The Port Coquitlam Saints are looking to flip the script.
Poised to make their first playoff appearance in the B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League since 2008, the Saints could also put together their first winning regular season record in six years tonight (Friday) if they defeat the last-place Burnaby Lakers.
Call it new territory, new expectations or a new era. Just don't call it surprising.
"I'm not overly surprised because that was our goal at the start of the season: to get better than we were last year and to make the playoffs. I think everybody is pretty pleased with where we're at," said Saints coach Nick Delmonico.
It's been four long years since the Saints played a meaningful game in July, let alone the fact that the PoCo crew has posted sub .500 seasons since 2006. At that time, the Saints finished third in the league with a 14-7 record and were bolstered by the likes of Curtis Dickson, Joel Dalgarno and Martin Cummings.
While that iteration of the club was loaded with offensive talent, the 2012 version finds itself a bit starved for goals - with only 152 goals for on the year, the Saints sit sixth in goals for in the eightteam loop. Only Nanaimo and Burnaby - who have six wins between them - have fewer goals than the Saints on the season.
It's for that reason that Delmonico is preaching near-perfect work habits.
"We might not be as deep or have as many experienced players as some of the other teams in the league, so we're really stressing to the guys that we need to play error-free lacrosse," he said.
Part of the Saints' current offensive woes - which were most recently highlighted in Tuesday's 7-3 loss against New West - could be attributed to the fact that top scorers Nash Harrison and Garrett Chan have been on the shelf for the past three games. In Nash's case, work commitments have kept him off the floor, while Chan is nursing a bruised hip.
As for the rest of the team's scoring threats, the current dry spell likely has more to do with what's going on between the ears rather than what's happening out on the floor.
"I think some of them are grabbing their sticks a little too tight right now because we've got some real high performance guys who are not having as good of a season as most people would have anticipated. It's more of a mindset with the whole group," Delmonico said.
As for the Coquitlam Adanacs, momentum is now seemingly on their side as they jockey for first-place alongside the New Westminster Salmonbellies. Up by one point in the standings as of Thursday, the Adanacs have rattled off six straight wins. That said, the Adanacs lost a pair of critical points earlier this week when the league forfeited the club's 16-6 win over PoCo on June 27. A bookkeeping error when trying to bring junior B netminder Riley Camazzola up to the big club resulted in the forfeited points.
"There was one extra piece of paper that needed to be done at the time removing him from the 40-man protected list first, prior to the Junior A card being signed," said Adanacs coach Neil Dinsdale.
"It's something by the letter of the law is wrong and I have no issues with it. It won't be a mistake that we will make again."
Technicalities aside, the Adanacs are coming off a polished 15-6 win over the Burnaby Lakers on Canada Day.
Three players - Ben McIntosh, Matthew Dinsdale and Reid Reinholdt - collected six points on the night, with Dinsdale pocketing four goals. Vincent Ricci netted three others, while singles went to Connor Buchanan, Chetner Jean-Luc, Robert Church, Challen Rogers, Nathan Klein, Tyler Garrison, McIntosh and Reinholdt. Camazzola, on the other hand, made 30 saves in the win.
"I like our focus and I like our team chemistry right now. I like the direction that we're going in," Dinsdale said. "We need to win the last three games to finish first and finishing first is very important for us."
The Adanacs took on Langley Thursday night after NOW deadlines, while the fifth-place Saints finish off their regular season campaign tonight (Friday) against the last-place Lakers. Game time is 8 p.m. at the PoCo Rec Centre.
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