Salmonbellies in Lakers sights

New Westminster presents an interesting challenge for the Burnaby Lakers.

This coming week, the senior A Lakers meet the Salmonbellies in a home-and-home match up that will determine the season series winner, but more importantly, might well reveal the real possibilities for the Burnaby club in the Western Lacrosse Association this season.

Burnaby earned a share of first place with the Victoria Shamrocks in the seven-team loop with a 9-5 victory over the Coquitlam Adanacs last week. The win was the Lakers third straight and fourth game without a loss.

The Lakers would dearly love to take both contests against the Salmonbellies over the next week, which could set themselves up with a very real shot as a team to beat this season.  

Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, if Burnaby is able to improve its record to 9-3-1 with back-to-back wins over the 'Bellies, the next three games, involving Maple Ridge and a home-and-home double a week apart with the Shamrocks, could be mammoth in terms of who might well finish in first place.

But getting by the Salmonbellies, whether they are at their best or not, is never a foregone conclusion for the Lakers.

In the last four WLA seasons, Burnaby has picked up just three wins in its past 12 regular-season meetings against New West and its last season-series victory over the Salmonbellies came still later in 2012.

Although New West is in a solid fourth place situation with a 5-4-1 record at the midway mark of the season, its has not yet lived up to its preseason hype and its offensive output has not yet matched its prowess in the back end.

In fact, Salmonbellie shooters are no where to be found in the top 10 of WLA scorers, In comparison, five Lakers are in that number, including Eli McLaughlin, who is second overall with 16 goals and 39 total points.

Robert Church, Jason Jones, Dane Stevens and rookie Cam Milligan, all with 11 goals apiece or better, make up the other four Lakers in the top 10.

But wins are not usually guaranteed from the profits of the front end.

The next two games will highlight arguably the top two defensive clubs.

New West is averaging an even eight goals against this season, while Burnaby has given up an average of only 8.1 goals against.

Individually, Salmonbellie Alexis Buque leads all goalies with a 6.51 goals against average and a 0.863 save percentage, although his 3-4-1 record is not a winning one.

In comparison, Laker netminders Zac Boychuk and former 'Bellie Eric Penney are currently both showing winning form.

At 4-1, Penney sports the best record among all WLA goalies and is coming off Burnaby's recent win over Coquitlam. Penney is second overall with a 7.11 goals against and a 0.848 save percentage.

Boychuk is quickly rounding into form and has allowed just 13 goals in last pair of victories. Last year's top goalie is 3-2-1 and has allowed 8.86 goals per game while putting up a 0.814 save percentage.

Look for Boychuk to get the start against the Salmonbellies at home this Friday, July 7 at 7:45 p.m.

The third game in the series with New Westminster will take place on Thursday, July 13 at Queen's Park Arena.

Photos by Garrett James