It’s a time of reckoning for the New Westminster Salmonbellies following back-to-back losses in the Western Lacrosse Association.
The first-place Salmonbellies were unceremoniously knocked from the ranks of the undefeated, first by the fifth-place Langley Thunder 8-6 at home Thursday and then 9-4 on Saturday by the Coquitlam Adanacs.
The senior A ’Bellies suffered its first defeat of the season before a home crowd at Queen’s Park and a Langley club that was stacked with a host of former New West juniors, who likely had something to prove.
Third overall pick in this year’s junior draft, New West’s Anthony Malcom, came out with stick blazing, opening the scoring at the two-minute mark with an unassisted marker – the first of three for the game’s second star.
Former junior Salmonbellie goalie Rocky Bowman earned the game’s first star and got his first WLA win in his first career senior start, stopping 44 shots in the Langley cage, while piling up a sparkling 0.880 save percentage against the New West club.
But Malcom and Bowman were not alone in getting back at their old club.
Former Salmonbellie junior Kyle Belton also registered a couple of helpers, while Alex Turner had a goal and one assist and Jakob Doucet added an empty-netter for the Thunder.
Langley held a 7-2 advantage after 40 minutes before New West made the score respectable with four in the final frame.
Alexis Buque took the loss despite a 38-save outing.
In Coquitlam, it was more of the same, with the home club scoring first and holding an advantage for the remainder of the game save for a short-lived game-tying marker by Richard Lachlan late in the first period.
“The bottom line is we haven’t played well enough,” said Salmonbellies captain Curtis Hodgson after Saturday’s loss in Coquitlam. “We’re getting away from some of our fundamentals and teams are getting up for us. Next Friday we play Victoria.”
That weekend meeting, including a game in Nanaimo to follow on the Saturday, could be a bellwether for the former unbeaten ’Bellies. The following home game will see a rematch with the Shamrocks at Queen’s Park Arena on July 2.
Last season at this time, New West’s record was just 2-7, but with its star on the rise. The Salmonbellies are currently 6-2 with the next two weeks scheduled with back-to-back games in a two-day period.
Three of New Westminster’s four goals came on the power play, with the ’Bellies only even-strength goal coming off of an unassisted turnover at midfloor that Colton Clark took to the bank with a transition break.
Coquitlam got two goals apiece from unheralded runners Brian Gillis, Vincent Ricci and Ryan Johnson. First overall draft pick in 2014, Tyler Garrison had a four-point outing in his first game with the A’s this season.
Adam Shute claimed the game’s first star with a stellar outing in the Coquitlam cage, stopping 50 shots with a 0.926 save percentage.
Buque came on in relief of starter Eric Penney at the five-minute mark of the middle period and allowed just two goals in 35 minutes work.
“Coquitlam placed a total team game,” said Hodgson. “We outchanced them tonight, but it’s all about putting it all together. As a team we got to respond, regroup and re-attack. That’s all we can do.”
The Salmonbellies are on Vancouver Island for a two-game set against Victoria and Nanaimo this weekend.