The New Westminster Salmonbellies Senior A Lacrosse Club is gearing up for what could be “weird” season in the Western Lacrosse Association.
The Salmonbellies will open their 2022 season on the road when they play the Victoria Shamrocks on Friday, May 27 and the Nanaimo Timbermen on Saturday, May 28. Their first home game at Queen’s Park Arena is on Thursday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m., when they’ll take on the Burnaby Lakers.
“We will be very competitive …. The offense is good. The goaltending is excellent,” said general manager Ray Porcellato. “We will be at the top end of the league, in my opinion.”
The Salmonbellies recently announced it had added goaltender Zach Higgins to its lineup. Higgins, currently the starting goaltender for the Philadelphia Wings in the National Lacrosse League, has played for the Brooklin Lacrosse Club in Ontario’s Major Series Lacrosse in the summer, but is heading west for the 2022 Western Lacrosse Association season.
"I couldn't be more excited to be joining the New Westminster Salmonbellies,” he said in a news release. “I understand the importance of what good leadership and experience looks like and this feels like a really special opportunity for me. This roster is full of guys who have been through what it takes to win at the highest level, which made joining this group an easy decision. New Westminster is a historic organization within the Canadian lacrosse landscape, and I intend to bring everything I have to represent their history in the best way I know... winning a Mann Cup."
The team also announced the WLA had approved a trade between the Bellies and the Coquitlam Adanacs, which will bring brothers Jeff and Travis Cornwall, who both have extensive National Lacrosse League experience, to New West in exchange for a second round pick in the 2023 junior draft, plus third and fourth picks in 2024.
Jeff, 30, is returning to the Bellies where he played three seasons as a standout defender and transition player from 2014 to 2016; Travis, 32, last suited up for the Maple Ridge Burrards in 2019.
“That was a good deal. They are excellent players and seasoned professionals,” Porcellato said. “The deal actually is about this year, but it’s more about next year. Travis Cornwall is coaching the Poco Junior lacrosse team so he will be in and out. He will play probably like 10 games for us and then playoffs and the Mann Cup.”
Porcellato said Haiden Dickson, Jordan McBride and Mitch Jones will provide really good offence for the team. Jones was injured for part of the Vancouver Warriors’ 2022 season, but Porcellato said he’s on the mend and will be “ready to go.”
Justin Salt, Jimmy McBride, Quinn MacKay, Jason Jones and Brendan Ranford are among the returning players suiting up for the Bellies this season. Former Senior A Salmonbellie Ilija Gajic is also returning to the team, as is Drew Belgrave.
“We have a player on Colorado that I traded for as well – Jordan Gillis,” Porcellato said. “Anthony Malcom, he is going to be busy doing some extra work like camps and clinics in Albany, New York where he plays in the NLL but he will be home in June so he will get 10-plus games in.”
Porcellato said the team will be “very strong in net,” with Higgins set to hit town next week and backup goalie Neil Tyacke looking “pretty darn good” in practices.
Newcomers to the Bellies lineup include Colton Clark (who last played for the Nanaimo Timbermen in the WLA); draft pick Haiden Dickson, who has played the last two years for Calgary in the pro league; and rookies Koby Noda, Connor Evers and Finn Stark.
A “weird” year in the WLA
Porcellato noted WLA teams are losing a number of players to the Senior B league, where clubs are trying to build teams to win the Presidents Cup.
On top of that, he said players with contracts in the Premier Lacrosse League (field lacrosse) are prohibited from playing summer box lacrosse in Canada.
“It’s not just New Westminster that is dealing with these issues,” Porcellato told the Record. “It’s league wide. Every team is dealing with this sort of thing.”
So, what does that mean for the Bellies in 2022?
Several Bellies’ players have signed Senior B cards, including Logan Schuss (Ladner Pioneers), Jeff Cornwall (Ladner Pioneers), goalie Alexis Buque (North Shore Indians), Brandon Goodwin (North Shore Indians), and Sam Clare (Ladner Pioneers) – meaning they won’t be able to suit up for Salmonbellies this summer.
Mike Messenger has been signed by the Chrome Lacrosse Club in the PLL, which will finalize its roster after next weekend’s training camp.
“I can’t see him not making it,” Porcellato said.
Kevin Crowley and Will Malcom were both scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery on May 17, but Porcellato said they were expected to be healthy in time get in the four games needed to make them eligible to play in playoff and Mann Cup games.
“It’s just an odd year,” he said.
In a May 18 post on Instagram, PLL Chaos stated that Crowley had been added to its 30-man training camp roster. Porcellato, however, said he confirmed with Crowley that he won’t be attending that camp, so he will be available to play for the Bellies later in the season.
Porcellato anticipates that the Langley Thunder will be strong this season, as they have good offence with Curtis Dickson, Dane Dobbie and Robert Church in the lineup, and strong goaltending with Frankie Scigliano in net.
“The most we can hope for at this point is to be competitive, and I think we will be,” he said.
After the 2020 and 2021 seasons were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the players are anxious to play – and Porcellato hopes the community comes out to support the team.
“It’s not just the gate and how much money it means to us. It’s more about a good vibe in the building and just a fun experience for them,” he said. “The guys feed off it when there is a good crowd. It always makes it better.”
For more information about the Salmonbellies, go to www.salmonbellies.com.