The season is about to start and the WLA is especially hard to forecast this year. If every team has a chance, then that includes the Nanaimo Timbermen.
The city’s senior A Western Lacrosse Association club is getting ready to step on the floor for the 2018 season, as the T-men visit the Coquitlam Adanacs on Saturday, May 26, and then the Maple Ridge Burrards on Sunday.
Nanaimo had pretty much a full complement of players at practice on Tuesday and coach Kaleb Toth said he’s liked players’ approach to camp and also their intensity.
“Everyone is in good shape and I like the compete level,” he said. “Right off the bat, we’ve been battling, guys aren’t taking it easy on each other.”
Nanaimo finished fifth in the seven-team league last year to miss the playoffs for an 11th-straight season, but were competitive night in and night out and only allowed one goal per game more than they scored.
“We’re going to make it difficult for everyone, whether they come here or whether we go there, we’re going to compete all the time,” Toth said. “Last year, I think the guys got a taste of how good they can possibly be and what they need to do to get to the next step.”
The T-men are high on new additions at all areas of the floor.
Just last week, the Timbermen traded for Evan Messenger, who was a high scorer in junior and will fill a need on the left side. Keenan Koswin, a top-10 draft pick, has looked great in camp and the T-men feel he has potential to become an important offensive contributor right away. Veteran leaders Brody Eastwood and Colton Clark both return up front. Jon Phillips is coming off a good season of university lacrosse, Nanaimo junior A product Cody Clark is showing he’s ready to contribute and Dane Sorensen, who missed all last season with injury, is good to go.
Last year’s WLA Rookie of the Year Chase Fraser will be back, but his return will be delayed a few weeks. Ryan Lee, another sniper, has not yet committed for the season. The absence of the 30-goal scorer Fraser to start the year will create a void.
“It doesn’t really matter who scores, as long as we score goals and try to keep it balanced,” Toth said.
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— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) May 23, 2018
On defence/transition, the key addition this year is third-overall draft pick Drew Belgrave, who will make his senior A debut this weekend. Stalwarts Conrad Chapman, Tyson Roe, Brandan Smith and Nate Wade will have things well in hand, Adam Jay has looked good in camp and Jordan Gilles will report later this season.
“I think we’re big and strong back there. I don’t think anybody’s going to be pushing us around in the D zone,” said Toth. “And I think that we’re going to be smart enough, because we’re going to have that experience, that we’re going to be able to slide and help when necessary and not give up inside shots.”
The goaltending picture was shaken up this season and Mike deGirolamo, backup the last two years, is expected to get the season-opening start. He will share time in the crease this season with new addition Charles Claxton.
It’s an exciting time of year, Toth said. He’s happy with the direction of the league as he said all the organizations are determined to be competitive and said teams play hard, clean and entertaining lacrosse. If this can be a year that the Timbermen take that next step, so much the better.
“They want to make the playoffs and they want to improve and they want to be the best team that we can be and we’re going in the right direction,” the coach said. “So hopefully we can have a real good year.”
GAME ON … After the games at Coquitlam on Saturday, May 26 and at Maple Ridge on Sunday, May 27, the T-men also have a road game Thursday, May 31 against the New Westminster Salmonbellies. Nanaimo’s home opener is June 2 when the Victoria Shamrocks visit Frank Crane Arena for a 7 p.m. game.