arena on Thursday. Game starts at 7:45 p.m.