WLA 'Bellies unbeaten after six games

Penalties a concern, but New West penalty killing and goalie tandem the best in the Western Lacrosse Association

The New Westminster Salmonbellies continued their unbeaten march in the Western Lacrosse Association.

The senior A Salmonbellies staged a third-period rally to eke out a 9-8 win over the Burnaby Lakers at Queen’s Park Arena last Thursday. New West then held on in Maple Ridge to edge the Burrards 7-6 on Sunday.

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The back-to-back wins lifted the ’Bellies into the No. 1 spot nationally in the weekly LacrosseTalk poll.

Trailing Burnaby 7-4 heading into the final frame, New West tallied five straight goals before Jackson Decker got one back with just a second left in the league matchup.

“Tonight, everyone was working hard. We had to be,” Decker said after the game.

Playing without frontrunners Robert Church, Tyler Digby and Casey Jackson, Burnaby got solid outings from its two offensive lines, including Jason Jones, with two goals in a five-point night.

The two teams played it even until midway through the second period, when Jones sparked a three-goal mini run for Burnaby in the final three-plus minutes.

But all the hard work went for naught in the third, when Jimmy McBride started things off for New West with a goal off a screen from the right side. Patrick Miles closed the gap even further with a transition tally and then veteran Tyler Crompton caught everyone napping and scored off a trick play to knot the game at 7-7.

A minute later, first star Logan Schuss scored the go-ahead goal with his second of the game. Salmonbellie rookie and third star Luke Gillespie got the game winner, with his second goal of the night in the final minute on a harmless looking shot off a restart in play.

“It’s exciting. Every team has quality players and when someone’s missing (in the lineup), someone has to step up,” said Schuss. “It was time to get into it in the third. We’re a third-period team. It’s a testament to our conditioning. We like to close out the third.”

And close out they did, scoring five times on just 12 shots on Burnaby’s new goalie Tye Belanger.

Eric Penney scored his third win of the season in goal for New West, stopping 41 Laker shots and increasing his league-best save percentage to 0.891.

On Sunday, it was Alexis Buque’s turn to save the day, turning in a sparkling 48-save performance to earn his third win.

Brendan Ranford got the game winner at 14:25 of the middle period. Jordan McBride led all scorers with a hat trick.

Club president and Salmonbellies general manager Dan Richardson challenged the public to come out on Thursday’s and check out the top-ranked team in Canada.

Richardson said ticket prices haven’t gone up in 10 years and are the best entertainment bargain in town at $10, $7 and $5.

“And this year, we’re a damn good lacrosse team. It’s like a track meet out there,” Richardson said. “You can tell they’re playing for each other.”

New West hosts Langley at Queen’s Park on Thursday at 7:45 p.m.

The ’Bellies are in Coquitlam Saturday at 7 p.m.

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