New GM puts Mann Cup on 'Bellies' to-do list

The focus remains the same.

It’s just the faces that have changed.

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The New Westminster Salmonbellies unveiled its new front office team Tuesday that will lead the organization in its goal of a Mann Cup.

Long-time local lacrosse volunteers Paul Horn and Ray Porcellato have taken on the titles of president and general manager, respectively, succeeding Dan Richardson.

Richardson resigned his post last summer after 16 years carrying both titles.

Horn takes on the president’s position, while Porcellato is the new GM.

“It comes with a certain amount of pressure, but knowing what (the job) entails we’re both embracing it,” remarked Porcellato, who will work with returning assistant GM John Richardson.

New West born-and-raised, the 50-year-old GM has the local credentials as well as the vision required for the task ahead.

He’s coached and managed at the minor and junior levels, and has committed to getting the team to the next step – a national championship.

“We won’t leave any stone unturned in getting the team to that level,” Porcellato said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh my God, the cupboard’s empty.’ Right now it’s competitive as it is.

“But we’re not going to build towards beating Maple Ridge or Victoria. We want to measure up to the previous (national) champion, the Peterboroughs.”

Last season, New West finished third overall at 11-7, just one win back of Victoria and Maple Ridge. The playoffs ended in a semifinal loss to the Burrards.

Richardson resigned at the end of the 2019 season to continue his full-time GM commitment with the National Lacrosse League’s Vancouver Warriors.

Porcellato said he is currently connecting with the team’s players, many of whom he coached in minor or junior, to see who will be signing on for 2020 Western Lacrosse Association season.

“We’ll be looking at all facets – do we have the right mix to win in goal, on defence, on offence, who’s on our inactive roster, prepare for the (February) draft, on (eastern) transfers. It’s up to me to get the best players onboard with the ultimate goal of bringing a Mann Cup back to Queen’s Park.”

He noted that head coach Rory McDade and his staff have his full confidence going into next season.

“I go to the Canada Games pool to keep in shape and who’s usually on the bike beside me, riding it into the ground, is Rory,” said Porcellato. “We often talk lacrosse and I’m very comfortable with his approach.”

Key among his tasks will be to get commitments from last year’s leadship core, including league scoring champion Mitch Jones, third-overall scorer Keegan Bal, Logan Schuss and defensive stalwarts Justin Salt and Brett Mydske.

He’s hoping to chat with captain Curtis Hodgson to gauge his interest in playing another season.

Putting the best team on the floor means getting players like Alexis Buque, Brandon Goodwin, Anthony Malcom, Brett and Reid Mydske and Mike Messenger to recommit for another summer. The team has also reached out to Ontario transfer Austin Shanks, who finished fourth in goals with 36, just one back of teammate Jordan McBride.

“Half the guys in the (dressing room) I’ve coached or coached against, so I’m not the new guy, I’m the old guy,” Porcellato noted. “(Richardson) has left us a product in very good shape, and it’s our job to take it the next step.”

He noted the upcoming WLA board of governors meeting will provide a chance to touch base with all organizations to talk shop, in preparation for the junior draft. This year's draft will be the first year where teams will be entitled to one territorial protected player - with teams holding the option to take a draft pick at the end of the first round if they choose not to use it.

With the Mann Cup hosted by Ontario this year, Porcellato envisions a few WLA teams taking a wait-and-see approach. While the Burrards stocked up last year in a push to win the league, the high cost of importing talent could see a few close their wallets with an eye on 2021 -- when the championship returns to B.C. That means an opportunity for another team, and the new New West GM hopes to be front of the line.

"With the (Mann Cup) back east this year, you might see more teams focus on 2021, but there will be a WLA champion and we have a good chance. Every year we want to be competing for (a Mann)."

Horn is also New West-born, but calls Mission his home now.

Porcellato said he is excited about the challenges ahead, knowing expectations have been high every year.

“It’s going to be both intense and exciting,” he said.

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