Former Burnaby Jr. Laker Garrett Billings had a Mann Cup to remember, but his team came home empty-handed.
The Langley Thunder sniper led all scorers with seven goals and 25 assists for 32 points in the six-game series, but his team lost the best-of-seven in six games to the powerhouse Peterborough Lakers.
"Obviously we're disappointed with our finish," Billings said.
"We thought we had a few chances to win but that's what happens when you are playing a team as deep as Peterborough."
After scoring 21 points in the first three games of the series - two of them Langley wins - Billings had a quieter final three games, notching 11 points in the final three games.
The Thunder took the first two games of the series, 13-12 on Sept. 7 and 15-14 in overtime on Sept. 9, before losing the final four games.
Game 3's 14-10 loss on Sept. 10 was followed by a heartbreaking 9-8 loss on Sept. 12, a 9-5 loss on Sept. 14 and the clinching 14-8 Peterborough victory on Sept. 15.
The Lakers were led by superstar performances from John Grant Jr., who had 16 goals and 15 assists in the series, and Shawn Evans, who also had 31 points, on the strength of seven goals and 24 assists.
Billings often set up teammate former New Westminster Salmonbellie Athan Iannucci, who finished the series with 15 goals and 13 assists.
Western Lacrosse Association commissioner Casey Cook couldn't attend the final in person, but watched all the games via webcast.
Cook said the Thunder had chances to win in the final four games, including the final two games, where the Thunder took early 4-0 and 3-0 leads, only to have the Lakers come back in force with seven- and six-goal second periods
"The Thunder just got themselves into an unfortunate situation where they got outplayed in the second half of the game and that cost them," said Cook. "They got off to a great start, but when the Lakers got going, the Thunder were in trouble."
Cook knows how hard it is for Western teams to go out East and win the Mann Cup, having been the general manager of the 1986 Salmonbellies, the last team to accomplish the feat.
"When you go out and have to play as many as seven games in nine days, it's difficult," said Cook. "You're sleeping in hotels, you're not doing your regular routine, it's hard."
The Thunder defence has been led by a couple of former New Westminster Jr. Salmobellies, Brett Mydske and Matt MacGrotty, while former Burnaby Jr. Laker goalie Brodie MacDonald played solidly in the Thunder net.
The bigger story from the Mann Cup may be the brouhaha that ensued when the two head coaches, Jamie Batley of Peterborough and Rod Jensen of Langley, were suspended from Game 5.
According to a Canadian Lacrosse Association press release, "the suspensions are in relation to conduct off the floor of play."
Further on in the press release, the association noted that the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES) had conducted drug testing at the Mann Cup, but the suspensions "are not the outcome of player testing results."
Cook confirmed that the suspensions related to the coaches expressing concern with the drug testing procedures.
"We were informed four days ahead of (the start of the Mann Cup) and we relayed that information immediately to the teams," said Cook. "What wasn't given was the protocols around the testing and that was what was questioned. ... We just think giving notice only four days ahead, with little or no protocols, was a bit crazy."
Cook said the CCES typically takes three to six weeks to process the results of its testing and the centre does have significant power.
"Yes, the CCES can take away titles," said Cook. "Certainly, there are allowances for that if they find irregularities in testing."
The Record contacted Melissa McKenzie, executive director of the Canadian Lacrosse Association, for comment on the drug testing procedures and protocols and the suspensions handed down to the coaches.
"This is a disciplinary issue so we cannot make any further comment," said McKenzie. "The CLA has its own code of conduct and now that we're going through a disciplinary process, we will not be offering further comment at this time. ... I also cannot comment on the CCES process."
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