WEEKEND A SWEEPING SUCCESS
The Delta Islanders head into Coquitlam Wednesday night with something they have had little of all season.
The Islanders will be riding a two-game win streak when they take on the perennial B.C. Junior “A” Lacrosse League powerhouse thanks to a weekend sweep of the Nanaimo Timbermen and Victoria Shamrocks. They leaned on the outstanding goaltending of Matt Hills who made 42 stops in a 9-6 win in Nanaimo and he was even better 24 hours later at the Ladner Leisure Centre with 59 saves in an 11-9 upset of the second place Shamrocks.
At 4-10-0, Delta won’t be in next month’s BCJALL playoffs but it’s crucial this franchise takes a step forward with plenty of young and promising talent that will be around for the next few years. Following an impressive season-opening win over Port Coquitlam, the Islanders dropped nine consecutive games and many were of the ugly variety.
It forced first-year co-head coach Andy Ogilvie to revamp his entire defensive system. The new structure, combined with Hills’ brilliance, has the Islanders climbing back towards respectability with seven regular season games remaining.
“It was just a matter of our start of the season game plan not fitting with this group of players,” said Ogilvie. “The defence that we were playing is what I used last year (as an assistant in the WLA). We altered it and those adjustments are paying off now. The kids have bought in and are working hard. It also helps getting that kind of goaltending.”
Hills has seen his workload increase after the club recently released Roman Rose. The Delta Lacrosse product continues to make impressive progress, having played much of his career at the “B” level, including a leading role in Delta winning bronze at the intermediate provincials three years ago. He played junior “B” last season and now has shown he is more than ready for the next level.
“All three goalies we had at the start of the season (including Brody Harris) have great stopping ability. So that’s when you are looking for that something a little extra in training camp or the start of the season,” said Isles first-year GM Matt Disher a former longtime pro goalie himself. “The type of defence we were playing tonight really suits his style.
“He gets out there on the ball but also shows good movement. He did a great job of cutting down the angles (on perimeter shots) and also made some great stops when they did work the ball to get some good looks. Those saves kept us in a game we should have been losing.”
The Shamrocks were playing catch-up all night after goals from Mark Yingling, Dawson Trimble, Riley Phillips and Jake Cantlon gave the hosts a 4-0 lead 12 minutes in.
Delta opened up a 9-4 advantage in the early stages of the third when the Shamrocks cranked their game to another level to produce three unanswered goals with still eight minutes remaining. That’s when Hills came up with some superb stops to halt the comeback, while goals from Ryan Jones and Brendan Szabo gave the hosts some much needed breathing room to complete the upset.
Jones, Phillips and Yingling each scored twice. Jake Cantlon and Jake McIntosh had the other goals. Phillips added seven assists to finish with nine points.
In Nanaimo, Trimble had a big night with six points, including a pair of goals. Jones added a hat trick.
After taking on the Adanacs Wednesday, Delta travels to Port Coquitlam on Friday and hosts Langley on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The looming July 1st trading deadline heated up this past week with the last place Burnaby Lakers making deals with contenders New West and Port Coquitlam.
What the Islanders will do remains to be seen but it should be about adding on to a strong 2000-born age group with hopes of contending for the league championship by 2020.
What makes lacrosse trades so flexible and unpredictable is players with eligibility remaining often end up back with the non-contending team that dealt them. That was the case last season when the Islanders sent Jones back east to Six Nations.
“There is a lot of activity and interested parties around the league,” added Disher. “There is going to be some activity but we would just like to see how the players are playing and what we can do best for our team moving forward. We are only going to make a deal that is going to work best for our interest. We won’t do anything otherwise.”