Bellie report – vs. Coastal Windows Timbermen – May 24th, 2012
After a nine month drought, the Royal City had been thirsting for a game and the Salmonbellies did not disappoint on Thursday night. With the visiting Coastal Windows Timbermen in town for the home team’s first game of the season, 1859 spectators came through the doors of Queen’s Park Arena and there was something for every one of them to enjoy.
The night began by honouring all six of the Bellies whose jerseys have been retired. While banners were unveiled to the crowd, Geordie Dean, Eric Cowieson, Paul Parnell, Wayne Goss and Cliff Sepka stood by with Joanne Bionda who’d flown in from Huntsville, Ontario to represent her late husband, Jack. While stats were read and accomplishments shared, the ghosts of that historic arena whispered to all of the present day players, friends, family and fans. It was a moment that really signified just what lacrosse has meant to everyone involved in the Salmonbellie organization over 123 years and what it has meant to the community of New Westminster.
In addition to that collection of six, there was also a noteworthy collection of four: the Gajics. All products of the Burnaby Lakers system, each has hoisted at least one Minto Cup, but this season is the first time they’ll all appear on the same roster. Milan, the oldest, joined brothers Nenad, Ilija and Alex in an off-season signing and just seemed to click as a member of this year’s squad. With each a talented and explosive personality on the floor, fans will want to keep an eye on what they can do when they unite.
After the first whistle was blown, the Bellies came out of the gate quick and hard. At the end of the opening period, the score was already 5-1 and there wasn’t much room left for a Nanaimo recovery.
Early in the second period, after a skirmish in front of the Nanaimo crease, Kyle Ross dropped the gloves with Timbermen Matt Wray. After a few moments of tangled wrestling and fewer connecting blows than either had hoped, they were pried apart and sent on their way to serve their time in the sin bin. Nine minutes later, Wray coupled up again, this time with the towering Clayton Richardson. Again, there was minimal contact as each tied the other up pretty tightly. Still, both were ejected: Wray for his second major penalty in the game and Richardson for fighting after a whistle. Eight more goals for the Bellies and two responses from the Timbermen and the score was 13-3 closing out forty minutes.
Nanaimo managed to keep pace with the Bellies in the third period, with each team scoring four goals. The final was 17-7 and a delight for the home team, the retirees and the crowd in attendance at the event that was also honouring the New Westminster Minor Lacrosse Association.
When all was said and done, only three Bellies were not listed with at least a point on the scoresheet, a testament to the shared contribution on the floor. Ilija Gajic, hot off a flight from Colorado, led the way with a total of six points, two of them goals. Eric Lewthwaite put up his first hat trick as a Bellie and rookie Mike Berekoff showed that he was a worthy pick with two goals of his own. New Westminster natives, Jordan McBride and Kevin Crowley each marked their return from prosperous NLL seasons with a couple of goals, tallying five and seven points, respectively. Martin Cummings was good for another two goals and Jeff Zywicki and Ian Hawksbee added one a piece.
Tyler Richards got the start in net and faced 40 shots in just over 50 minutes. His efforts resulted in 36 saves and two assists. Neil Tyacke, in his first appearance as a senior Bellie, played the remaining time late in the game and made six saves on seven shots, also earning a point of his own on Hawksbee’s goal.
Ilija Gajic was named the Bellie of the game and received a Blackberry prize package courtesy of Telus. He was also chosen as the #1 WLA All-Star with teammates Kevin Crowley and Tyler Richards.
Check out the photo gallery from the game courtesy of David Zuskind of Digital Graffitti.