A career game up front and an MVP performance in goal helped the New Westminster Salmonbellies defend their B.C. intermediate A provincial lacrosse title.
The fourth-seeded New West teens forged a 12-9 victory over the regular season runner-up Victoria Shamrocks in the provincial final behind a six-goal contribution from tournament all-star Josh Byrne in the gold-medal final.
Top goalie and and tournament MVP Michael Flintoff backstopped the win, stopping 38 shots despite an eight-goal Victoria rally in the final period.
Flintoff was outstanding and nearly unbeatable in the opening 40 minutes, denying Victoria its first goal of the game until 12: 51 of the second period.
"I was ready for the game. I was pumped. It was a fantastic feeling knowing how much help it gives (the forwards)," said Flintoff.
With Flintoff on his game and the Salmonbellies' defence aggressive off the ball, Byrne helped spark a six-goal opening salvo, including a first-period hat trick.
"I had been struggling a lot in these provincials, but in this game we really started clicking," said Byrne. "I knew we had to start out well and had to go as hard as we could for a full 60 minutes. It's something our team has been struggling with, but we pulled it off."
New Westminster took a 6-0 lead into the first intermission, including a shorthanded marker from Jeremy Wilson midway through the opening period.
The two teams traded single goals in the middle period, setting the stage for a wild final period of lacrosse.
Byrne counted his fifth goal of the game on an early power play that upped the score to 8-2.
But the high-scoring Shamrocks shaved the deficit to four goals before tournament all-star Chase McIntyre and Tyrell Hamer-Jackson both tallied their second goals of the game to re-establish a six-goal lead.
But Victoria didn't fold the tent. Led by Jake Cullen and team captain Max Fredrickson, the 'Rocks fired back with five late goals to give the locals a scare.
Byrne, with his career-high sixth marker, and Thomas Kearnes, with an unassisted goal into an empty net, ensured New West of its fourth intermediate gold medal in the last six years.
New West opened the provincial tournament with a come-frombehind 12-10 win over Coquitlam, scoring seven times in the final period to surprise the favoured A's.
Trailing 8-5 heading into the third period, Chris Nasato and Nathan Stewart both scored twice to spark a seven-goal period for New West.
It proved to be the Salmonbellies' recipe for success, said Byrne.
"The win over Coquitlam was the most important," said Byrne. "It started us off and made us realize we could do this."
McIntyre and Nasato both tallied hat tricks in the win.
The Fishmen then edged league champion Richmond 8-7 on Ryan Donohoe's four-goal outing.
New West lost to Victoria 15-12 in its final preliminary game. Stewart was the top Salmonbellie with four goals and two assists.
Getting a fast start and holding Victoria off the scoresheet for more than half an hour in the final game was crucial to winning the gold medal, said New West head coach Steve Goodwin.
"That was sure important. Our goaltending was good, our defence was good, (Victoria) is a very strong scoring team," said Goodwin. "You can't have a day off. If you're going to compete in a tournament like this. You have to come and compete every day."
And while, New Westminster's fourth gold since 2007 was accomplished by a largely first-year A squad with just seven returning players, one player stood a head above the rest, said Byrne.
"It gave me confidence knowing Mike (Flintoff) has my back," Byrne added. "It's unexplainable what he brought to the team and to the table through the provincials."
In the intermediate B provincials which ran in conjunction with the A final four, New West also competed well, losing the bronze medal to Coquitlam 7-6 in the consolation final. Max Winstanley led the B 'Bellies with four goals.
Coquitlam also topped New West 9-6 in the opening game of the round robin. Stefan Cirillo had a hat trick for the red, white and blue, while Ryland Davidson added two goals and an assist.
Serafino Gentile and Liam Glavin both tallied two goals in New West's 148 loss to eventual finalist Juan de Fuca.
Glavin and Nathan Marken both recorded three-point outings in New West's 7-4 loss to eventual champion Port Moody in pool play. Teague Isbister was named a tournament all-star.
Port Moody defeated Juan de Fuca 10-8 in the championship B final.