A big game from Alexis Buque and some refined finish in the offensive zone earned the New Westminster Salmonbellies another game, thanks to a 10-7 win over the Maple Ridge Burrards in Game 5 of their Western Lacrosse Association semifinal.
The 26-year-old netminder from Whitby, Ont. kicked out 44 shots, including 19 in the middle frame, to help put the freeze on the dangerous Burrards attack at Maple Ridge's Cam Neely Arena. At the other end, snipers Austin Shanks and Mitch Jones counted a string of clutch goals in the third period to stem a Maple Ridge rally.
With the win, New West pushes the best-of-seven series to Game Six on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) at Queen's Park Arena. The Burrards lead it 3-2.
"No question, it was (Buque's) best game by far. And we needed it," remarked New West coach Rory McDade. "Their goaltender (Frank Scigliano) has been unbelievable over there, and we needed a big game and he stepped up."
Midway through the middle frame, minutes after Logan Schuss buried an in-close shot to tie the game at 4-4, Buque brazenly brushed aside Ben McIntosh off a breakaway. It seemed to spark the team's confidence, as New West got late goals from Keegan Bal and Jones just 25 seconds apart to take a nice 6-4 cushion into the dressing room.
While Scigliano stopped Jordan McBride on a breakaway two minutes into the third period, he was unable to block Jones' shot from the right side at 4:29 that made it 7-4.
True to form, however, Maple Ridge didn't waver, closing the gap to 7-6 on tallies by Curtis Dickson and McIntosh with 13:22 remaining.
Austin Shanks gave New West an 8-6 advantage on a sharp shot that caught Scigliano off guard, but with 6:33 to play Jean Luc Chetner buried a breakaway to make it a one-goal showdown.
But Shanks got that one back, converting Jones' smooth set-up at the left crease to restore the two-goal lead.
While the Burrards continued to force the play, Mike Messenger corralled the ball and put it into the empty net with 57 seconds on the clock to complete the offence.
After Chetner's tally, Buque kicked out the remaining 12 shots to protect the lead.
"Unbelievable. He was by far our MVP," nodded all-star defender Brett Mydske. "If he plays like that we should be in good shape the rest of the way."
Jones finished with two goals and four assists, while Messenger netted a pair. Schuss ended up with a hat trick and six points on the night.
Maple Ridge got two goals from McIntosh.
At both ends of the floor New West played a well-rounded game, with few of the missed passes and dropped balls that piled up in Game 4's 10-9 loss on Tuesday.
While Scigliano had stymied the 'Bellies top guns for the previous three games, he was beat on a couple of tricky angle shots, with Shanks tallying three times on six balls on net.
And New West was able to respond successfully after a Maple Ridge surge, keeping the high-powered Burrards from going on a lethal run.
"Any time you can go on a run especially when the game's close it kind of gives our team a good boost. ... Hat's off to our offence. When ever (Maple Ridge) started getting close, we kept answering back and that's what we need to happen in these games," said Mydske.
"That's what I expected out of them. Every time we're in trouble, our backs' against the wall, our guys show up," added McDade. "I have 100-per cent confidence in this group that they're going to battle to a seventh game."
Of course, getting to that seventh game requires a repeat performance in Game 6.
"We're a desperate team and we have to think they're going to be despierate, too," said McDade. "They're not going to want to go seven, (but) we want to push it back here."
Mydske said playing at home should be a boost, but what's most important is coming out with the same intensity, and keeping at it until the final buzzer.
"I think we did a good job. The urgency all game, we didn't wait until the last five, 10 minutes to step our game up. We played like that for the full 60 minutes."
Game 6 is Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Queen's Park Arena. A seventh game, if necessary, would be played Sunday, 6 p.m. in Maple Ridge.