If the seed of doubt wasn't already planted in the heads of the Westwood Pub Devils, that they are not infallible, the Bandits of the Prince George Senior Lacrosse Association reminded them of that fact Wednesday night at Kin 1.
The RPR Mechanical/JR Construction Bandits ruined the Devils' bid for a perfect season back on June 19 when they hung a loss on them in their last regular season game and they did it again Wednesday with a 10-7 triumph to stave off playoff elimination and tie the best-of-three semifinal series 1-1.
Now it comes down to third and deciding game Thursday night (8 p.m. at Kin 1) to decide who will advance to the best-of-five championship series against the Northland Nissan Assault.
The Bandits took a 4-0 lead into the dressing room in Game 2 after one period, obviously counting their blessings after the Devils rang the goalpost behind goalie Dalen Etter six times in the opening frame.
"It was a very intense game from start to finish and it was very physical and that's fine," said Bandits forward Drew Doig. "We've played (the Devils) in the finals four years in a row and this was just an extension of that rivalry, just one round earlier. I don't think it matters when it happens, it's still pretty intense."
Dalen Etter made 26 saves in the Bandits nets. Steven Brizan started in goal for Westwood and was replaced by Patrick Bayliss after the eighth Bandit goal. They combined to make 19 saves.
"They have a lot of talent on that team and Dalen has been playing unreal," said Doig. "He plays unreal against this team, which is great. Our D - Taylor Attree, Ryan Waddington, Brock Paciejewski, Jesse Huffman and Lucas Rushton - played great."
Etter made a penalty-shot save late in that June 19 game to send it into overtime and Doig scored the OT winner which put the lone blemish on the Devils' 15-1 season. The Bandits finished fourth with a 7-9 record. As Doig pointed out, the Devils were missing some of their stars that night.
"That was not their full roster and (Tuesday) that was pretty close to their full roster," Doig said. "I don't think anyone was giving us a shot, so we've got nothing to lose at this point. We'd love to shock the world."
Doug Schonewille scored twice for the Bandits in the first period, Doig fired a pair in the second, while Jackson Parish and Trevor Clark each responded with goals in the second and third periods to keep the Bandits ahead. Patrick Griffiths had the other Bandits' goal.
Unlike the two previous years when wildfires were burning out of control in the province, firefighters Clark and former league MVP Cole Paciejewski have been available to the Bandits for the playoffs.
Danton Nicholson led the Devils' attack with two goals and two assists, Cameron Braun also scored twice, while Pierce Watson, David Lawrence and PGSLA scoring champion Andrew Schwab fired singles. The Devils played 10 minutes of the first period shorthanded when Dalton McEntyre was banished for trying, unsuccessfully, to pick a fight with Doig. By the time they returned to full strength the Devils were four goals down.
"They scored a lot on the power play and we just started slow and I think we could have hustled more and we didn't bury our chances," said Moleski. "I think we hit six posts right away and they had 10 minutes in a row of power-play time. It's pretty hard to win when you're short for half a period.
"Give them credit, they played well. We have a pretty good group of guys who can score. Last night was one of those nights where the ball just wouldn't. We have to get better looks and get better quality chances and get to the dirty areas."
The Devils won the first game of the series 12-5 a week ago.
Moleski, 37, played 12 years in the National Lacrosse League as a defenceman. He returned to the PGSLA this season to play on the Devils with his twin brother Adam and Scotty Anderson, a former NLL teammate with the Calgary Roughnecks who has helped him break into the minor lacrosse coaching ranks. Moleski played for the Bandits for several years before his pro career started in 2003.
"I haven't played in the senior league for 12 years and I think I only know a couple of them," said Moleski. "Scotty's been trying to get me to play for a lot of years with him and my brother's there and it's fun."
Moleski won't play tonight. As head coach of the Prince George P:Posse peewee rep team he'll be traveling to Delta, where the team will play this weekend in the A2 peewee provincial championship.
After Wednesday's game, Doig expressed his anger at PGSLA commissioner Glen 'Moose' Scott for what he sees as preferential treatment offered by Scott to the Devils to help them recruit players, which Doig claims has gone on for years. He wants Scott to step down as league commissioner.
"Sometimes it feels like we're playing more than just the team on the floor," said Doig.
"Either way, they're getting help. It's been going on for decades, it was the elephant in the room, but no one said it. So I finally said it. Everyone who knows what I'm talking about is going to know."
Part of the bad blood stems from Scott's approval of Devils forward Jake McIntosh as playoff-eligible. He joined the Devils in June after being released from the junior A Delta Islanders. The Devils signed him after league's roster deadline and he played just three regular season games, two fewer than the minimum required for players to be eligible for the playoffs. Doig said he doesn't mind having McIntosh in the playoffs but says it goes against a league deadline adopted earlier this year at the annual general meeting.
But Scott said there was agreement among the six-member league that McIntosh be allowed to play, even though he missed the deadline, and the same exception has been applied to Assault player Jake Nohr, who is eligible for the PGSLA playoffs despite having spent most of the season with his junior B team in the Lower Mainland.
"All I want to do is keep people playing lacrosse," said Scott. "Let's keep the politics out of it. Are we that rigid in a senior C league in Prince George that we have to define everything and keep it to the letter. The bottom line is it doesn't matter to me. It's a simple matter of what's best for the league.
"Jamie (Devils manager/goalie Bellamy) went out and worked at finding these guys and bringing them in and he wants to build a bit of a powerhouse and he's doing it. To me, if I was an opposing general manager or coach, I'd be doing the same thing to go up to their calibre."
- The Assault wrapped up their semifinal series Monday at Kin 1, where they topped the Mackenzie Conifex Power Lumberjacks 18-4 to complete a two-game sweep. The Assault beat the Lumberjacks 13-9 in Game 1 July 3rd in Mackenzie.
- The lineup for the Treasure Cove Casino Senior Invitational Lacrosse tournament and senior C championship July 26-28 at the Kin Centre is coming into focus. The Devils and Bandits are entered along with the Coquitlam Hitmen, Wsanac Arrows of Victoria, Port Moody Express, a combined Ladner-Coquitlam team and a team from the Okanagan are confirmed.
Club teams with no more than three pickup players are eligible to compete for the Fred Doig Memorial Cup in the senior C tournament. There is no such roster restriction on the number of pickups for teams in the invitational tournament.
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