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Rennie putting his faith in the past

Delta Islanders open B.C. Junior "A" Lacrosse League regular season on Saturday night in Ladner
Delta Islanders head coach Greg Rennie talks to his players during a practice session this week at the Ladner Leisure Centre.

Greg Rennie continues to to surrounded himself with familiar faces as he gets set for his second season back in charge of the Delta Junior "A" Islanders.

After an outstanding three-year run overseeing the Richmond Intermediate "A" Roadrunners, it's no coincidence the Ladner native has brought a number of his former players across the river to form the Islanders' foundation.

Roadrunner alumni Brad Hoffman has been named team captain as Delta opens its B.C. Junior "A" Lacrosse League regular season schedule Saturday when the Burnaby Lakers visit the Ladner Leisure Centre at 7:30 p.m. He is joined by at least seven former Roadrunner teammates - Cody Nass, Spencer Bromley, Jayden Campbell, Connor Davidson, Chandler Bradley, Jordan Gilles and goalie Ryland Hood.

Gilles is a player Rennie had targeted since accepting the Islanders assistant GM and head coach position in the fall of 2013. It took sending graduating standout Eli McLaughlin at the league trading deadline last July for the Coquitlam Adanacs to finally part with the two-way standout. He has already been named an assistant captain for his final year of junior "He's a kid who just leads by example," said Rennie.

"He is a such a dynamic player and athlete. He played for me for two years and knows what expect and what kind of brand of lacrosse I like to play. I think with our chemistry, he will flourish here."

The Islanders are coming off a season that ended in disappointment and sadness.

The club was confident it could contend for its first-ever championship but was instead a plateau below perennial powerhouses Coquitlam and New West, settling for 12-9-0 record.

Rennie decided to change course and invest in the future by dealing McLaughlin and others for a pile of midget draft picks. Delta was eventually swept in the opening round of playoffs by New West.

The results on the floor paled to what the club was going through off of it as Rennie's longtime assistant Dave Pirog was diagnosed with cancer in May and passed away four months later.

"The kids were absolutely crushed and played for him in the playoffs but it was very difficult," said Rennie.

His revamped coaching staff includes Marty O'Neill and Logan Schuss joining Ryan Keith as assistants. The plan is for Schuss to take 2015 No. 1 overall midget draft pick Tre Leclaire under his wing as he jumps right to the junior level.

"They can relate to each other in so many ways," said Rennie. "Number one overall picks, NCAA Division One star and high expectations. I think Logan can really connect with Tre and Logan knows that too."

Rennie is counting on much improved goaltending with returnees Hood and Matt Keith having a season under their belts. He is also expecting 6-foot-5 transition player Reece Callies to be a major force at the back end.

Local products Evan Messenger and Jon Phillips elevated their offensive games down the stretch and could have big years.

"I think we have depth all over the floor," added Rennie. "There is also a lot of parity in the league this season and it all depends how we come together as a group. But I believe this team can play with anyone."