Timbermen begin transition year

The Nanaimo Timbermen are preparing to take the floor Friday (May 17) in Burnaby for the start of another WLA season.

Nanaimo Timbermen players Kyle Hofer

Nanaimo Timbermen players Kyle Hofer

In a lot of ways, they’re the all-new Nanaimo Timbermen.

The Nanaimo Coastal Windows Timbermen are preparing to take the floor Friday (May 17) in Burnaby for the start of another Western Lacrosse Association season.

There’s no question it is a transition year. There are no longer any original players left from the inaugural 2005 season, though one member of that team, Kaleb Toth, is stepping behind the bench in 2013.

The Timbermen made major moves in the off-season, granting trade requests from MVP Scott Ranger and another top scorer, Cory Conway.

“Sure, it’s nice to have an all-star here and there, but it’s nice to have a group of guys that want to work hard for each other and that’s what we have here,” said Toth.

This season brings a challenge, but also an opportunity, and players recognize that.

“I think everyone’s going to have to really step up and accept more of a role this year and just really contribute everywhere they can,” said Zak Boychuk, the team’s goalie.

The T-men can’t really fill the shoes of the departed all-stars, said Graham Palmer, veteran defender, but he said guys don’t need to try to do too much out there.

“We have people to step up and take the opportunity and run with it,” Palmer said.

The coach said in building this year’s team, he’s seeking guys with the right attitude. He doesn’t want players who accept losing.

“When everyone has a common goal like winning, it’s amazing what good things can happen,” Toth said. “As soon as you start accepting losses at any point in your life, life’s got you beat.”

Here’s a look at the senior A Nanaimo Timbermen who will take the floor in 2013:

OFFENCE

The T-men attack won’t at all resemble that of recent seasons, in which the offence, at times, was almost completely dependent on one player.

“We’ve got to keep the ball hot,” Toth said. “No offence to any of the guys in the past, but sometimes the ball would get in one guy’s stick and it wouldn’t come out. We don’t have that one guy that can go through three guys and score a goal.”

The T-men will need to be reliant on Cody Bremner this season. Last year’s WLA Rookie of the Year is still finishing up his college semester, but is expected back before the end of the month.

Returnees Cayle Ratcliff, Blake Kenny and Ryan Keith will all get more touches and rookie transition players Paul Brebber, Kyle Dexter and Jake Emms will be asked to contribute right away.

Veteran scorer Joel Henry won’t join the T-men to start the year but could make a return at a later date.

DEFENCE/TRANSITION

With the offence getting used to a whole new game plan, the other facets of the game may become magnified, particularly early in the season. Team success will be closely linked to the transition game.

“That’s what I’m hoping for this year, is that we get a lot of outnumbered rushes, we score at least five or six tranny goals a game,” said the coach.

Veteran defence/transition players Doug Langlois and Palmer will lead the unit, and newcomer Barclay Hickey has impressed in camp. Other returning transition players include Kyle Hofer and Myles Kenny, Sean Nugent and Bobby Debrone are also back on D, and rookie Tom Newton has earned a spot.

Toth said he wants his guys to take care of things in the defensive end, and then, when they get the ball, outrun the opposition’s offensive players jogging off the floor.

“We are very fit and we’ll be able to run with any team out there,” said Palmer.

GOALTENDING

Boychuk takes over the job as No. 1 goalie this year after making a strong case for the distinction during his first two WLA seasons.

“It’ll be a challenge, but I’m ready to take it on and lead these guys in [net] night in, night out, give them all I’ve got and stop as many balls as I can back there so we can win a lot of games this year,” Boychuk said.

Brandon Mulligan will be the backup goalie this year.

OUTLOOK

The Timbermen, after five straight years out of the playoffs, might have needed a change, and it’s come.

The roster, on paper, doesn’t compare with that of some of the WLA favourites, and Boychuk said it will take “almost picture-perfect games” to win.

“Talent-wise, we do have good talent, but stacking up to teams like Victoria and Langley, where half their rosters are NLL rosters, we just can’t [match] that,” he said. “But if we work harder than them we’ll surprise them a lot of the time.”

Toth said the Timbermen lineup is capable of winning games.

“When you get everyone buying in, everyone working hard, nine times out of 10 you’re going to win the game,” he said.

GAME ON

The T-men visit the Burnaby Lakers on Friday (May 17) and then return home to play the New Westminster Salmonbellies on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.

For season ticket information, please visit www.tmen.ca. Tickets to Sunday’s game will also be available at the door; cost is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors/students, $5 for children and free for kids five and under.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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