Victoria Shamrocks players battle with the New Westminster Salmonbellies during game four of the Western Lacrosse Association finals at The Q Centre. The Salmonbellies went on to defeat the Shamrocks 11-13 on the mainland in game five of the series to move on to the Mann Cup. (Spencer Pickles/Black Press).

’Rocks fall to the Salmonbellies in WLA finals

Head coach Bob Heyes proud of team’s performance this season

It’s not the ending they were hoping for.

On Sunday, the New Westminster Salmonbellies defeated the Victoria Shamrocks 13-11 in the Western Lacrosse Association finals, putting an end to the team’s quest for their 10th Mann Cup title.

Head coach Bob Heyes said at times the ‘Rocks showed flashes of the powerhouse team who captured the cup in 2015, but in the end, the Salmonbellies had the edge.

“I think you’re always disappointed after you lose, but we got everything we could out of these guys. Our goal was to get to the Mann Cup but we didn’t have the same type of depth that we had in 2015,” Heyes said.

“The desire and everything else that you look for in a team was there, just maybe the depth and skill wasn’t quite where it needed to be. We gave them a good taste of what it is to be a champion. They’ll do well in representing the west.”

It was a hard-fought battle for both teams heading into game five of the seven-game series on the mainland.

The Salmonbellies struck first with a pair of goals by Joel McCready early in the first. But the Shamrocks responded with three in a row, two off the stick of Corey Small and the other from Evan Messenger. The Bellies tied it up before Small finished off his first-period hat trick as the ‘Rocks led 4-3 after the opening frame.

Kicking off the second stanza, the ‘Rocks scored three goals in the first seven minutes, including two in under two minutes from Casey Jackson, Joe Resetarits and Chris Wardle. But their lead was short-lived as the Salmonbellies answered right back with four goals, including three in 1:50, to tie the game 8-8 at the end of the second.

The teams exchanged markers in the third, before the Salmonbellies’ pulled away with a 13-11 win with goals from Kevin Crowley and Mike Messenger.

But Heyes believes it was the penalties that made the difference in the game. In the second stanza, Steve Priolo received a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for “something that was said” against a referee, while Greg Harnett also received one, along with a 10 minute misconduct shortly after.

“Sure we probably took penalties that we should not have, but in the essence of that type of game and how vital and important this is [in the WLA finals], it gave New West an advantage, but we didn’t do anything to harm them,” Heyes said. “That’s where the frustration comes in.”

Despite the disappointing loss, Heyes is proud of how the team performed this season, which included defeating the first-place Burnaby Lakers in the first round of playoff action. In the coming months, Heyes plans on re-evaluating the season to determine how to build a team for next year.

“They said give it 24 hours, I think we maybe need to give it 24 days to go from there,” he laughed.

The Salmonbellies will now face either Six Nations or Peterborough for the Mann Cup.

kendra.wong@goldstreamgazette.com