The New Westminster Salmonbellies toppled the Nanaimo Timbermen 12-7 to take over top spot in the Western Lacrosse Association.
The win improved the senior A Salmonbellies’ record to a perfect 3-0 and vaulted the New West club to fourth place in the national rankings overnight.
While some WLA followers raised their eyebrows at the news, head coach Steve Goodwin is not surprised.
“I believe we have the ability to play every team in this league at a high level,” Goodwin said. “I would be very disappointed if we were not 3-0.”
Goodwin points to last season as evidence of how much the club has improved.
“We finished last season with a 7-2 record. … We’re now10-2 in our last 12 games. I think we are better,” he added.
Richard Lachlan opened the scoring for the visiting ’Bellies, but it took a New West rally, including an unassisted shorthanded marker by first-round draft pick Luke Gillespie, later in the period to pull even with the host T-Men.
Jordan McBride put the Salmonbellies in the lead for good early in the middle period, scoring a pair one minute apart in the opening two minutes of play.
Ian Hawksbee scored his first of the season from rookie Justin Goodwin to pad a four-point cushion for New West at the midway mark of the game.
Keegan Bal and Patrick Miles put the game on ice in the third period for the ’Bellies, scoring a goal apiece, including a shorty by the former Brampton Excelsior junior.
Alexis Buque got his first start for New West and didn’t disappoint, making 32 saves and posting a solid 0.821 save percentage.
Salmonbellie shooters made Zak Boychuk and Peter Dubenski look mortal, firing 46 shots at the Nanaimo duo.
Logan Schuss led Salmonbellies with a seven-point night, including his fourth goal of the campaign.
Schuss currently shares the lead in total assists in the WLA and is second in points, with 14, while also topping all players with two first star honours.
Cayle Ratcliff had four goals for Nanaimo.
Last week, New Westminster battered Coquitlam 12-2 in their home opener last Thursday, outscoring the hapless A’s 10-1 in the final two periods.
Eric Penney was brilliant in his second WLA start, stopping 32 shots while sporting a torrid 0.941 save percentage.
Colton Clark, Schuss and Lachlan all posted hat tricks for the ’Bellies.
“We’re playing great as a team right now,” said Penney after Thursday’s win over Coquitlam. “Our defence is making it easy for me. Just being able to see the ball and have a clear view to the shot – they’ve been doing that for me.”
To date, New West is averaging fewer than five goals per game, with both Penney and Buque putting up impressive numbers.
It all augers well for a defence-first coach like Goodwin, who says, the ’Bellies may have the best one-two punch in the league in goal.
With Reid Reinholdt, Jeff Cornwall and Cliff Smith still yet to report, it’s no wonder Goodwin is excited.
So is Penney.
“You just got to take (the good luck) and run with it. If the offence puts up goals like they are, it will make my job more comfortable,” Penney said.
New West will get a second look at the T-Men on Thursday, when Nanaimo makes a return trip to Queen’s Park for an early season rematch between the league’s top two clubs. Game time is 7:45 p.m.