Lacrosse is already the fastest game on two feet, and the Timbermen will need to play it at top speed.
The Nanaimo Timbermen begin the Western Lacrosse Association season Sunday (May 18) on the road against the Maple Ridge Burrards. To be competitive, the senior A T-men know they need to outrun opponents.
“Last year our goal was to outwork every team, every game, and it’s looking to be the same way,” said Graham Palmer, T-men captain. “With a lot of athletes on our team, I think we’ll be able to run with anyone.”
It’s not enough just to keep pace – the Timbermen need to win games, excite fans and fill the stands as the club overcomes financial challenges off the floor. The former Coastal Windows Timbermen know there’s no point crying over broken glass.
“We never played soft because we knew we had sponsorships,” said Cayle Ratcliff, alternate captain. “We’re always going to give it 110 per cent. We want this community to have a winning, successful team … I don’t think we’re far off from that.”
There are reasons to be optimistic. The Timbermen had their share of doubters a year ago and although they missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season, they were better than the standings suggested, said Ratcliff.
“We were competitive in every single game,” he said. “We’ve proven last year, and we’re going to prove it again that you can’t take us lightly.”
The Timbermen surrendered the most goals in the WLA a year ago, but the primary concern this year might be goal scoring.
“We’re going to have to rely heavily on our transition,” said Kaleb Toth, the team’s coach.
Players know that’s the game plan, and they’ll buy in.
“We just have to run the ball up the floor and keep on pushing it up,” Palmer said. “No stopping, no turning around, just keep on going, pushing the ball and goals will happen.”
Ratcliff and Paul Brebber will be looked upon for offence to start the year, and transition players including Kyle Hofer, Palmer, Doug Langlois and Myles Kenny will be encouraged to run the floor.
“We don’t have that one guy [opponents] are expecting all the shots to come from…” Ratcliff said. “If everybody can chip in with a goal or two a game, then we’re looking at a nice, solid, potent offence.”
Rookies will get chances not only to crack the lineup, but to contribute.
“They’ve got an opportunity now to get the ball on their stick when maybe they wouldn’t have it on their stick when the top guys are back,” Toth said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for them to prove that they can score goals. Hopefully they prove that they can.”
Zak Boychuk returns as starting goalie and Brandan Smith and Conrad Chapman are promising rookie defenders.
This year’s group gets its first test on Sunday against the Burrards, and Toth said he wants his team to play tough right away and, of course, win.
“[The Burrards] are going to be in the same boat. They’re going to be missing some guys and I think both teams are going to see what their depth looks like,” the coach said. “I was talking to their head coach the other day and we figure it’s either going to be a 6-5 game or a 21-20 game.”
Ratcliff said the T-men have seen how critical it is not to “get behind the eight ball” early on in the season.
“You need to have a big start,” he said. “These early games, when teams [are missing] NLL guys is when we need to pick up as many points as we can.”
Ultimately, the T-men know that there’s a lot more to lacrosse than how many pros are in the lineup. With a new season and an 0-0 record, where they go from here is up to them.
“You’ve got to go into every game thinking that you’re going to win,” said Palmer. “You’ve got to have confidence. You’ve got to believe in the players that you have and if you don’t, it’s done before the game’s even started. I do believe we’ll be able to win and I do believe the guys will step up and put in an effort every night.”
GAME ON … The senior A Timbermen start the Western Lacrosse Association season on the road Sunday (May 18) at Maple Ridge. Their home opener is Tuesday, when the Victoria Shamrocks visit Frank Crane Arena at 7 p.m. For season ticket information, please visit www.tmen.ca.