The Maple Ridge Burrards are back in action this Sunday as they kick off their 2011 Western Lacrosse Association season against the Langley Thunder at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge.
Coach Daren Fridge says he hopes his team can build on the strides they took last season, as the team made their first postseason appearance since 2005.
“We have a talented bunch of young offensive players, so there’s an opportunity for us to improve,” he said.
With Curtis Dickson, Joel Dalgarno, Jarrett Davis, and Aaron Pascas complimenting Burrards veterans like Pete Tellis, Randy Daly and Derek Lowe, Fridge sees much reason to be optimistic.
“Four years ago we had to hope for the planets to align to beat some of the bigger teams,” said Fridge. “Not anymore. We have a chance to win every night.”
The Burrards exorcised a number of demons last season. The team managed to beat every one of its WLA rivals at least once in the regular season, before advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 2005, where they handed the New Westminster Salmonbellies their only WLA playoff loss.
While Fridge said he wants to give the home town fans a win Sunday, he added that he is putting less emphasis on a strong start to this season.
“Having a positive start to the season is great, but we are trying to break it down period by period,” he said. “We want to make sure we playing the way we need to play.”
After a rocky start to the season last year, the Burrards found themselves at 6-9 with three games to play. The team then went on to beat New Westminster, Victoria, and Langley to sneak into the playoffs with a 9-9 record.
“When our backs were to the wall, we were able to get the job done,” said Fridge.
The goal this year will be finding success in the playoffs.
Many on the Burrards roster have just finished playing in the National Lacrosse League. On one hand that means Fridge is getting back a handful of players in game-ready shape.
On the other hand, many are still getting recovering from the bumps and bruises that come with playing professional lacrosse.
“I don’t want them to get burned out,” he said. “They have been playing in big arenas for thousands of people all winter, so it can be an adjustment.
“Sometimes there can be a bit of a lull,” Fridge continued. “But knowing the guys, I know they want to build on what we did last season as much as I do.”
With 10 players seeing time with NLL teams this year, it’s problem Fridge hasn’t faced before.
“It’s a great problem to have,” said Fridge. “I think it’s a testament to the amount of skill we have on this team.”
After a season with the Colorado Mammoth, Joel Dalgarno has returned with much more confidence, said Fridge. Dickson, meanwhile was named the NLL’s rookie of the year.
The pair will make up the left and right ride of the Burrards attack, respectively. Backing them up will be veteran snipers Daly, Tellis, and Lowe
On the back end, Sam Cook and Creighton Reid will be joined by draft pick Garrett McIntosh, who will undoubtedly provide a physical presence to the Burrards defence.
“He hits fricken hard,” said Fridge. “He’s a good shut-down defender, we think he will fit well.”
Meanwhile Tyler Codron has fully recovered from the ACL injury that nagged him last season.
“He defends really well, and now that he’s pain free, we’re hoping he’ll be with us for many years, and become one of our future leaders,” said Fridge.
In goal, Fridge said 2010 WLA top goaltender Ron Schibild will return as starter despite the acquisition of goalie Chris Seidel in this year’s draft. However, Sunday’s starter will be a game-time decision.
• The Maple Ridge Burrards face the Langley Thunder at 6:45 p.m. this Sunday at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge.
Free barbecue and admission for lax players
Ridge Meadows Minor Lacrosse Association are hosting a barbecue Sunday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Albion Fairgrounds ahead of the senior Burrards homeopener.
The event features a fastest shot competition, a lacrosse obstacle course, a dunk-your-coach tank, and live music.
The senior Burrards will be on hand to sign autographs, and there will be free hot dogs, chips and drinks for all minor lacrosse players and their families.
The annual event is held in conjunction the senior Burrards home opener to celebrate all levels of lacrosse in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, said spokesperson Michelle Bailuk.
After the barbecue, all minor lacrosse players and coaches get in to the Burrards game free of charge, while minor lacrosse parents and siblings get in by donation to Ridge Meadows Minor Lacrosse.