The New Westminster Salmonbellies will enter Thursday's Game 5 in Maple Ridge with urgency as their guide, after the visiting Maple Ridge Burrards eked out a thrilling 10-9 decision Tuesday at Queen's Park Arena.
With overtime looming and mere seconds on the clock, Dane Dobbie fired a high shot from nearly 20-feet out that caught the top corner to give the visitors the victory and a 3-1 series lead in the Western Lacrosse Association semifinal.
The 'Bellies head to Maple Ridge on Thursday (7:30 p.m.) with their season on the line.
“Two shots away from being up but that’s the way it is,” remarked New West coach Rory McDade, summing up both Game 3's double-overtime loss and Game 4. “You have to find a way to get the job done and (the Burrards) have the last two games.
“We’ve fought back all year, any time we’ve been down. I have no question about my team, they’re not going to quit and we’re going to battle.”
It was exactly that on Tuesday, as the home team found itself playing a game of pursuit five minutes after Austin Shanks gave New West a quick lead.
Maple Ridge turned a 2-2 game into a 6-2 lead early in the second period, but the ‘Bellies strung together a run of their own to get within a goal before the third – including a classic one-man effort by Brandon Goodwin. The New West native spun off a Burrard check along the right boards and charged the crease, scoring on a low shot that beat netminder Frank Scigliano.
A minute later, Kevin Crowley, back in the lineup after missing the past two games, cashed in one of the team’s four powerplay tallies on the night to make it a one-goal game.
The Burrards, however, came out and restored its three-goal advantage on markers by Dobbie and Ben McIntosh. His fourth of the game saw Dobbie slide into the low slot with two checkers at his side and fire off a behind-the-back shot that fooled New West netminder Alexis Buque.
Refusing to give way, the home team closed the gap again, on tallies by Shanks and Mitch Jones, but Dan Taylor made it 9-7 for Maple Ridge with 3:49 to play in the third.
Showing resolve and patience despite a shortage of time, New West narrowed the gap when Logan Schuss’s shot from the slot went bar-down off the crossbar on a late powerplay. After pulling Buque with 1:11 to play, New West got a big stop by backup Neil Tyacke that immediately spun off into a race into the Burrards’ zone.
Transition player Darryl Robertson corralled a high bouncing ball at full speed and carried it to the crease to bury the game-tying goal with just 18 seconds left in regulation.
It appeared that for a second straight game the two teams would test their fortunes in overtime. But after Maple Ridge won possession off the faceoff they called a timeout with 11 seconds on the clock, setting the stage for Dobbie’s fifth of the night and 11th of the series. It would send the Queen’s Park faithful home shocked and disappointed.
“(Teammate) Ryan Keenan battles for five seconds trying to get me open from (Brett) Mydske there and gets me over top. It’s kind of pick your poison, and I decided to shoot it, thankfully and luckily it hit the back of the net with two seconds to go,” Dobbie said of the winner.
Dobbie finished with five goals off a game-high 14 shots, while McIntosh registered a hat trick
New West got two goals and four assists from Mitch Jones, while Shanks also contributed a pair of markers, giving him a league-best 12 over five games. Jason Jones also tallied, while Robertson finished with a goal and two assists.
Scigliano once again backstopped the win, making 45 saves, including numerous while shorthanded.
“I thought we kind of got the short end of the stick early, but a lot of times those things even out,” McDade said. “We didn’t finish our chances enough and I thought Frankie played well in net. Especially on the powerplays, I felt he made some big saves. We have to convert those.”
As to stopping Dobbie, who is second in playoff goals behind Shanks, that is a challenge everyone on the floor faces, noted McDade.
“(Dobbie) is one of the best players in the game. It’s tough to contain him and he’s shown that all series. He competes hard and he finds a way to score, different ways to score. We have to do a better job on him.”
Facing elimination, the ‘Bellies will continue to take an all-hands-on-deck approach in looking to extend the series to a sixth game (which if necessary, would be played Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Queen’s Park Arena).
“I’ve always said that with this team this year we’ve had lots of adversity and we’ve always stuck together,” noted captain Curtis Hodgson. “We just have to trust the process. In the playoffs different guys have stepped up and given us a chance to win, (but) it’s just been one or two little things that we need to improve on each game to make sure we’re on the high-end of the score.”
“I have zero question in my team’s battle level, their compete level. They have brought it all year and I expect the same (Thursday). … Any time you’re down 3-1 we’re going to make it tough on (Maple Ridge). Their goal is to win the series so we’re going into Game 5 to win,” said the coach.
From Dobbie’s vantage point, the momentum from winning the past three games won’t be much of a factor as the ‘Bellies fight for their playoff lives.
“To win the fourth game of the series is always the toughest. Everybody knows that,” remarked the Calgary Roughnecks all-star. “We know (New West) is going to come out with their best. We know we’re going to see their best and it’s important that we match it or be better. It’s very important to get back home and come out with a good start.”
FOOTNOTES: Dobbie, who was one of Maple Ridge’s deadline rental acquisitions, wore a second hat while playing for Langley and then Maple Ridge. He took on the head coaching role with the Langley junior A Thunder and came within two wins of qualifying for the post-season.
As competitive as he is on the floor, the Elora, Ont. native is equally driven behind the bench.
“I love coaching. It was a frustrating season to be honest and the kids deserve better. I had a fantastic time, it’s always a fun time standing behind the bench coaching. Giving back, yeah, but I just enjoy doing it. I love being around the game,” said Dobbie. The team finished with a 12-9-0 record.
As hot a stick as he’s holding now, Dobbie said he’s benefitting from playing with some great finishers. He doesn’t feel the pressure to produce, but is grateful when it all comes together.
“It’s one of those games where stuff starts going your way. Next game it could be (Curtis) Dickson, next game it could be Ben (McIntosh), next game it could be Keenan,” said Dobbie. “Our offence is pretty loaded right now, and you want to get the ball to the guy who has the hot stick, and tonight, thankfully, it was me. As long as we come out with a win that’s all that really matters.”
One of the elder statesmen around the WLA, Hodgson has seen similar situations where his New West squad has been in a tight spot. He’s confident that their best effort will be on display come Thursday at the Cam Neely Arena.
“We’ve got a ton of character in this dressing room and a ton of resolve. We’ve been fighting through a lot since halfway in the season, but we have stuck together and had all kinds of stuff thrown at us. I think we’ll just keep trusting the process, keep going to work and just go at this one step at a time,” said Hodgson.
He points out that the challenge on defence isn’t just Dobbie, but an array of offensive talents on the Burrards. Dickson, a former junior Salmonbellie who was a member of Peterborough when New West last challenged for the Mann Cup in 2017, is always capable of having a break-out game, while McIntosh, Wes Berg and Riley Loewen are all dangerous around the net.
“They have a very deep team of great players. You never try and say you’re going to shut out those guys, you just have to try and contain them, hang around and give us a chance to win the game,” said Hodgson. “Unfortunately, we’ve come up a bit short in the last two (games) so we need to learn from it, make some tweaks and make sure the next game is a different result.”