Some strong on-floor signs point to tough choices for New Westminster Salmonbellies general manager Dan Richardson entering the long weekend.
With his Western Lacrosse Association team appearing to be on the right path, following Sunday’s thrilling come-from-behind 10-9 triumph over the Maple Ridge Burrards, Richardson faces the task of not upsetting good team chemistry with a risky move by Sunday’s league trade deadline.
As evident by Maple Ridge’s three-game losing skid since they pulling off a major trade, any big move could alter what is now a good thing.
But when you have an eye on being a Mann Cup contender,
standing pat is usually not an option.
“You can compare it to any sport. It’s all relative – I was at the NHL draft and you look at all the teams that go all-in at the deadline and make those rental trades, how many were successful with those?,” noted Richardson following Sunday’s win. “You have to balance that. What about the chemistry in your room, when you bring in guys how do they fit?”
Noting how the Burrards’ current slide coincides with a deal that brought in No. 1 goalie Christian Del Bianco, sniper
Wes Berg and defender Alex Bohl, while subtracting longtime Maple Ridge players Chase McIntyre and Ryan Johnson, Richardson said there are risks involved – adding he expects his Fraser Valley rival will put it together soon.
“We’re very careful about that – of course you want the best players, but you have to also be careful of what type of player you bring in,” he said. “What does he do off the floor? What values does the person have? If it’s not matching up with what you have, stay clear. So you have to do your homework.”
The players themselves will provide the best info, whether their paths crossed through minor, in the WLA or pro. Still, the added luxury of being able to ‘rent a player’ – a new rule this off-season that allows teams to do trade-and-return of players, as is practiced in Ontario – creates new opportunities.
“That’s the balancing act. Some teams may give up too much. We’re trying to work a deal but we’re trying to not sacrifice too much of our future.”
On the floor, the ‘Bellies got four goals from Austin Shanks in rallying from a 6-3 deficit to beat the Burrards in Maple Ridge.
His final tally came with 1:03 left in the third, on a quick shot that caught Del Bianco off guard.
“I had a hot stick (all game) and felt confident, so I saw my shot and I took it,” recalled Shanks. “It was an early shot so I was hoping (Del Bianco) wasn’t really ready. I think I did catch him off guard, put it in a good spot and it went in.”
It capped a game where New West fell behind 4-1, pulled even midway through the middle period only to see the hosts fire in a pair to lead 8-6 with 20 minutes remaining.
Goals by Jeff Henrick, Shanks and Mitch Jones turned the tables, but a powerplay tally from Ridge’s Riley Loewen tied the score with 3:21 left. Shanks came up with the solution.
“Shanks has a great shot,” said coach Rory McDade. “He can score from pretty much anywhere, with the type of shot I haven’t seen too much of. It’s tough for goalies.”
Picking up a goal and four assists was Keegan Bal, while Jones finished with two goals and three helpers. Making the win possible was goalie Alexis Buque, who kicked out 41 shots and was later named the WLA’s Goalkeeper of the Week. Jones, meanwhile, was chosen the offensive player of the week.
“Both goalies played outstanding – got to give credit to Buque to hold them to eight. That’s a great team but he got some big saves on the crease and from the outside. Big ups for Buque and our defence. IF we can get stops and we move the ball on O, we’re deadly,” said Shanks.
Earlier in the week, Jordan McBride and Keegan Bal each netted four goals and Jones tallied nine points – two goals and seven assists – in a 14-6 trouncing of the Nanaimo Timbermen. Although the score was completely one-sided, the game began like most affairs with the teams in a 2-2 stalemate after one period. Then New West found it’s scoring range, and Buque held the opposition at bay most of the night. He finished with 45 saves.
New West, sitting third at 5-3, visits first-place Burnaby on Friday (7:30 p.m.), then hosts Victoria Saturday for a rare 5 p.m. start at Queen’s Park Arena.