When to go for it and when to not?
That seems to be the question every team in the B.C. Junior “A” Lacrosse League asks itself each season.
The trend in recent years for the province’s top circuit for 17-to-21-year-olds is which of the seven clubs is going to take a run at perennial powerhouse Coquitlam. The only one to be successful was the Delta Islanders back in 2016 but even then the Adanacs still advanced and won the Minto Cup.
Since that memorable summer, the Islanders have been in a rebuild mode that has resulted in a combined 10-31 record and out of the playoffs over the past two campaigns, including a 6-14 record last season. With a promising 2000-born core that won the provincial midget A1 title three years ago, the hope is Delta can make another run to nationals.
This coming season provides a favourable window when BC hosts the tournament at the Langley Events Centre and gets two berths. That’s how Coquitlam advanced even after falling to Delta in the league finals.
However, expecting this club to take such a significant leap is a lot to ask. The 2016 win was the pinnacle of three above .500 regular seasons and reaching the finals a year earlier. Yet, co-head coaches Kyle Goundrey and Andy Ogilvie are not ruling out anything with the regular season still four months away.
It all starts with informal workouts this week that eventually lead up to main training camp.
“There are a lot of things we want to do differently than last year,” said Goundrey, entering his third-season as the club’s head coach. “It was a learning process having the five-year junior (age division) for the first time. We want a smoother transition going into it and the more kids we have out the better shape we will be in before the season. The response from the players has been really good.”
Even without the now graduated Christian Del Bianco in net, the Adanacs are a good bet to be in position to defend their Minto Cup title. Last season’s league finalist New West is loading up their 2019 war chest — in what will be former Islander standout Tre LeClaire’s final year of junior — pulling off a pre-midget draft deal with Burnaby last week.
In the past two years, the Islanders have traded leading scorer Ryan Jones, including to the Salmonbellies last summer, where he enjoyed an exceptional post-season. They hope not to be in the same position again come the July 1 roster deadline.
“Realistically what will happen is if you feel like you are not going to be a top contender you want to let your veterans have the opportunity to try and win a Minto Cup,” continued Goundrey. “But I personally have said to (team president) Darcy (Phillips) if we are in the playoffs, anything can happen in a seven game series. We are not sending anyone anywhere.”
Goundrey did add his team’s “window of opportunity” might not be as far off as the 2000 age group’s junior run suggests.
Instead, he looks at his net where he has one of the league’s top goalies in Brody Harris who turned in an MVP performance in helping Canada win last summer’s World Junior Tournament.
“One of our main guys is Brody and next season is his last year,” he said. “We are lucky to have one of the top goalies in the league and that’s something you want to move forward with and take advantage of.”