A collection of Juan de Fuca minor lacrosse players temporarily traded in their green-and-black Whalers jerseys for Team B.C. shirts Tuesday, as they gathered at The Q Centre for a group photo.
Among the eight local players who will compete for their province at nationals this summer in one of three age groups, midget A1 Whalers goaltender Ryan Atkinson is the senior member, having played on Team B.C. twice already.
“I’ve come out with a silver medal on both of my previous experiences, so I’m hoping the third time’s a charm,” he said.
While this year’s provincial midget squad doesn’t have a lot of returning players, he likes the look of the group so far. He also knows it’ll be a challenge to return to the podium. “It’s always a tough battle against Ontario.”
With an ultimate goal of playing for the senior Victoria Shamrocks and perhaps professionally in the National Lacrosse League, Atkinson looks forward to playing in high-pressure situations against some of the best young players in the country.
He also joked that he’d love to win that first national crown before his younger brother, Matt, a two-time gold medallist in provincial club play who is suiting up for Team B.C. for a first time, in the bantam division.
Fellow midget Whalers Brandon McClintick and Liam Phillips join Ryan Atkinson on Team B.C. McClintick, who won silver in 2014 as a bantam, said he has some “unfinished business” at nationals, having lost the final by one goal that year.
“There is a good group of boys (now in midget) from that team two years ago, and it would be a great way to finish our minor lacrosse years with a national championship,” he said.
Phillips, a first-time Team B.C. player and second-year midget, is excited about learning from some of the province’s top coaches. He looks forward to training with the best midget players in B.C. and using the experience to “become a better person and player.”
Matt Atkinson, a strapping former under-13 Team B.C. field lacrosse player making his first appearance with the provincial box lacrosse team, said the bantam squad looks good defensively so far, but is no slouch offensively as well. He uses his size and reach well, playing a more aggressive game against players who can be a head shorter.
He’ll warm up for nationals by playing for the Zone 6 field lacrosse team at the B.C. Summer Games next month, and said “the coolest part about being on Team B.C. is being able to play with guys from around the province.”
Bantam teammate Noah Manning is one of several in this group who has experienced firsthand what it’s like to face off against Ontario in a gold medal game. He was part of the Team B.C. pee wees who reached the final but settled for silver last year.
He expects to gain some new friendships playing alongside players from around the province, and reminds his fellow Whalers to take some tradable items for the equipment swap night that happens at the end of the national tournaments.
Pee wee Koen Block is making his second appearance with Team B.C., having suited up for the U-13 field lacrosse team that won gold at the Adrenalin Tournament in San Diego earlier this year.
He and first-time provincial players Rowan Black and Nathan King also look forward to the social aspects of the nationals, and to improving their skills by playing against top-notch age-group players.
The three teammates agreed that lining up beside mainland and Island players who they’ve battled before will be a good experience.
The midget and pee wee nationals go July 31 to Aug. 6 in the lacrosse-mad town of Whitby, Ont. while the bantams head to Saskatoon for their tournament Aug. 2 to 6.