Short-man work where New West looks to improve

It's a world of fast breaks and momentum changes.

But to thrive in the Western Lacrosse Association, most coaches agree that dominance on the specialty teams scene is crucial.

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New Westminster Salmonbellies' coach Rory McDade has mapped out some vital areas where his squad can improve on as the 2019 season progresses.

After a 3-2 start -- although one of those losses was by forfeit -- McDade has pinpointed the penalty kill as a place where the team could make some adjustments for the benefit of the 'W' column.

"I'm really happy with how the defence has played better the last few games," McDade remarked, referring to wins over Langley (11-8) and Coquitlam (13-7) last week. "I think our penalty killing improved, but that's an area we can do better at."

Against the Adanacs last Thursday, New West drew just three minor penalties, and were successful killing the ball on two of those opportunities. Over five games, however, they sit below the .500 line when it comes to killing off penalties -- giving up 13 powerplay goals over 25 chances. Only two teams have worse PK rates.

Mitigating that situation is that, like every other WLA team, New West is adjusting to the new rule that puts shorthanded teams on a 30-second shot clock, voiding the ability to rag the ball for as long as they can.

"That's a big change," noted McDade. "You can't rag it now, so you have to get through two good sets (of the clock). ... Teams have been getting multiple shots, and it's our job to limit that, to get the ball back after one or two shots."

New West's specialty teams received a big boost last week with the arrival of Kevin Crowley, who produced three goals and three assists on the powerplay in his two games. The six-foot-four sniper isn't expected to play the bulk of the games going forward, and the team was without Mitch Jones and 2018 league scoring champion Logan Schuss, who has yet to play this season due to injury.

"(Crowley) came in in good shape, he always has a stick in his hand," said McDade. "He's a dominant player who kind of sets the table and complements our lineup."

New West enters Friday's game in Victoria (there is no home game this week) expecting the usual -- despite the Shamrocks 1-4 record.

"You go in there knowing what to expect," remarked the coach. "We're looking forward to playing in that arena, we know they've had a tough start but fully expect them to play hard. The guys like going there and playing in front of that loud crowd."

'Bellies general manager Dan Richardson says the Q Centre is a special place to play, and Victoria's current struggles won't matter.

"They're a talented team that hasn't had a good start, for whatever reason," said Richardson. "They'll get their act together, we just hope it's after we leave. It's a special atmosphere over there (that) the players enjoy. The fans there hate us."

New West's next home game is June 20, 7 p.m. when Nanaimo pays a visit to Queen's Park.

That game against the Timbermen will give the 'Bellies a chance to exact some revenge for their first encounter -- which at the buzzer was a 11-9 win for New West, but 48 hours later a loss due to forfeit.

By Canadian Lacrosse Association rules, the visiting 'Bellies had used an ineligible player -- although Richardson said they had done their due diligence in making sure the junior New West call-up was permitted to play.

"That one was on me," said Richardson. “From what we knew and what (New Westminster junior A general manager Warren Goss) knew, there were no conditions on using this player as a call-up,” said Richardson. “It was a mistake, we put it in the rearview mirror and move on.”

According to the regulation, import junior players are ineligible for call-up if their home junior club, in this case Whitby, has a senior A team (Brooklin) that would hold first-rights of refusal for call-ups. Even though the player has a valid transfer card to play in B.C., the rule, unbeknownst to Richardson, states he couldn't play senior A in B.C.

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