Goaltending leads way as Black Fish win again

by Gary Ahuja

Brandon Humphrey had a victorious debut for the Black Fish, stopping 36 of 47 shots in his team's 17-11 win over the Sea Spray. Ryan Molag LEC photo

Offences may get most of the highlights and accolades, but without goaltending, a team’s chances at victory greatly decrease. The past two games have shown just how important that position is when it comes to a team’s success.

Two games ago, the team surrendered an Arena Lacrosse League West Division record 23 goals. Compare that to their past two outings – eight goals against on February 1 and then 11 on February 7 – and that is 19 goals against combined in their last 120 minutes of lacrosse.

And with their goals against drastically reduced and the Black Fish have put together their first two-game winning streak of the season following a 17-11 win over the Sea Spray on Tuesday night at Langley Events Centre. With the win, the Black Fish improved to 5-6 while the Sea Spray sit at 6-5.

“Our goalies played really well in both of those games. If you get that big save, it carries you a little bit farther. If they score that goal, it breaks your back a little bit and you can’t bounce back. “No disrespect to our previous goalies, but they were in tough. They had a tough go. We were playing not too bad. but we just couldn’t get the big save,” said Black Fish coach Rod Jensen.

Tuesday’s game saw the debut of new Black Fish goaltender Brandon Humphrey – the 2022 ALL West Most Outstanding Goaltender – who was acquired in a trade with the Grizzlies.

The team entered the game allowing 13.6 goals per game, worst among the four ALL West squads but they limited the Sea Spray to below their season average (13.2) with Humphrey finishing with 36 saves on 47 shots, including a couple of huge early saves.

“Brandon made a couple of key saves on Keegan (Bell) and James (Rahe); if they go in, it could have been a different story,” Jensen said.

But instead, the Black Fish received the saves they needed, and after briefly trailing 1-0, led the rest of the way. The score was 11-9 late in the third quarter before the Black Fish four straight to put the game out of reach.

Ryan Jones (2+6) was the first star following an eight-point performance. His six assists gives him a league-leading 41 helpers and he sits just two points back of the overall scoring lead. With Jones serving as set—up man, Connor Watson (4+2), Nick Jensen (3+1) and Ethan M’Lot (2+3) each had multi-goal games. Chase McIntyre (1+4), Laszlo Henning (1+3), Brian Gillis (1+2), Anthony Buono (1+1) and Jordan Roberts (2+0) rounded out the scoring.

Box Score

And while he didn’t factor on the scoresheet, Reese Barnes had a huge impact on the game, winning 25 of 31 face-offs.

“That is like basically having the ball for an extra half a period,” Rod Jensen said.

This was the third meeting of the season between the teams with the Sea Spray winning the previous two encounters, 14-13 and 17-16.

“We have a good core of defenders (but) we haven’t played terribly well together,” Rod Jensen said, crediting assistant coach Ian Poole for the work he has put in with the players.

Another key in the victory was the Black Fish transition, which contributed a handful of goals, including a pair of short-handed markers.

“I think we did a good job just worrying about ourselves and not going crazy this game and things just kind of came to us,” said Nick Jensen, the game’s third star following a hat trick and four points. “The boys are just buying in. People are excited.

The loss was a second straight for the Sea Spray, who were led by a four-goal, eight-point performance from Tyler Ewen, the game’s second star. Vinny Ricci (2+2) and Keegan Bell (1+3) both had four-point games whiles James Rahe (1+1) and Tyler Kirkby (0+23) also had multi-point games. Lukas Nielsen, Aidan Ellis and Brendan Szabo rounded out the scoring.

Reed Watson received the start in goal and made 23 saves on 34 shots before giving way to Lee Jackman (12 saves on 18 shots) in the third quarter.

Sea Spray's Lukas Nielsen finished with a goal but his team came out on the wrong end of a 17-11 score to the Black Fish. Ryan Molag LEC photo