Lakers new boss pumped for playoffs

by Jamie Scott

There’s no question – the task at hand is huge.But a challenge isn’t something Jason Dallavalle backs down from.

The newly minted Burnaby junior Lakers lacrosse coach said the finish of last year’s B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League season is something the team can learn from. “It’s very exciting, taking on this job,” Dallavalle told the NOW. “I know we have the makings of a good team, because we definitely have a lot of heart.” 

As part of Brad Parker’s coaching staff in Burnaby the past three seasons, as well as five years prior in New Westminster, he knows how the hill has appeared to get steeper, going from a five-win, sixth-place finish in Year 1, to last year’s 3-18 record, one win more than dead-last Nanaimo. After starting the season at 1-1, the Lakers lurched through some rough patches, including an eight-game losing skid that saw them outscored 110-50. “It was a difficult end to the year,” he noted. “But in the end we put it behind us, move on.” 

Putting it in the rear view mirror means hoisting bigger expectations, but Dallavalle said 'better' is not good enough."We have a solid core on both offence and defence (returning)," he noted. "I think it's very reasonable that we set our sights as a playoff contender. We can only go up from here."A new season isn’t just about hope but about potential, and Dallavalle sees plenty of that in the lineup. Among the returnees are Jordan Gabriele, Jesse Gastaldo and Patrick Shoemay, who took over as interim captain after the trade deadline last year.

Depth in net, led by third-year stopper Graham Husick, is an enviable strength, while some skilled sticks from intermediate ranks will press for big roles.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a united organization to turn around a franchise, and that is an area Dallavalle points to with confidence. Parker remains onboard as an advisor, while Dallavalle has a good rapport with general manager Jamie Scott. “We’re on the same page,” he said.

The club’s late spiral was enabled by the annual sell-off of veteran players, who are moved to end their junior careers with a playoff race or rented out for a few weeks for prospects and draft picks.

Last year, Burnaby moved out perennial leaders Aidan Milburn and Danny Spagnuolo. Players were thrown into new positions and lessons were learned. It’s something the coach embraces. “I’m constantly learning, and you have to learn, absorb and adjust your style for the games and even sometimes each shift,” he said.

He anticipates a competitive camp with between 40 and 50 players battling for positions.

The team held fitness testing on Thursday, and camp is expected to begin, informally, next week.