Up one goal after 20 minutes, the Langley Junior Thunder surrendered seven second-period goals, falling 13-8 to the Victoria Junior Shamrocks.
Langley was in Victoria on Saturday at the Q Centre, suffering their first loss of the BC Junior A Lacrosse League season, as they know sit with a 4-1 record. Victoria improved to 2-2 with the victory.
After a back-and-forth first period, the Shamrocks seized control with a strong middle frame, outscoring Langley 7-3 in the period.
Nathaniel Kozevnikov continued his strong start to the season for Langley with another three goals and five points. He continues to lead the league in both goals (18) and points (27) through the early part of the season.
Kyle Nichols and Connor Watson had a goal and three assists apiece while Christian Bosa (three assists) and Ryan Martel (one goal, two assists) also had three-point games. Drew Kask (one goal, one assist) and Nathan McKeigan (one goal) rounded out the scoring for Langley.
Victoria was led by six points apiece form Brayden Brown (four goals, two assists) and Zach Manns (two goals, four assists) while Casey Wilson (one goal, four assists), Ben Preston (two goals, two assists), Denton MacDonald (two goals, two assists), Patrick Dodds (one goal, three assists) and Kyle Pepper (one goal, two assists) also had multi-point games.
Braeden Washington stopped 34 of 47 shots in goal as Langley was outshot 47-39. Cameron Dunkerley stopped 31 shots for Victoria.
The loss comes after a promising start to the season that saw the Thunder defeat the Port Coquitlam Saints on the Thursday before the Victoria trip.
In that game, Kozevnikov factored into half his team’s goals, scoring five times and setting up three others, as the Thunder improved to 4-0 thanks to a 16-10 victory at Langley Events Centre against the visiting Saints, who fell to 1-4 with the defeat.
Port Coquitlam scored two of the first three goals of the game but Kozevnikov scored the next four – all at even strength – and the Thunder were off and running, posting their highest goal total of the young season.
Langley led 5-3 after one period and 9-6 after two before erupting for seven goals in the final 20 minutes. And while Kozevnikov was held to just one goal over the final 40 minutes, the Thunder’s offensive arsenal was on full display with Nathan McKeigan striking for four goals while Connor Watson and Matthew Abbott tallied twice apiece. Watson also had two assists for the four-point game, a total matched by Ryan Martel (one goal, three assists).
Nick Scott and Chase Moore rounded out Langley’s offensive attack with a goal apiece.
“Our offence is just clicking right now. Everyone is buying in and we are getting good looks and everything is going our way right now,” Kozevnikov offered after the game. “We have tons of weapons out there, so it is never just one guy. If one guy gets hot, you keep going to him until they shut him down and dump it to the next guy.”
With a league-leading 15 goals (he also leads in points with 22), Kozevnikov is almost half-way to last season’s career-high of 32 goals scored in 21 games.
“When he drives hard to the net or through the middle and uses his size and strength, he does really well,” explained Langley assistant coach Adam Smith. “So far this season, he has stayed true to his game and he is playing fantastic.”
Smith liked how the offence moved the ball in Thursday’s victory. The only blemish on his team’s game was their penalty kill and the fact they took a dozen penalties (three of which were coincidental minors) and allowed four power-play goals. Langley’s power play scored three times with the man advantage.
Torin Van Rheenan made 45 saves in the victory as his team was outshot 55-39.
The Saints were led by two goals apiece from Ryan Johansen, Jacob Dunbar and Daytin Vidovich.
The Thunder are back in action on Thursday (May 16) when they host the Burnaby Junior Lakers at Langley Events Centre. Game time is 7:30 p.m.