Islanders advance to Minto Cup

Delta off to junior "A" lacrosse nationals for the first time in their 14 year history after six game series win over New West.

A journey that was four years in the making has culminated with the Delta Islanders advancing to the Minto Cup national junior “A” lacrosse championships for the first time in franchise history.  The Islanders secured their berth in the upcoming tournament at the Langley Events Centre with a six game semi-final series triumph over the New West Salmonbellies, capped by a 10-6 win at Queen’s Park Arena on Friday night. Delta will now face the Coquitlam Adanacs in a best-of-three match-up to determine B.C. Junior “A” Lacrosse League bragging rights with both teams guaranteed to move on.

That series starts on Wednesday in Coquitlam. Game two will take place next Sunday (5 p.m.) at Sungod Arena in North Delta as the Islanders must vacate the Ladner Leisure Centre for ice installation.

It was during the 2013 season when the club began putting the pieces together that resulted in its breakthrough campaign.
Homegrown standouts Evan Messenger and Jon Phillips were aged up from their final year of Intermediate and immediately contributed. They have gone on to be two of the franchise's all-time leading scorers.  The Islanders then made a number of deals at the league trading deadline as "sellers" in ironically a season when two B.C. teams were guaranteed Minto Cup berths.  Among the transactions was veteran defender Dan McDermott sent to Langley for Chase Fraser. The talented right-hander has enjoyed three productive years in Delta, including a league-high 13 goals in just five games to help eliminate the Salmonbellies.  Later that fall, assistant general manager and head coach Greg Rennie sent a couple of draft picks and a prospect again to Langley for Reece Callies who would go on to be anchor in the Islanders back end. Rennie also brought a core of talented players from Richmond with him after a couple of very successful seasons running the Roadrunners intermediate “A” program.

The Islanders reached the finals a year ago before being swept by the powerhouse Adanacs. When it was finalized the top two BCJALL teams would be going to Minto earlier this year, Delta’s opportunity never looked better with a veteran loaded line-up.
Still, nothing was going to come easy.  The Adanacs again ran away with regular season honours, rolling to a perfect 21-0-0 record and then swept Port Coquitlam in their semi-final series. Delta finished with a franchise best 15-6-0 mark but that was just two points better than New West and the team ranked only fifth defensively in the eight team circuit.  It led to a number of moves at the trade deadline as Aidan Milburn (Burnaby), Ryan Lewis (Nanaimo), Nate Wade (Victoria) and Adam Jay (Victoria) were all acquired from within the BCJALL. The club then entered unchartered waters by purchasing the playing rights to a pair of Ontario stars, goaltender Kevin Orleman and sniper Cam Milligan.  They were aggressive moves that would provide the difference against New West.  Orleman was superb in net, finishing with an 84 save percentage that was capped by 40 stops in the series clincher. Milligan gave the offence a lift with 22 points in the series. Milburn was also an offensive force with 22 points.

It all adds up to the club extending its season into deep August for the very first time. The tournament runs for Aug. 19-28 and will also feature champions from the Ontario and Alberta leagues.

Boxla Bits…
Phillips led all Islanders in series scoring with 26 points, including a goal and three assists in the clinching win. Delta took control of the game by erupting for five unanswered goals in the opening eight minutes of the third period to open up a commanding 10-4 lead. Jayden Campbell, Spencer Bromley and Messenger each scored twice. Milligan had a goal and three assists, while Milburn and intermediate call-up Liam McDonald also scored.

Messenger also picked up some hardware this weekend as the 2016 recipient of the John Urban Award, presented to a graduating player who has combined ability, sportsmanship and be an all-around contributor to the continued growth of his club.
He was also named a first team all-star while Tre Leclaire and Fraser received second team honours.

MARK BOOTH / DELTA OPTIMIST/JULY 31, 2016

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