Like the weather, you need to stick your head out of the window to check the temperature and guess which direction the prevailing wind – or momentum – is blowing.
For the New Westminster junior A Salmonbellies, the direction seems to change frequently.
The B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League squad enters this week’s trade deadline with the knowledge that they’ve got a lot of what it takes to compete with the best in the circuit. But they also can see evidence where the gap is significant.
Coming on the heels of being unceremoniously trounced 12-6 last Tuesday at Queen’s Park at the hands of defending Minto Cup champion Coquitlam Adanacs, New West reclaimed some of its momentum by edging PoCo 8-5 on Friday.
Although they never trailed, the ‘Bellies had to repel a Saint rally to improve to 10-5 on the junior A circuit – good for third place overall.
Erik Maas’ powerplay marker 13:15 into the middle frame bumped the ‘Bellies to a 6-2 lead. While PoCo sniped three straight tallies to get within one, the visitors silenced the comeback attempt with goals by Will Malcom and Jacob Patterson.
Malcom finished with a team-high three goals, while Lucas Greene and Patterson picked up a goal and two assists each. Rounding out the offence were recent acquisition Haden Hardy and Tre Leclaire, with Keegan Melenychuk turning aside 28 shots.
Whether it erased the memory of the previous decision, where Coquitlam continued to demonstrate its depth with a well-rounded victory.
New West was up for the challenge over the first 11 minutes, grabbing a 3-2 lead midway through the first period. But the Adanacs seized the moment and tied the score on a Philip Buque shot with 8:42 to play, then completely dominated the first 16 minutes of the second frame, counting eight straight goals en route to a 10-3 lead.
Although the ‘Bellies would inch closer, pulling within four goals with 1:24 left in the middle period, their offence was unable to generate anything over the final 20 minutes, resulting in the one-sided score.
The shots were fairly equal, 47-45 in Coquitlam’s favour.
Supplying the offence for New West were Austin Ducommun, Nikhal Dhandwor, Ben Stewart, Leclaire, Maas and Patterson.
It was a completely different scenario a few days earlier, when the host ’Bellies vanquished second place Victoria 11-4.
Considering the Shamrocks handed New West an 11-9 defeat just two weeks earlier, the resounding response can only be chalked up as a positive.
“Offensively we played really well and have been playing pretty well for the last while,” remarked New West coach Rich Catton after the win over Victoria. “We had a little bit of a hiccup against Port Coquitlam (a 9-8 win a week ago), but they’ve worked through it.”
Just 2-0 after 20 minutes, the game really opened up in the middle frame when Will Malcom counted his first of two on the night on a powerplay just 57 seconds into the second period. While Victoria would reply at the 5:08 mark, the ’Bellies stormed the visitor’s zone for the remainder of the frame, scoring six times. A couple of the goals came on transition, while the defence did a sterling job of limiting the areas that Victoria’s talented snipers could access.
The lead was 10-1 early in the third before Victoria notched their second of the night.
Eight players contributed in the goal scoring, led by Malcom’s two goals and three assists. Maas and Patterson finished with two goals apiece, while Drew Andre, Cam Garlin, Jake Stott, Jordan Trottier and Leclaire added singles.
Keegan Melenychuk would turn aside 34 shots in the win, while New West shooters fired 66 shots at the Shamrock net.
It was the team’s fourth straight win, and eighth in the past nine games. They currently sit third overall in the B.C. circuit, with a 9-5 record, just two points back of second-place Victoria.
New West consumated a deal with the Burnaby Lakers on Sunday that added more depth to the team’s arsenal.
The ’Bellies received their piece of an earlier swap with the Lakers in the form of Sam La Roue, the first overall pick in the 2019 midget draft. La Roue, a native of Surrey, was the return for a trade earlier in the weekend that sent Shane Carey and future considerations north.
In his rookie junior season, LaRoue has tallied 13 goals and 25 assists over 15 games, including the game-winning goal in Burnaby’s come-from-behind 13-10 win over Delta days earlier.
Coupled with the acquisition of Hayden Hardy last week, as well as the return of defender and fourth-year vet Emmett Donahoe, the lineup has been shaped with an eye on a lengthy playoff run.
Catton says the moves will boost the club’s chances down the road.
“The management does a good job in trades and player personnel moves,” he noted. “It’s our job as coaches to integrate newcomers into the lineup, help them learn the system and make some tough (roster) decisions on utilizing what we have. With the numbers we have it makes things tougher, we have to sit down with players and talk about deployment, roles and what the plan is.”
New West’s next test comes Tuesday against Burnaby (8 p.m.) at Queen’s Park Arena.