New Westminster Tops Burnaby To Open WLA Season

The Western Lacrosse Association, British Columbia’s Senior A summer box league, kicked off their 2024 season this week. The defending champion New Westminster Salmonbellies, looking to return to the Mann Cup finals after falling to Six Nations last year, hosted the upstart Burnaby Lakers at Queen’s Park Arena. The Salmonbellies are led by a number of familiar faces, including NLL stars Will Malcom, Kevin Crowley, Logan Schuss, Jeff Cornwall, Drew Belgrave, and Tyrell Hamer-Jackson. The Lakers are led by Jacob Dunbar, who scored 42 goals last season, which ranked 3rd overall in the league. A big second period helped propel New Westminster to a 14-9 win, getting their 2024 title defense off to a good start. The Salmonbellies play at Langley next Wednesday, while Burnaby has a quick turnaround, hosting Coquitlam on Friday night.

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New Westminster comes alive in the second period

The Lakers took an early lead, courtesy of goals from Dunbar (1:29) and Thomas Vela (4:47). Malcom halved the lead at 7:44, then struck again in the second period (0:29) to tie the game. Twenty seconds later, Vela’s second goal of the game put Burnaby back on top. But New Westminster erased the deficit in the span of less than a minute. Malcom’s hat trick goal (5:02 power play), Schuss (5:33 power play), and Malcom’s fourth of the night (5:57) gave the Salmonbellies a 5-3 lead.

Sam LaRoue scored a power play marker (8:54) to cut Burnaby’s deficit to 5-4. Crowley (10:06) and LaRoue (10:23) then traded goals before New Westminster went on another three-goal run. Goal #5 for Malcom (10:58 power play), followed by Crowley’s second (12:22) and Jeff Cornwall (12:52) pushed the Salmonbellies’ lead to 9-5. Ben Stewart broke the run for the Lakers at 14:24 to make it a 9-6 game going into the second intermission.

Late charge falls short for Burnaby

A pair of goals from Dunbar (2:11; 5:30 power play) cut Burnaby’s deficit to one to start the third period. However, the Lakers would get no closer, as Cornwall (8:35) and Crowley (10:02) pushed the Salmonbellies’ lead to 11-8. Stewart scored 29 seconds later for Burnaby, but New Westminster responded with Malcom’s sock trick goal (12:42) to make it 12-9. Cornwall (18:59) and Conner Cook (19:24) then added empty net goals to close out the scoring.

Malcom (6g, 2a) earned 1st Star of the Game, while Crowley (3g, 4a) took home 2nd Star honors. 3rd Star of the Game went to Burnaby’s Stewart (2g, 3a). The Lakers outshot the Salmonbellies 57-49. Neil Tyacke made 48 saves in net for New Westminster, while Keegen Melenychuk turned aside 35 shots in the losing effort for Burnaby.

“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk

“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and covers NLL, PLL, WLA, and Major Series Lacrosse for the network.