Bandits rally past Rebels

The Valley Rebels were pushed the brink of elimination on Wednesday, dropping a controversial 7-5 decision to the Tri-City Bandits at MSA Arena.

Shaun McRae of the Valley Rebels (left) fends off a Tri-City Bandits opponent.

Shaun McRae of the Valley Rebels (left) fends off a Tri-City Bandits opponent.

The Valley Rebels were pushed the brink of elimination on Wednesday, dropping a controversial 7-5 decision to the Tri-City Bandits at MSA Arena.

The Bandits claimed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association (WCSLA) semifinal series, and they could finish off the Rebels next Tuesday at Port Moody Arena.

In the aftermath, Rebels head coach Jim Nishiyama was none too pleased with the refereeing. According to the Valley bench boss, one of the officials assigned to Wednesday’s game plays for one of the Bandits’ feeder teams in Port Moody.

“There was a meeting at the beginning of the year saying that any Tri-City games, he’s not allowed to ref,” Nishiyama vented. “But he reffed us (on Wednesday), and it was ridiculous.

“Anything we did, even a little push, he would call a penalty. It was so frustrating, because the guys couldn’t really get into the game. Anything they did, they got a penalty for.

“In my opinion, the refs won the game for them.”

Nishiyama said the Rebels have lodged an official complaint with the WCSLA, though there’s likely no recourse for a game that’s already been played.

The Abbotsford squad led 5-3 through 40 minutes, but their officiating-related angst bubbled over in the third period. The Bandits were the recipients of an extended two-man advantage in the early portion of the final frame, and scored twice on the power play to tie it up.

That turn of events seemed to deflate the Rebels. The Bandits got the go-ahead goal and scored into an empty net in the final minute to seal the victory.

Geordie Wells continued his red-hot offensive play for the Abby squad, notching a hat trick in the losing effort. In Monday’s Game 2, Wells had scored the game-winner in double-overtime as the Rebels edged the Bandits 9-8 to even the series.

Wednesday’s game marked the Rebels’ final appearance in Abbotsford this season. They’re being displaced because the ice is being reinstalled at MSA Arena in preparation for hockey season. The balance of their “home” games – including Game 5 of the WCSLA semifinal next Thursday, if necessary – would be played at North Surrey Rec Centre.

“It’s kind of a throwback type of deal,” said Nishiyama, noting the Rebels franchise moved to Abbotsford from Surrey in 2005.