(Left to Right) Scott Braun and Keegan Tillapaugh are both totally focused on the ball during the Grande Prairie Thrashers lacrosse team practice at the Crosslink County Sportsplex on Wednesday night. The midget Thrashers open the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council season on Saturday afternoon in Edmonton.
Gordon Anderson / Daily Herald Tribune
The Grande Prairie Thrashers midget lacrosse team open up Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council (GELC) regular season play with three games this weekend.The club will play the Edmonton Warriors on Saturday afternoon, the Parkland Posse Saturday night and the Leduc Crush on Sunday afternoon.Thrashers Head Coach Ron Regnier struck the right tone when asked about the upcoming trifecta of games.“We don’t worry about the [other] team until we’re across the floor from them,” Regnier said.“I think we all feel pretty good and we’re excited to get out there,” Thrashers forward Joe Pelletier added, following practice at the Crosslink County Sportsplex on Wednesday night.The team is comprised of 17 runners and one goalie, with five returning players and 13 players moving up from bantam.“[The new players] get nervous every time they move up an age group, but when they get out there they soon realize the other team [have] new players as well,” Regnier said. “Usually, we size up and speed up with the other teams.”Last season, the Thrasher went 1-11 in the regular season but ended up winning a provincial gold medal last July when they beat the Westlock Rock 3-2 in the final. The club went 4-1 at the Alberta provincials in Calgary.While Regnier isn’t expecting another season for the ages—culminating with a provincial title—he’s got more modest goals at this stage of the season.“They don’t have a ‘C’ league for us in Edmonton so we play up a level as they only have a ‘B’ division,” Regnier said. “We’re hoping to come off our provincial win last year and that the players have some confidence and that we can play with these [other teams]. I want to see them play as a team and continue to improve. If we get wins out of that, excellent. But if they improve and play as a team, I am happy with that.”Among the returning players—with Pelletier being one—there’s plenty of hope to be found at this juncture in the season.“Last year, we had a lot of new players and we weren’t all that good with the sticks,” Pelletier said. “By the end of the year, we played [a lot better]. This year, we have returning players and we should be ready to get out there and [get after it].”Regnier noted the Thrashers have the necessary qualities to be a competitive squad, namely they possess speed, size and stick handling skill, but the biggest adjustment will be their style play. From a strategic point of view, it’s a complete re-vamp.“One of the biggest challenges is, usually we play a zone defence [but] this year we’re going man-on-man and our whole defensive system is going to be different,” Regnier said. “That will take our first weekend just to get used to and figure out.”No doubt there are local lacrosse fans who would like watch this club at the rink but that’s not a possibility because the Thrashers will play all of their games in Edmonton.It’s an unfortunate reality for the club as they appear to be in an uneven relationship. The league—and the teams in the GELC—probably don’t need the Thrashers as much as the Thrashers need them.The other clubs don’t want to—or need to—come here for games.Nonetheless, Regnier and his flock are ready to fly.“We’ve got a strong core on this team,” Regnier said. “You never know what the other teams are going to be like. We play every team two or three times and after the first games you start to realize what the other teams’ strengths and weaknesses are and we can start to pair up our players a little bit better. Usually, we start off a little bit slower and we’re more successful [toward] the end of the season.”