ISLANDERS ARE BCJALL CHAMPIONS

After huge win for franchise, attention now turns to preparing for Minto Cup.

Jon Phillips and Evan Messenger have proven you can chase down your dream.  The lifelong friends, who grew up in Delta Lacrosse together, have helped their hometown team make history.  Teammates since their days in mini-tyke with Delta Lacrosse, Jon Phillips and Evan Messenger finished first and second in playoff scoring respectively for the provincial champion Delta Islanders.   

The Delta Islanders captured their first-ever B.C. Junior “A” Lacrosse League championship with a thrilling 11-10 double overtime win over the seven-time defending champion Coquitlam Adanacs on Tuesday night.  Phillips and Messenger were aged up four years ago to get an early jump on their junior careers. The momentum has slowly been building with tons of hard work along the way.
“This is a five-year plan coming together. This isn’t an accident,” beamed Messenger. “We have been practising our tails off to get here. Running stairs, around (Delta) hospital, around the town.  “We had all the pieces,” added Phillips who led the playoffs in scoring and earned MVP honours. “Everything has worked out this year and it’s just a dream come true to get where we are.”

Lacrosse fans might feel a little short changed the league finals were just a best-of-three affair since both teams are already headed to next week’s Minto Cup in Langley.  Games two and three were as good as junior “A” lacrosse gets — both with plenty of momentum shifts and needing overtime to determine the outcome.  Delta forced overtime in game two with a goal in the dying seconds and were 1:46 away from sweeping the series when the Adanacs struck twice to pull out an 11-10 win at Sungod Arena on Sunday.

An estimated 1,500 fans were treated to another barn-burner 48 hours later at the Coquitlam Sports Centre.  The Adanacs’ dynasty looked poised to continue when John Hofseth gave the hosts a 9-7 lead with 5:11 remaining. However, Aidan Milburn cut the lead to one just 23 seconds later. Phillips then notched his hat trick goal with 63 seconds left on a terrific long range bounce shot.  After nearly seven minutes of scoreless play in overtime, Hofseth put Coquitlam back out in front. Again, Delta answered — this time Chase Fraser with 1:07 remaining.  The teams then headed to sudden death overtime and Nick Jensen capped a 3-on-2 break with his second of the game, just 39 seconds in.

Delta’s transition game played a huge part in the win with a pair of goals coming from defenders Adam Jay and Jensen. Jay also showed great patience to set up Fraser’s tying goal.  “These guys have heart and determination,” said Islanders head coach Greg Rennie. “Everyone counted us out. No one wanted to believe in us at the beginning of the year and said we were pretenders. Coquitlam is amazing and you can’t take anything away from that team. They are going to be dangerous and they are going to want to get us in the Minto Cup.”
Rennie did some of his best work as assistant general manager at the league trading deadline — acquiring Nate Wade,  Ryan Lewis and Jay to shore up the back end. He also went east for the very first time to grab a pair of Ontario standouts — goaltender Kevin Orleman and high-scoring righty Cam Milligan.  It also took the support of some veterans, who were now no longer in the line-up, not to disrupt team chemistry.  Orleman and Milligan not only brought talent, but a fearless attitude when it came time to facing the powerhouse Adanacs.
“They are an incredible organization but I think folks out here maybe respect them a little too much. They put their gear on one piece at a time just like us,” said Orleman who made 52 saves in game three. “It feels incredible to get the win but Cam and I didn’t come all the way out here to win a B.C. championship. Minto Cup is the ultimate goal.”  “This is exactly the way we wanted it to work out,” added Milligan. We didn’t want to go through the backdoor (to Minto Cup). We wanted to go as B.C. champs.”

The Islanders will face Alberta champions Calgary Mountaineers on Aug. 20 (8 p.m.) to open up Minto Cup round-robin play.
 

MARK BOOTH / DELTA OPTIMIST / AUGUST 11, 2016

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