First-year junior Nathan Stewart scored goals , including a first-period hat trick to lead the New Westminster Salmonbellies to a 16-9 victory over the Rocky Mountain champion Okotoks Raiders on Day of the Minto Cup championships at Queen's Park Arena on Monday.
New West carried the momentum from yesterday's 9-7 upset win over the B.C. champion Coquitlam Adanacs into the opening period against Okotoks, building up a 6-1 lead before the Raiders began playing perhaps their best lacrosse of the championship.
The Alberta champs scored three times in a four-minute span late in the frame to close to within two goals, heading into the middle period. They then closed the deficit to a single goal on two separate occasions in the second period on markers by Kevin Pym and Holdon Cattoni, but it was not enough.
New West found its stride in the final frame, outscoring the visitors 7-2 in the period, including the first five goals that proved the difference in the final outcome. Luke Gillespie, Alex Bohl, aged-up intermediates Connor Robinson and Jeremy Bosher, and Stewart, with his fifth, all scored to give New West a 14-7 lead midway through the final period.
Michael DeGirolamo stopped just 12 shots before being replaced with 12 minutes remaining in the game by backup Kanathonson Horn-David. New West starter Frank Scigliano also gave way to Ross Bowman late in the game following 22 stops. Okotoks game MVP Matthew Kristiansen led his team with one goal and three assists.
Kristiansen was involved in a multi-player trade to the Warriors from Sherwood Park that he says has changed the nature of how lacrosse is conducted in the wild rose province. "(The trades) really helped this team," Kristiansen said. "One team had to make a sacrifice. It was all about making a competitive team and I think we showed that. It had never been done before."
Knowing that their Minto Cup was over and Alberta's automatic berth into future Mintos also ended tonight was difficult for Kristiansen and the Alberta club.
"It comes to improving yourself to play at the top level. We had a great team. I can't believe it's over," Kristiansen said. In the late game, Whitby remained unbeaten in Minto Cup play, besting the Coquitlam Adanacs 12-7 on Monday.
Eastern game MVP Curtis Knight led his team with four goals and three assists, while Reid Reinholdt, with a hat trick, got the MVP nod for the A's.
Alexis Buque had another strong night between the pipes for the Warriors, making 36 saves. The Whitby keeper currently leads the Minto in all categories, including a 5.31 goals against average, 105 saves and a stingy .875 save percentage.
Tonight (Tuesday) New Westminster and Coquitlam renew their season rivalry in a one-game semifinal with the winner taking on the Warriors in a best-of-five series final, beginning on Thursday at Queen's Park Arena. Game time is 8 p.m. for all remaining games.
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