The New Westminster Salmonbellies' run for the Mann Cup ran into a wall Saturday at Queen's Park Arena.
That wall was Maple Ridge's Frank Scigliano, and the end result was a season-ending 11-7 loss in Game 6 of the Western Lacrosse Association semifinals.
Sixty-two shots and going four-for-six on the powerplay all sound like keys to a successful night, but Scigliano and the Burrards defence were the perfect complement to an offence that charged out of the gate to start the game with a 3-0 lead by the nine minute mark.
Ahead 5-1, Maple Ridge rarely sagged and were buoyed by huge stops from Scigliano, including an early penalty shot save off of Justin Salt with the visitors nursing a 1-0 advantage.
"They're a great team so we knew it was going to be a battle," said Logan Schuss. "We had to stop their runs, we battled all the way to the end but we just came up short. They're a great team, from goalie on out. ... (Scigliano) is a great goalie. I think he's one of the best in the world right now. When you have good defence in front of you and a great goaltender it's going to be tough."
Burnaby native Riley Loewen put Maple Ridge in the driver's seat seven minutes into the contest, and after Scigliano stopped Salt on a rare penalty shot three minutes later, momentum swung in the visitor's direction. Tallies by Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbe 40 seconds apart made it 3-0 for the Burrards.
Austin Shanks got the 'Bellies on the board at 12:20 of the first frame, but Wes Berg restored Maple Ridge's three-goal lead, and was followed by import Ryan Keenan with a dart from the high slot. Late in the period Mitch Jones cut the deficit back to three for New West as part of a 22-16 shot advantage for the home side.
In the second period, Jones struck again on the powerplay to get New West to within two, but another four-minute man advantage saw the 'Bellies hit two posts and go on a 10-0 shot run, only to come up empty handed. When Patrick O'Meara slipped past a fallen New West defender and buried an in-close shot past netminder Alexis Buque to make it 6-3, the Burrards' wave machine was back up and running.
The visitors would score four more times before the end of the period, including Berg's second of the night off a rebound.
Staring at a 10-4 deficit and the possible end to their season, New West made a valiant attempt to push itself back into the picture, out-shooting Maple Ridge 21-12 over the final 20 minutes, but the gap proved too huge.
"That was one of the things we talked about, getting started early," Burrards coach Rob Williams said. "The offence came together tonight and did what they do. The defence adjusted to some things and I think well, to some things. Shanks has been on-fire the whole series and tonight he was held to one and we did a good job on him. It came together tonight and hopefully we can carry it over to the next series."
The 'Bellies got three goals and five points from Jones, while Jordan McBride netted a pair of markers. Shanks, a standout all season, chipped in a goal and two assists while under intense scrutiny from Maple Ridge's defence.
New West was playing with Kevin Crowley, who was fulfilling a commitment with his pro field team but was scheduled to return in time for a Game 7 on Sunday. Unfortunately that's no longer necessary.
"(Maple Ridge) is very highly skilled, and I felt our defence played well," remarked New West general manager/president Dan Richardson. |Our offence was a little challenged and wasn't getting inside tonight as much as we'd like them. Scigliano is going to make most of those saves from outside.
"(Crowley) played in Dallas today but he'd be back for (Game 7). We knew that at the beginning of the year, but you just hope you can get it to seven and him being back in the lineup would make up that difference but it didn't happen."
The Burrards got a hat trick from New West nemesis Curtis Dickson and two-each from Berg and Dobbie.
"I think every game both teams came to play but it's just one of those things were a goalie gets hot or a couple of sticks get hot," Schuss added. "You could see them go on a couple goal swings, and especially in the WLA playoffs you can't have those. Tonight they had a great game plan and they executed. I thought we had a great game plan, we got the shots on net but it just didn't fall for us."
Between New West's two wins -- a powerful 14-4 statement in Game 1 in Maple Ridge, and Thursday's must-win 10-7 decision, again in the Valley -- the series really hinged on two games where the last shot won. The Burrards rebounded and beat New West 12-8 in Game 2, then squeaked out a 12-11 double-overtime victory in Game 3, followed by a heart-breaking 10-9 slap that turned on a Dobbie tally with two seconds left in regulation.
That both of those narrow decisions went against New West was a big part of the final picture, Richardson said.
"We still believe in our squad, but we lost two games by one goal -- one in 27 minutes of overtime -- on the last shot on both nights. If we'd gotten a bounce one of those nights we could have been up. We've got broad shoulders and we can accept that," he said.
For Williams, surviving New West's shooting gallery and having a core of elite, pro-level snipers rise to the occasion was a perfect primer for their next challenge, as they face Victoria in a best-of-seven final series. The winner will host the Mann Cup series against Ontario's best team.
We got some big efforts from the back end, they never quit. And after that first game, they could have packed the tent but they pulled it back together," said Williams, who serves as an assistant coach with the National Lacrosse League's Calgary Roughnecks during the winter season.
"We needed it, because who ever moves on is up against it -- whether it's Peterborough or Six Nations, or Oakville. They are all fantastic teams and we have to be readly for them. We found out last year -- we walked through the playoffs 8-1, went back to Peterborough and got it handed to us. This is good for us, learning and moving forward."
FISH NOTES: Jones and Shanks finished for first for first round scoring lead, with 31 points each. Jones racked up 14 goals and 17 assists over six games, while Shanks, a Whitby import, netted a league-best 16 goals. Maple Ridge's top shooter, Dobbie, posted 14 goals and 26 points. Scigliano faced a whopping 276 shots -- 51 more than Buque over the six games, and finished with a .841 save percentage.
While New West missed Crowley for three games, Maple Ridge did not have former NLL MVP Jeff Shattler in uniform at all in the first round. The eastern import, who was acquired in a pre-season trade that saw the Burrards flip their 2019 first over draft pick Marshal King back to his Island home, is expected to join them for the coming series, which is slated to start Aug. 16 in Victoria.