Shawn Slaght, All Lacrosse All The Time – A Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network
Next week kicks off the Western Lacrosse Association’s 2023 season.
We start off the schedule with the defending champions Langley Thunder hosting the Burnaby Lakers on Wednesday night. The Nanaimo Timbermen head to New Westminster to take on the Salmonbellies on Thursday. It’s double the action on Friday with the Maple Ridge Burrards playing Burnaby, and the Thunder taking on the Victoria Shamrocks.
The week wraps up with the Coquitlam Adanacs hosting the Timbermen on Saturday and the Shamrocks and Burrards playing on Sunday.
Once again, heading into this year I think there is a clear divide between the top five with Langley, Coquitlam, Nanaimo, Victoria, and New Westminster and the bottom two in Maple Ridge and Burnaby.
Here is a sneak peek at how each team is looking:
They are the defending champs and I would think they would have to be the early favourites to repeat.
One of the biggest off-season moves was head coach Rod Jensen stepping down and Calgary Roughnecks bench boss Curt Malawsky taking over. Depending on Calgary’s playoff run it may be a while before we see Malawsky behind the bench.
If the roster plays out similar to last year they remain stacked with the likes of Robert Church, Chase Scanlan, Connor Robinson, Curtis Dickson, and Dane Dobbie. Also, keep in mind Langley got Joe Resetarits’ playing rights in a trade with Victoria for Thomas Vaesen.
They also traded for up-and-comer Bobby Kidd III and signed Jake Boudreau to shore up their defense. They also received Tyler Codron in a trade.
The only question mark will be what kind of performance will they get out of Frank Scigliano in goal.
The question with Coquitlam is how much are they going to rely on Christian Del Bianco in goal. If Calgary’s playoff run continues, they could struggle early in the season.
John Hofseth had a big season in 2022 and if Levi Anderson, Matt Delmonico, Riley Loewen, Brett McIntyre, and Clark Walter return it would boost the offense.
On defense, they had Reid Bowering, Conner Stroup, and Erik Turner from last year. It wasn’t stacked with superstars so can they hold their own?
Coquitlam only made one move in the off-season, sending a second-round pick to Victoria for Justyn Gurney’s playing rights.
The surprise team last year that snuck into the four-way tie for first place in the standings.
Devlin Shanahan will be back and he was a pleasant surprise for the Timbermen. He posted a 5-1 record during the regular season with a 9.17 goals against average and .802 save percentage.
They still have depth in goal with Charles Claxton and Justin Geddie on the sidelines.
Teioshontateh McComber, Colton Lidstone and Zach Manns anchored the offence last season.
You’re also looking at a killer transition game with potentially Will Johansen, Ethan Ticehurst, Jerret Smith, Adam Wiedemann, Evan Messenger and Kris Veltman.
They aren’t going to kill teams with any big-name players, but they will be competitive if all the pieces come together.
Victoria probably didn’t perform up to expectations last season. They were able to grab the number four spot in the four-way tie with a record of 12-6 but were 6-4 in their last 10 games of the season.
Surprisingly they made few deals in the off-season, mainly picking up draft picks and future considerations.
Again, if keep their core together from last year you would think they would have to be favourites.
There should be no lack of offense with the likes of Larson Sundown, Rhys Duch, Jacob Ruest, and the King brothers (although Jesse could be delayed depending on the NLL playoffs).
Defensively, the Shamrocks are a bit thinner. Jackson Nishimura, Ben McCullough, Dallas Wade, and Liam Phillips anchor the group.
There is the potential Victoria could have Brad Kri back with Oakville not competing in MSL this summer.
In goal, you’ll likely see Pete Dubenski. As long as he stays consistent, Victoria will be OK.
New Westminster Salmonbellies
This was a team that did not live up to expectations last year and, no surprise, they made some moves.
Of interest, they picked up the rights to Eric Penney in goal. Penney played Senior B and won a Presidents Cup last year. He had a lackluster campaign as a backup in the NLL. Will he be looking to face stiffer competition this summer? Also, where does this leave the status of Zach Higgins? Does he take on a back-up role or does he move on?
In other moves, the Salmonbellies picked up Cam MacLeod in a trade with Victoria and Ryan Martel from Burnaby.
Clearly, General Manager Ray Porcellato was not happy missing the playoffs.
Can the Lakers improve on a four-win season in 2022?
The Burnaby squad fielded a very young line-up with few that see regular playing time in the NLL over the winter.
They are trying to change that a little bit. The biggest off-season move was picking up the playing rights to Alex Buque. Like Penney, he played Senior B and won the Presidents Cup and might look to face stiffer competition after a disappointing NLL season.
The Lakers also made moves to get Erik Maas from Langley and Connor Goodwin from Maple Ridge.
While Burnaby looks to have improved, I don’t think they have all the firepower needed to compete with the top-tier teams in the WLA.
Maple Ridge Burrards
For a one-win team last season, the Burrards were awfully quiet in the winter heading into the 2023 season.
They did trade with the Lakers for Brandon Clelland. If he suits up it’ll be some much-needed experience for the Burrards.
Otherwise, it is pretty status quo. They field a line-up of relative unknowns with little to no pro experience. It could be another long season for the Burrards.