To say that the Langley Thunder have some room for improvement is an understatement.
Langleyâ€™s Western Lacrosse Association team is looking to bounce back from a sub-par 2014 campaign.
For the first time since 2010, the Thunder were on the outside looking in when it came to the WLA playoffs, after finishing fifth in the seven-team league with a 7-11 record.
This is unfamiliar territory for a Thunder team that made back-to-back Mann Cup national championship series appearances in 2011 and 2012, falling to the Brampton Excelsiors and Peterborough Lakers, respectively.
Prior to last year, the Thunder also finished on top of the WLA standings in both 2013 and â€™12.
â€œWe didnâ€™t have the season we wanted last year but with the lineup we had we did some good things,â€ Thunder head coach Rod Jensen said. â€œThis year we bolstered our lineup and we want to get back on top again.â€
Leading the way up front are last seasonâ€™s leading scorer, lefty Alex Turner (who tallied a career-high 70 points including 34 goals in 18 games in 2014) and hulking 6â€™4â€ right-hander Athan Iannucci, who led the Thunder in scoring in the 2011, â€™12 and â€™13 seasons.
Speaking of size, 6â€™7â€ netminder Brodie MacDonald, who was named the WLAâ€™s top goalie in 2013 and the leagueâ€™s Rookie of the Year in â€™11, is back with the team.
In 60 regular season games MacDonald has a 27-18-4 record including an 8.28 career goals against average. He is also 12-8 in the playoffs.
Earlier this week, the Thunder signed MacDonald, Turner, Iannucci, and their first round pick in this yearâ€™s Western Lacrosse Association Draft, Anthony Malcom.
Turner returns for his seventh season with the Thunder. He sits second in franchise history with 323 points. He was also part of the Thunderâ€™s run to the 2011 and â€™12 Mann Cup finals.
â€œWeâ€™ve got a bunch of new faces and a couple of guys coming back that we were missing last year,â€ Turner said. â€œIt was disappointing not making the playoffs but weâ€™re excited to get things rolling this season.â€
Langley also signed Anthony Malcom, the third overall pick in the 2015 WLA Entry Draft.
Malcom was a powerhouse in the BC Junior â€˜Aâ€™ Lacrosse League with the New Westminster Salmonbellies, scoring 177 points in 48 BCJALL regular season games. Malcom helped guide the â€™Bellies to a 2013 Minto Cup appearance.
â€œIâ€™m excited to show them what I can do and help them win games,â€ said Malcom. â€œTheyâ€™ve been one of the best teams the past few years. They have a winning mentality. Iâ€™m glad to play with players like Iannucci and Turner and the rest of the guys.â€
Brett Mydske will be a key piece on the back end. The 6â€™4â€ defender was among seven WLA players named to Team Canadaâ€™s training roster for the 2015 FIL World Lacrosse Championship this fall.
Langley struggled last season on both ends of the floor, finishing fifth in the league in goals for (138) and sixth in goals against (163).
The Thunder used their top picks in this yearâ€™s draft to help solve those problems with the additions Malcom and defenseman Jakob Doucet, who was selected tenth overall in the draft.
â€œIâ€™m hoping to have a great season,â€ Doucet said. â€œThese guys are a great group; I know a few of them from junior. Weâ€™re clicking well early on and hoping to continue it during the regular season.â€
Along with the rookies, the Thunder welcome back sharpshooter Lewis Ratcliff, who hasnâ€™t played since 2012 along with Nik Bilic and Pat Saunders, both who have previously played for Langley.
â€œItâ€™s exciting to be back here on the West Coast,â€ said Saunders, who last played for the Thunder in 2011. â€œItâ€™s a big change, I came in here at 21 years old and I was the young guy. Now Iâ€™m the veteran and Iâ€™ll try and help the young guys realize that this a great opportunity to play lacrosse and show them to respect the people around you and treat this team like your family.â€
â€œItâ€™s an interesting lineup,â€ said Jensen. â€œWeâ€™ve got a mixture of some really young kids and some great veterans. Weâ€™re going to provide a good product on the floor. Hopefully we can get back to where we were when we were playing for the Mann Cup.â€
The Thunder open their season on Wednesday, May 27 when they host the New Westminster Salmonbellies at the Langley Events Centre. Game time is 7:45 p.m.
A reminder, all minor lacrosse players receive free admission when they wear their jerseyâ€™s or with their Langley Thunder Minor Lacrosse ID Cards. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. and tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster or at the LEC box office.