Crowley commits to helping 'Bellies' Mann Cup cause

Time and time again, Kevin Crowley has proven to be a very determined hometown boy.

For boxla fans on the West Coast, seeing him play summer lacrosse for anyone but his New Westminster Salmonbellies just wouldn’t feel right.

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The ‘Bellies announced this week that the 30-year-old sniper, nicknamed 'The Big Cat', has committed to coming back to New West for this coming Western Lacrosse Association season, with eyes on leading a strong Mann Cup charge.

“We’ve been working on it for a couple of months, but we’re extremely happy to have Kevin back,” remarked New West general manager Dan Richardson. “I was confident that it would happen, we’ve kept the lines of communication open since 2017 (when Crowley last played in New West). He’s a New West kid, the Mann Cup is here and he sees what we’re putting together and wants to be a part of it.”

That hometown connection has regularly been prominent in Crowley’s lacrosse travels.

It’s true in the National Lacrosse League, where his pro box lacrosse career got a bit of a boost in January when the six-foot-four righthander was dealt from New England to his adopted home of Philadelphia for a couple of first round draft picks.

The powerhouse forward was welcomed back by Wings faithful (New England relocated from the City of Brotherly Love in 2015) who haven’t had a lot to cheer about following a 4-14 expansion team. The right-sided shooter sits 13th in league scoring with 35 goals and 47 assists over 14 games.

As Richardson points out, getting another shot at a national championship is a major driving force for Crowley.

“He feels there is some unfinished business, as do we,” said Richardson, reflecting on the 2017 loss to Peterborough in the Mann Cup final at Queen’s Park. “New West is a big part of him and he wants to be part of this team, to bring back a title.”

In 2017, the power forward racked up eight goals and 19 assists over seven regular season games, then struck for 18 goals and 24 assists over 10 playoff games en route to the Mann Cup final. In the series against Peterborough, Crowley was double-teamed by the opposing defence but still tallied 14 times and set up 18 others in a series that lasted six games, with the Ontario champions exiting Queen’s Park with the prized trophy.

This summer’s plans were stalled earlier this month when the outdoor pro Major League Lacrosse put his Charlotte Hounds team on hiatus for the coming season. It meant the one-time No. 1 overall pick in both the NLL and MLL leagues had to find a new team. No problem from someone who has 135 goals and 69 assists over 78 MLL games.

Crowley was in town a couple of weeks ago with the Wings. The visiting Philly team were unable to handle Richardson’s Vancouver Warriors, falling 19-12, with Crowley accounting for three goals and two assists in the loss.

Richardson said Crowley’s agreement with his new MLL team won’t affect his availability with the ‘Bellies – he is slated to play four regular season games, beginning in July, and be available for all playoff games.

“With the moves we’ve made we feel we’ve addressed a lot of our needs and have, on paper, a team that will be (Mann Cup) ready,” added Richardson, who earlier acquired or signed Keegan Bal, Brandon Ranford, Justin Salt and Jeff Henrick. “But it doesn’t matter what it looks like on paper, and the players and coaches are all focused on making sure we can get the results.

“Playoffs, that’s all we care about. We saw that last year, when we peaked too early and were swept in the playoffs (by Maple Ridge), and like how Tampa Bay (in the NHL) are out of the playoffs. We’re focused on what’s most important.”

The WLA launches the 2019 season on May 23 when the Langley Thunder visit Queen’s Park Arena.

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