Black Fish, Shooting Eagles Set For All West Championship Showdown

The Shooting Eagles take aim at a second consecutive Arena Lacrosse League West Division title while the Black Fish make their first appearance in the championship series.

The Shooting Eagles take aim at a second consecutive Arena Lacrosse League West Division title while the Black Fish make their first appearance in the championship series.

The two teams won their respective semi-final games on Sunday (March 24) setting up a best-of-three championship series on March 27 and 28 at Langley Events Centre. Should the teams split the first two games, they will play a 10-minute mini-game following the conclusion of game two.

And goaltending was the story in both victories as the winning teams held their respective opponents to single digits. In the first game, the Black Fish triumphed 19-6 over the Sea Spray, while in the latter, it was the Shooting Eagles posting an 18-5 win over the Grizzlies.

Black Fish 19 Sea Spray 6

The third time was the charm for the Black Fish.

In all three seasons of existence for the Arena Lacrosse League West Division, the two teams have squared off in the semi-final round, with the Sea Spray prevailing in both 2022 and 2023. But on Sunday afternoon at Langley Events Centre, the Black Fish exacted a measure of revenge, never trailing in a 19-6 one-sided victory.

Goaltending was key in the game as the Black Fish’s Brandon Humphrey was sensational, finishing with 39 saves on 45 shots, an .867 save percentage.

“The defence just played great in front of me,” Humphrey said. “We went in with a game plan of who we wanted to get their looks and how we wanted to shut down their best opportunities.”

During the regular season, the Sea Spray had two players in the top three in goal scoring (Adam Dickson with 33 and Tyler Ewen with 32) while Kordell Primus (27 goals) was seventh and James Rahe potted 15 goals in just four games. Plus, they had Tyler Kirkby – who set ALL single-season records in both points (116) and assists (98) – quarterbacking the attack.

But with the season on the line, Kirkby had two goals and five points while the other four were limited to one goal and five assists.

“Those guys are going to get their shots, but we did a pretty good job of limiting their higher percentage chances,” Humphrey said. “We gave them dirty looks that they didn’t want to take as much instead of clean looks in the middle.”

The game featured no goals over the first 9:50 before the Black Fish scored five and the Sea Spray potted a pair for a 5-2 score after 15 minutes. The lead was extended to 9-4 at the half with the Sea Spray never able to get the lead any closer in the second half as they were held to a pair of goals over the final 30 minutes.

“We approached the second half of trying to lock things down, making sure they didn’t get any run, any kind of momentum and keeping our five-goal spread and kept pushing it,” Humphrey said.

“It was one of those perfect games, from our goaltender, defence, offence, all our special teams, everything clicked and went our way. This was probably our best game in 3 years in the ALL,” said Black Fish coach Rod Jensen, adding that his team did a great job of scooping up rebounds on the defensive end to deny the Sea Spray second-chance opportunities.

With Humphrey and the defence shutting the door at one end, the offence was fueled by six-point games courtesy of Connor Watson (2-4) and Brian Gillis (3-3) while Chase McIntyre (2-3) and Steve McKinley (0-5) each had five-point games. Josh Mills (3-1), Laszlo Henning (2-2), Ethan M’Lot (1-2), Nick Jensen (2-0), Jordan Roberts (2-0), Remo Schenato (1-1) and Ryan Jensen (1-0) rounded out the goal scoring. Temeke7 Gottfriedsen added three assists and Dave Mather did spell Humphrey for 3:26 of game action, stopping all three shots he saw.

While Kirkby led the Sea Spray offence with points on five of the six goals, Gord Phillips (2-0), Vinny Ricci (1-2) and Rahe (1-1) were the only others to beat Humphrey. Ewen did finish with three assists.

Both goaltenders saw action in the Sea Spray goal with Lee Jackman stopping 21 of 34 shots while Keegan Melynchuk had 15 saves on 21 shots.

Half of the Sea Spray’s six goals came on the power play as the team was 3-for-7 while the Black Fish went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.

Shooting Eagles 18 Grizzlies 5

Scoring goals has not been an issue for the Shooting Eagles, who led the Arena Lacrosse League West Division with 220 goals (14.7 per game). The problem, however, is that among the four teams, the Eagles also allowed the most goals, at 13.9.

But on Sunday afternoon at Langley Events Centre – with a spot in the championship series on the line – the Shooting Eagles delivered a masterful performance in defeating the Grizzlies 18-5.

The Grizzlies entered the game second in the league at 13.4 goals per game, but found little success on the offensive end, managing just five goals on 46 shots.

“That felt good. We watched a lot of video and looked at player tendencies and asked them to do things. It doesn’t always work, but today, they came out and executed everything we asked them to,” said Shooting Eagles coach Adam Smith.

Aside from the opening three minutes when each team tallied once, the Shooting Eagles led for the rest of the contest, holding the Grizzlies to a pair of goals in the opening quarter and then allowing just a single score in each of the remaining three periods.

“The ball got moving and we got some goals early. By the time the game got into the second half, it was about killing the clock and using it and making sure we were focused on the defence first to maintain that lead,” Smith said.

Playing with the lead is always advantageous as opposed to having to exert energy to make up a deficit. But it was even more important for the Shooting Eagles in Sunday’s contest as they were down a couple of bodies up front, so having the lead helped alleviate some of that pressure on their forward group.

And when the Grizzlies did get looks at the net, goaltender Alex Buque was a brick wall, stopping 33 of 37 shots before heading to the bench for the final 9:21. Colin Jeffrey came on in relief and finished with eight saves on nine shots.

“The guys played great. They definitely made my job easier, allowing me to see the ball and see the play develop,” said Buque, who was named first star.

With the team playing lockdown defence at one end, the offence had four players finish with three or more goals, led by Dylan Lacroix’s four goals and seven points with Spencer Bromley and Mark Yingling each potting hat tricks as par to their seven-point games. Bromley and Lacroix were the second and third stars, respectively.

Coady Adamson (3-2) also had a three-goal game while Garrett Winter (1-5), Declan Fitzpatrick (2-1) and Doug Porter (1-1) had multi-point games. Ben Gagnon had the other goal for the Shooting Eagles and Tyson Johnson had another strong showing on face-offs, winning 18 of the 26 draws he took. The Eagles also won the special teams battle, scoring four power-play goals while the Grizzlies were blanked on their two opportunities.

Kyle Brunsch was the lone Grizzlies player to post a multi-goal game, finishing with two goals and four points. Brian Smith and Pearson Willis each had a goal and a helper while Aidan Baker scored once. Both Grizzlies goalies saw action with Brayden Wandler finishing with 19 saves on 28 shots and Ryder Bremner stopping 33 of 42 shots.

Photos courtesy of Ryan Molag Langley Events Centre