Nanaimo Timbermen player Brett Fleming looks to pass the ball during a B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League game last season against the Coquitlam Adanacs. The 2013 season starts Saturday (April 27).

Nanaimo Timbermen player Brett Fleming looks to pass the ball during a B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League game last season against the Coquitlam Adanacs. The 2013 season starts Saturday (April 27).

Junior Timbermen aiming higher

The Timbermen open the 2013 B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League season Saturday (April 27) on the road against the Coquitlam Adanacs.

The Nanaimo Timbermen junior A team can put last year firmly behind them, because a new season has arrived.

The Timbermen open the 2013 B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League season Saturday (April 27) on the road against the Coquitlam Adanacs.

The junior A club has a new coaching staff, new roster additions and players returning after being rented out to contending teams.

“We’ve brought in a lot of nice sticks up front and we’ve got a little bit more sandpaper on the back which is something that’s always important in this league,” said Jon Nicholson, Timbermen general manager. “With that toughness and the work ethic that the coaches are instilling, I think we’re going to be a tough team to play against.”

Brad Dougan, coach of the T-men, thinks the team has a group of guys that will be able to match up favourably with some of the top teams in the BCJALL.

“We’re built on strength, so I think the smaller, faster teams will give us a bit of a run for our money,” said Dougan. “But I think we’re a lot smarter, that we can make up for it.”

Dougan will be assisted behind the bench this season by Ken Morrison. The junior A T-men haven’t yet selected a captain, but will choose one in the coming weeks, probably from the group of alternate captains that includes Macgregor Johnston, Brett Fleming and Ryan Hanna.

Here’s a look at the 2013 junior A Timbermen:

OFFENCE

Two veterans who will be looked to for scoring are Corey Shires and Mitch Parker. The Nanaimoites led the junior A T-men offensively last year before being traded to contenders.

“It’s invaluable to have that playoff experience and get that chance to play in those big games,” said Nicholson. “That’s going to be big for our team and hopefully it will rub off to some of the other guys, just what it will take to get to that next level.”

Parker said the T-men offence will rely on moving the ball quickly, getting the ball low and being physical on picks.

Two junior B standouts from the Armstrong Shamrocks, Brett Hawrys and Owen Barker, come with ready-made chemistry and will also contribute offensively. Brady Jorgensen is another newcomer who will be relied upon.

Nick Sanderson and Macgregor Johnston will both re-join the roster in the coming weeks and both are expected to add offence.

DEFENCE

Good lacrosse teams not only lock things down on defence, but they turn around and transition the ball up the floor. Dougan said Nanaimo needs to transition well for the team to have success.

“Junior A is so quick. Five-on-five, settling it down is not going to win you games,” he said. “Faceoffs and transition is huge in this league and that’s where games are won.”

A priority for the defensive guys, though, will be limiting scoring chances.

“We wanted to be harder to play against and we wanted guys that were going to really work for it,” said Nicholson.

Alex McDougall and Mitch Backstrom are two of the team’s primary shut-down defenders, with McDougall also adept in transition. Ryan Hanna is another contributor on defence/transition and Nanaimo sports fans will recognize V.I. Raiders lineman Jordan Kuziek on D.

Big Tyson Roe returns to the unit next month.

GOALTENDING

The last line of defence is expected to be one of Nanaimo’s greatest strengths this season with Pete Dubenski returning to the crease.

“He’s going to work a lot of minutes this year and he’s ready for it; he’s ready for the challenge,” Dougan said.

Nicholson said it will be important for Timbermen defenders to make life easier on their goaltender by forcing opponents to take more shots from the outside.

OUTLOOK

Hanna said he thinks the T-men have the talent to compete this season, but said it will take hard work.

Some early season success would sure help, too.

“It’s extremely important. You’ve got to have that winning mentality going into the rest of the season,” Hanna said. “Once you have that winning feeling, you know what it’s like to win and you know to keep pushing that pressure at the end of the game and give it that last 100 per cent.”

GAME ON

The junior A lacrosse team starts the B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League season Saturday (April 27) in Coquitlam … The team’s first home game will be May 4 against the Delta Islanders at Parksville’s Oceanside Place … The first game at Frank Crane Arena will be May 11 against the Burnaby Lakers … Season ticket information can be found online at www.tmen.ca.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com