For the first time in a long time, the Nanaimo Timbermen proved they were playoff-calibre. Next, they’ll find out if they can become championship-calibre.
The senior A T-men saw their season come to an end Aug. 10 when they lost Game 5 of a best-of-seven series against the Victoria Shamrocks.
They’ve had a chance since then to assess what went wrong in that series and appreciate what went right this summer. Nanaimo finished 10-7-1 in the regular season, establishing a franchise record for wins and allowing the fewest goals against in the league. Since their playoffs ended, the T-men have also been honoured with some individual hardware from the Western Lacrosse Association. Drew Belgrave was chosen a first-team all-star, Jordan Gilles and Chase Fraser are second-team all-stars and Kaleb Toth won Coach of the Year.
“It’s always nice to be honoured with a league award, but the ultimate award is the Mann Cup and that’s what we want to get,” said Toth. “We’ve got a little bit of work to do, but we made some great progress this year and hopefully we can continue to grow as a team.”
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Toth said he thinks there were a couple of factors that led to his team’s playoff loss. He didn’t think any facet of the team played to their full potential, but he also saw how the Shamrocks’ experience helped that squad. Nanaimo, he said, panicked a bit at times.
“They definitely tried and worked hard,” Toth said. “When you make the playoffs, your game needs to step up and our game didn’t step up to that next level. We didn’t get mean enough, but that’s a learning experience.”
He said he didn’t think Victoria was necessarily a better team than Nanaimo.
“I think they played a better game than we did,” Toth said. “I think our team could definitely beat them, we just need to improve on confidence and some little things.”
The coach said he thinks the experience of losing in the playoffs will make his guys even hungrier to go one better next time.
“They want to be back, and now they’re going to realize that once you get into the playoffs, it’s a whole new ball game and you have to be that much dirtier, that much grittier and work that much harder.”
Some of the takeaways from the 2018 season, he said, will be the changed mentality and attitude in the team, and also the atmosphere of Nanaimo lacrosse fans supporting a team that was winning games.
“I was very happy with the way that the team played this year, getting more fans out, getting the buzz going in the city. It was exciting lacrosse,” Toth said.