The Langley Jr. Thunder are ready to be heard in 2011.
After a handful of down years, things are looking up for the junior A lacrosse team which kicks off their B.C. Junior Lacrosse Association season tonight (Wednesday) in Coquitlam against the Jr. Adanacs.
The Thunder have won a total of four games the past three years, but general manager Brock Rose says that patience should be rewarded.
“We are getting younger, we are getting faster, we are getting better,” Rose said.
“I believe we are on to something.”
For that, Rose thanked the Thunder’s ownership group for the patience of watching a losing product to become what he calls “a realistic junior A team to showcase to the fans in Langley and everyone else.”
“We are moving in the right direction,” he said.
And it all stems from a conscious decision the team brass made.
“We took a path three or four years ago of isolating the Valley residents and feeling we could build a championship team from basically the Valley (players),” Rose said.
The Thunder roster consists heavily of players from Langley, Maple Ridge and Abbotsford.
Leading the way is the top overall draft pick from two years ago, Reegan Comeault.
“He was the (Sidney) Crosby of that draft, everyone wanted him,” Rose said.
Comeault, one of several Thunder rookies last year who received significant playing time, responded with 33 goals and 73 points in 20 games.
That placed him sixth in the league in both categories.
“He will definitely be one of our showcase players (but) we have a cast that will complement him,” Rose said.
Langley Minor Lacrosse products Brandon Bull and Sean Lundstrom are two of the players he mentioned.
Lundstrom was second on the team in points with 52 in 16 games and was tied for the lead with 40 assists.
Bull finished with nine goals and 15 points in nine games.
Maple Ridge’s Nick Stone was captain of the Ridge Meadows midget team which won provincials two years ago, a squad which also featured Comeault. Stone had 16 goals and 23 points.
Another player being counted on will be Max Weselowski.
The Thunder were second on the power play, scoring 53 goals while a man up, and Rose says that will only improve as his young squad continues to develop over the next four years.
Heading into the season, Langley is carrying three goaltenders: incumbent Keenan Lambright, Trent Gabriel, who came over from the Victoria Jr. Shamrocks, and rookie Ryley Brown, a Langley Minor Lacrosse product.
Lambright had an 11.95 goals against average and a .723 save percentage in 2010, while Gabriel’s numbers were a 9.19 GAA and a .782 save percentage.
“The great equalizer is goaltending,” Rose said. “One of my motto’s is that great goaltending will trump great coaching.
“No matter what you do as a coach, if you don’t have goaltending, it is hard to manufacture wins.”
“We hope the pressure that is rested upon their shoulders, they have the mentality to be able to accept that, that they are able to play to the level we need them to,” he added.
That is not to say that the rest of the team is off the hook when it comes to defence.
“They are not alone without a cable, but they need to be there when things break down,” Rose said.
The Thunder play their home opener at the Langley Events Centre on Sunday at 5 p.m. against the Nanaimo Jr. Timbermen.