Pioneers dedicate season to former player/coach

Road to third straight to nationals begins Saturday night in Ladner

The Ladner Pioneers will have extra motivation when they begin their quest for a third straight trip to the President’s Cup national championship on Saturday night.

The West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association club is playing the 2019 campaign in memory of former player/coach Thomas Haydon.

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The popular Delta Firefighter lost his battle to pancreatic cancer last October at the age of 36. He helped the Pioneers win nationals back in 2004.

A number of Haydon’s friends and former teammates are throwing their support behind the Pioneers — on and off the floor.

Among them is former Calgary Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride who will cross the Rockies to play for his hometown team this summer.

Some significant impact NLL players are also rumoured to be coming on board for a potential run to the President’s Cup, slated for late August in Montreal. However, the club will take nothing for granted until the high-level talent is actually in uniform and have passed on playing for their regular WLA or pro field teams.

In the meantime, head coach Ross Frehlick oversaw one of the club’s most competitive training camps in recent memory with roster spots at a premium.

“I would have to say in all my years being here, it’s probably the best and most intense camp we have ever had,” said Frehlick whose team welcomes Victoria to the Ladner Leisure Centre at 6 p.m. “There are only so many roster spots available and some tough decisions to make.”

A year ago, the Pioneers were in reach of the President’s Cup gold medal game in Nanaimo until a pivotal 24-hour stretch in round-robin play sent them in the other direction.

Frehlick came away from the tournament knowing more scoring depth had to be a priority.

Zach Herreweyers should provide a significant punch.

The 24-year-old Ontario native brings NLL experience and managed 32 points in 17 games with the WLA Salmonbellies two years ago. The club has also added more American talent in Joey Lucchesi who is a terrific athlete with field experience.

In net, Ladner could be leaning on the two Zachs.

Hometown product Zach Wickett is back for his second season while 30-year-old Zach Boychuk brings plenty of WLA experience, including several seasons in Nanaimo.

A rare Saturday night (6 p.m.) home opener will be followed by three more games at the LLC before the Pioneers hit the road. They include Royal City (May 9), a return trip by Victoria (May 12) and defending WCSLA champion Nanaimo in town on May 16.

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