Hot T-men take on first-placed Thunder

The Nanaimo Timbermen haven’t lost in a month, but they’ll be challenged this Saturday at Frank Crane Arena by the Langley Thunder.

Nanaimo Timbermen forward Cayle Ratcliff

Nanaimo Timbermen forward Cayle Ratcliff

With the league’s best team taking on the league’s hottest team, something’s gotta give.

The Nanaimo Coastal Windows Timbermen (5-3-1) haven’t lost in a month, but they’ll be challenged this Saturday (July 7) at Frank Crane Arena by the Langley Thunder (8-4).

The T-men aren’t trying to build this game up as any different than the others.

“They’re all measuring sticks. Every team in this league is good…” said Scott Ranger, Timbermen captain.

“Guys are ready to play; I don’t think it really matters who we’re playing. That’s an exciting thing to have in the locker room because we’ve been defeated for a long time and it’s nice to have that winning attitude right now.”

The Timbermen are coming off a 13-9 win over the Coquitlam Adanacs last Saturday at Frank Crane Arena. Playing the type of lacrosse that helped them go 3-0-1 in their last four should lead to more success moving forward, they think.

“It’s about who’s going to execute the little things properly,” Ranger said. “The loose balls, the big picks, that kind of thing. That’s what it’s going to come down to, is hard work.”

The Timbermen will also have to keep tabs on the Thunder’s top scorers.

Last time the teams met, Lewis Ratcliff torched the T-men for four goals in a minute and a half to pace a 14-10 Langley win.

“Other than that, we had control of that game,” said Art Webster, Timbermen coach. “[Athan] Iannucci is going to score. Lewis is going to score. We have to contain them. They’re going to get a couple of goals but we can’t allow them to get four.”

Nanaimo also has a talented group of forwards. Lewis’s brother Cayle Ratcliff has scored hat tricks in consecutive games for the Timbermen.

“For the start of this year I was a little bit snakebitten, and then I started getting a few one-goal games and my confidence has picked up huge,” he said.

Cayle Ratcliff’s high-scoring ways add some pizzazz to Saturday’s brother-versus-brother matchup, the first at Frank Crane Arena since Lewis was traded to the Thunder in the off-season.

Goaltending will be another storyline as the T-men’s Matt King is coming off a sterling performance in his last game and the Thunder’s Brodie MacDonald is among the league’s elite. Ranger said ideally, his team will be able to get to the opposing netminder early so he doesn’t get a chance to build confidence.

“He is a good goalie so if he’s making saves early [we need to] stay patient, stick to the game plan,” said Nanaimo’s top scorer.

Home floor continues to be an advantage for the Timbermen, who are 4-0-1 at Frank Crane Arena. Ranger said his team is hearing the cheers, which are helping. He pointed out a couple of instances last game where the fans disagreed with officials’ calls, and let the refs hear about it.

“It’s kind of neat to see that,” he said. “For the first time in a long time we’ve got a winning team and Nanaimo supports winners and hopefully we can continue to win and keep those crowds because they mean a lot when you’re on the floor and you’re tired and you’ve got to go out next shift and the crowd’s behind you. It goes a long way.”

First back-to-back games will test Timbermen

The big game Saturday (July 7) against the Langley Thunder is only the first task this weekend, as the Timbermen play the Maple Ridge Burrards on Sunday on the mainland.

The T-men won’t get ahead of themselves, though, and will expend all their energy against the Thunder and hope it’s replenished by the following night.

“We’re going to worry about Langley and go from there,” said Ranger. “Hopefully we can execute Saturday night and then Sunday night will fall into place.”

Ideally, said Webster, the T-men will make it through tonight’s game injury-free. If they can do that, then they should be able to meet the physical challenge of back-to-back games.

“You can’t think you’re tired,” he said. “You’ve got 24 hours to get yourself back ready to play again the next night.”

Starting with a win would help create the right frame of mind.

“If we can win Saturday, Sunday’s going to be a lot easier to go over,” Ranger said. “If we lose it’s going to be a grumpy ferry ride.”

GAME ON … The T-men host the Thunder on Saturday (July 7) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and $5 for children … Sunday’s game in Maple Ridge starts at 6:45 p.m.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com