The Nanaimo Timbermen will be a new team and a young team. They might not know how to win games yet, but maybe the flipside is that they don’t know how to lose, either.
The senior A Timbermen open the Western Lacrosse Association season this Friday (May 20) with a road game against the Victoria Shamrocks.
“It’s a whole new team, almost…” said Cody Bremner, veteran forward. “I don’t really know what to expect this year.”
Kaleb Toth, coach of the Timbermen, said players worked hard in camp, they’re fit, and they’ll be ready to go.
“It’s just getting used to playing with newer faces,” he said. “We’re going to have, probably, 10 new faces in the lineup and that’s a good thing.”
Conrad Chapman, T-men defender, said he thinks it’s a better character group this year and he likes how preparations for the season have been going.
“It feels a lot more intense than it has the past couple years,” he said. “We have a lot more guys that are focused and just want to win.”
With some guys missing camp due to school and other commitments, the T-men didn’t work a lot on systems, but Toth said it all comes down to scoring more goals than the other guys.
“Sometimes your systems are going to reward you, sometimes they’re going to completely fail you and you might have to rely on a hot goaltender or a good offence,” the coach said. “You put a base system in and you hope that the guys are smart enough and athletic enough to adjust and make it work.”
Chapman predicts the Timbermen will be fast and aggressive, and Bremner sees some of those same traits.
“Hopefully we can play a little more high-tempo and push the pace a little bit more this year and play a little bit more exciting lacrosse and put a little bit more pressure on the other team,” Bremner said.
Here’s a look at the 2016 Timbermen:
Toth said he likes what the T-men have up front, suggesting they’re faster and better balanced.
“We’ve kind of evened out our right and left situation,” he said. “We’ve brought in some righties that are going to be able to take a lot of pressure off our left-hand side.”
Bremner will be counted on to be a go-to guy offensively. He will be joined on the left side by rookie Brett Hawrys, who had a strong camp. Brody Eastwood won’t be in the lineup to start the season, but will be another key contributor.
The left side could see a significant change, as team captain Cayle Ratcliff didn’t report to camp this spring due to work commitments. The T-men are still hopeful he will be able to contribute.
Also missing is Casey Jackson, who was traded to Nanaimo in the off-season but hasn’t reported.
The right side sees the addition of Colton Clark, a WLA veteran. The T-men add another dimension to that side of the floor with Chase McIntyre, a high draft pick. Returnees Randy Jones and Mitch Parker and rookie Matt Benedict will also contribute. Draft pick Jordan Cunningham, a transition forward, and newcomer Ryan Lee will join the team late. Last year’s leading scorer, Macgregor Johnston, may be able to help the team later this season.
Bremner said the forwards got better at moving the ball around as camp went along.
“It was a little different at the start, but it’s starting to jell and starting to come together,” he said.
The T-men think they’ve got a defence that’s tough enough to push around opponents, and athletic enough to be successful in transition.
“I feel like we’ve gotten bigger and a lot faster and a lot of the guys have a lot of skill, too,” Chapman said. “We have a lot of good stick skills in the back, a lot of fast feet and we should look to push around a lot of opposing offences.”
Top draft pick Jordan Gilles will join the team next week and is expected to make an immediate impact as a transition defender. Doug Langlois, Tyson Roe and Kyle Hofer are other versatile guys on the back end. Chapman, Tanner Theede and Brandan Smith will be important shut-down defenders, along with draft choice Taylor Stuart, who will join the team next month. Jeremy Roe, Bradley Breadon and Mason Pynn are some of the other guys in the mix on defence.
“We have a lot of size back there and we’re quick back there, so that’s going to be key in being able to recover if a guy gets beat; it’s also going to be key in transition,” Toth said.
The coach likes his goaltending tandem of Pete Dubenski and Mike De Girolamo. Dubenski, the new No. 1 guy, is a reaction goalie, while De Girolamo is more of a positional goalie.
“It’s a good mixture and a good balance…” Toth said. “And also it makes it tougher for offences that we play, because now they have to change their shooting style if we throw in a different goaltender because they’re two completely different goalies.”
The Timbermen start the season Friday (May 20) down the Malahat against the Victoria Shamrocks, a 7:45 p.m. start at the Q Centre. After Friday’s season opener, the T-men will visit the New Westminster Salmonbellies on May 26. Nanaimo’s home opener is May 28 when the Shamrocks visit Frank Crane Arena for a 7 p.m. game.