Sea Spray secure top spot

by Gary Ahuja

Sea Spray Lacrosse Club's James Rahe looks to make a play as he is swarmed by a trio of Black Fish Lacrosse Club defenders during Arena Lacrosse League West Division action at Langley Events Centre on February 22. Gary Ahuja Langley Events Centre photos

The Sea Spray Lacrosse Club have locked up first place. All that remains to be seen is who will they play when they semi-finals are held in month’s time.

The Sea Spray improved to 8-3 in the Arena Lacrosse League West Division thanks to a 12-8 victory over the Black Fish Lacrosse Club to open week 11 play on Tuesday night at Langley Events Centre. The Black Fish had entered the game as the league’s hottest team with three consecutive victories but saw their record fall to 4-7 with the defeat.

“Bragging rights and that’s it because the first round is a one-game do-or-die and it is whoever can get their best line-up,” said Sea Spray coach Andy Ogilvie on what wrapping up top spot meant. “I’ve lost one-game playoffs just because the other goaltender has had the game of his life, so we are starting over fresh, just like everyone else.”

And speaking of goaltenders, Sea Spray netminder Matteo Tack was rock-solid on Tuesday, earning first-star honours following a 38-save performance.

“It all starts with the goalie, and he was playing well,” said Sea Spray’s Connor Goodwin. “The defence held strong when they needed to and (Matteo) Tacker stood on his head.”

The Black Fish entered week 11 having scored an average of 16 goals per game during their three-game win streak. The team found another gear to their offensive game the last time they played the Sea Spray, which was on Feb. 5 when Jon Phillips buried the winner with 1.7 seconds to play in a 17-16 shootout.  Tack allowed 11 of the 17 goals that game but Tuesday was a much different story.

“We had success against him (last time) when we were moving on the run, but when he is standing straight, he is hard to score on,” said Black Fish coach Rod Jensen. “We were just too perimeter this game and Matteo Tack is going to make those saves if we are shooting flat-footed from the outside.”

The game was tied at two with just over three minutes to play in the first quarter before the Sea Spray tacked on a pair of quick goals to close the period and then another two to open the second, building a four-goal lead that proved too much for the Black Fish to overcome. Through the first 53 minutes, the Black Fish managed just five goals before scoring three straight to close the game.

“They have got a good offence; they move that ball from left to right so it is challenging to play our pressure ‘D’ but I thought at moments our defence played well and some moments where we had gaps,” Jensen said.

As has been the case for much of the season, the Sea Spray used a scoring by committee approach with eight players finding the back of the net. James Rahe (two goals, two assists), Parker Kump (one goal, three assists) and Nick Preston (four assists) all had four-point games while Tyler Kirkby, Preston Lupul and Connor Goodwin popped in a pair of goals apiece. John Hofseth (one goal, two assists), David Byrne (one goal, one assist) and Keegan Bell (one goal) completed the scoring.

Ogilvie said his team made some minor adjustments to their defensive game plan to limit the Black Fish attack but said their opponent was missing some key cogs up front, including Jon Phillips who scored the winner against the Sea Spray earlier this month and entered week 11 third in ALL West scoring with 19 goals.

Chase McIntyre was the game’s second star after leading the Black Fish with four goals and one assist. His five points were matched by Ethan M’Lot (one goal, four assists). Greg Lunde (two goals, one assists) and Jordan Roberts (one goal, one assist) rounded out the scoring.

Both Black Fish goalies saw action with Gordy Bowden starting and finishing the game, making 36 saves on 44 shots while David Mather stopped nine of 13 shots.