Playoff spot? Check.
Western Lacrosse Association championship? Check.
Mann Cup? To be determined.
Two goals are done and all that remains to be seen is if the Langley Thunder can complete their checklist by bringing home the ultimate prize for Canadian senior A men’s lacrosse teams: the Mann Cup.
Thunder are up against the three-time defending Mann Cup champion Peterborough Lakers. The Lakers claimed their record 27th Major Series Lacrosse title with a six-game victory over the Six Nations Chiefs while Langley was a five-game winner in the WLA Finals over the Nanaimo Timbermen.
The Lakers will host the best-of-seven Mann Cup championship at the Memorial Centre with game 1 set for Friday, Sept 9. at 5 p.m. B.C. time.
The next three games are scehduled for Sept., 10, 12 and 13. If necessary, games five through seven are scheduled for September 14, 16 and 17 and all are being streamed for free on the Major Series Lacrosse YouTube channel.
This will mark the second-ever meeting between in the Mann Cup between the two teams as back in 2012, the host Lakers dropped the first two games before winning four straight to defeat Langley in six games.
“It is going to be intense. I have been in three Mann Cups – this is going to be my fourth – so I know what it’s all about. Having (played in Peterborough) in 2018, getting swept with Maple Ridge, that was a tough go, so I know it is a tough barn to play in; it is going to be a packed house and those are knowledgeable and passionate fans. (But) we are looking forward to the challenge,” said the Thunder’s Curtis Dickson, who was on the Peterborough team in 2015 and 2017, winning the Mann Cup in the latter try.
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“On paper, the whole league knew we had some strong offensive players. Our defence was young and obviously Frankie (Scigliano) is a world-class goalie,” said Thunder coach Rod Jensen. “People (thought) that we are just going to walk in and clean the league out; we had our struggles but towards the end of the season, we started pulling it together … and started making things happen and it worked out for us.”
The team opened with three wins in their first four games but then stumbled with three consecutive losses to fall to 3-4. The team strung together another three wins in four games to get their record to 6-5 before suffering a huge loss in New Westminster, which left them with an 8-6 record and a tough closing stretch, needing a minimum of three wins in their last four games to qualify as the Salmonbellies held the tiebreaker should they finish with identical records.
What followed was two of the team’s most impressive wins of the season as they held the playoff-bound Coquitlam Adanacs to a single goal in a 9-1 home win and then a gritty 13-12 win in Victoria over the Shamrocks. That latter game saw the Thunder have six call-up players in the line-up, goaltender Steve Fryer made just his second start of the season and back-stopped the team with a 48-save performance against the league’s top offence.
Jensen said that win energized the team as they won twice more – 14-8 in Burnaby and 11-8 at home to Victoria – to finish 4-0 and not only earn a playoff a spot, but also first place overall for the WLA playoffs.
Langley then eliminated the Shamrocks in six games in the opening round and defeated the Nanaimo Timbermen in five games to win the WLA title for the first time since 2012, earning a plane trip to Peterborough to face the Lakers.
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