A trio of hometown lacrosse players could be suiting up for the New Westminster Senior A Salmonbellies in the 2023 season.
When the recent 2023 Western Lacrosse Association junior draft was complete, the Senior Bellies had five new additions, including three former Junior Bellies and a goalie.
According to a press release from the Senior A Salmonbellies, the most significant news in the 2023 WLA Draft was a significant change in 2023 to the “territorial protection” rules, which now allows every team to protect two players, based on their primary affiliation during their junior career. In the first few years of the territorial protection program, WLA teams could protect just one player, and that pick was based on the address of the player.
This year, all seven WLA teams opted to each protect two players – with the Senior Salmonbellies protecting former Junior Bellies Noah Armitage and Ben Stewart. After “distinguished careers” with the Junior Bellies, the pair finished the season playing with the junior Langley Thunder, after a late-season trade.
"Noah Armitage and Ben Stewart are absolutely blue-chip prospects that I think have extremely high ceilings,” said Bellies GM Ray Porcellato. “They both have the size, athleticism, and the lacrosse IQ to play at the highest level, so we are excited to have them join the Senior Bellies and reach their full potential at Queens Park in the years to come.”
Armitage is a 6'4", 210-pound leftie who notched 3.6 regular season points per game (ppg) last season.
“After being added to a stacked Thunder offence, he raised that average to 3.8 ppg during the playoffs,” said the news release. “In both the regular season and playoffs, Armitage's goal-scoring and assist numbers were identical, demonstrating his prowess as both a shooter and a playmaker.”
In addition to a stellar box lacrosse career, Armitage is also a skilled NCAA attack player for the Stony Brook University Seawolves, where he had 35 points over 12 games as a junior in 2022.
Stewart, a 6’2” leftie with a scoring touch, played 13 regular season games in the BC Junior A Lacrosse League, where he had 29 goals – good for sixth in the league for the season.
“Like Armitage, he can also distribute the ball, earning 23 helpers last year, for a 4.0 regular season ppg average,” said the news release. “His NCAA credentials are also strong. He is a senior for the Wagner Seahawks, where he holds a regular spot as a midfielder and is known for his speed and smarts in transition on the field, and his academic ability in the classroom.”
After announcing their Territorial Picks, each team was able to draft over five more rounds, but the Bellies had just three picks.
The Salmonbellies used their first pick (which came in the third round) to select Stryker Roloff from the Langley Junior Thunder. Roloff, a 6’2” left-handed defender, was recently selected by the NLL Las Vegas Desert Dogs in the 2022 draft.
The Bellies selected another hometown player in the fourth rounding, picking Kip Guthrie from the Junior Bellies. In seven games for the junior squad in 2022, the SFU business student had three goals and six assists in those games.
The Bellies completed their selections by adding goaltender Troy Cuzzetto from the Junior Thunder. Cuzzetto played 14 games in Langley last season and earned an 80.5 save percentage.
“We’re gearing up for a Mann Cup-worthy season this year,” said Senior Salmonbellies president Paul Horn. “These five young men have a great deal to offer, and we welcome them with open arms to the Bellies family. It is especially gratifying to see three Junior Bellies making the step to the senior club, but we also want to acknowledge all the other New West Junior players who were drafted to other clubs. New Westminster’s junior team provided many players on Tuesday and that should be a source of pride for everyone in the Royal City.”
New Westminster players in the junior ranked picked by other teams include Nikal Dhandawar, who was picked by Langley in the first round, Evan Pattison who was selected by Nanaimo in the second round, goalie Keegan Melenchuck who was chosen by Burnaby in the second round, and Andrew Bishop who went to Nanaimo in the fourth round.
Drew Andre, who once suited up for the Junior Bellies, was one of the Maple Ridge Burrards’ territorial protection picks.
The Western Lacrosse Association expects to announce its schedule in the coming weeks, but local fans can expect to see the Salmonbellies hit the floor at Queen’s Park Arena in late May. Information and season tickets are on sale now at Salmonbellies.com