When it comes to Airdrie's top men's lacrosse team, local fans of the sport can expect a changing of the guard in 2023, according to head coach Gareth Barley.
The Airdrie-based Rockyview Knights, who compete in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League's (RMLL) Senior B division, will see plenty of new faces on the floor this summer, as the roster underwent a significant rebuild following the 2022 season.
The Knights are coming off a disappointing RMLL campaign last year, when they finished fourth in the five-team senior B league with a 4-8 record.
With only nine returning players from last season, Rockyview's head coach is hopeful the many new recruits will help reverse the senior B squad's fortunes this time around.
“I’m excited about the team,” said Barley, who has coached and played competitive lacrosse in Airdrie for many years.
While he admits being initially concerned about the number of players from last year who wouldn't be coming back this season, Barley said the team he and general manager Keith Berg have put together brings a good blend of experience and youth, and he figures that bodes well for the 2023 campaign.
Some of the notable departures this season could include Ryan Gould, Josh Weber, and Patrick Omeara, according to Barley, though he said one or two of those players might still don the Knights' jersey for at least a few games this season.
The new-look Knights started their 2023 season on a positive foot, downing their closest rivals – the Calgary Mountaineers – 14-13 on May 5 at the Plainsmen Arena. They were also awarded a victory via forfeit against the Beaumont Outlaws the next day, putting their record at 2-0.
According to Barley, the game against Calgary was a close encounter. Rockyview built up a considerable lead, only to nearly surrender it in the third period, amid a late surge from the Mounties that saw the visitors score five third-period goals.
“They scored a lot of goals in the last couple of minutes, but it was a very good game for the start of the season,” he said.
Barley noted it's always difficult to gauge the strength of the senior B teams in the first week or two of the season, as some of the league's players are still away at university and haven't joined up with their RMLL clubs yet.
“We’re still missing three guys who are away at college, so there will be some additional help and firepower coming,” he said.
This year's recruits for the Knights include some of the top scorers from the RMLL's junior B league from last year, including Silvertips' alumni Nolan Oakey and Noah Simonelli, and Okotoks product Wallace MacRae.
“We drafted very well in the draft, getting the top three goal-scorers out of junior B, so that’s going to add to our firepower,” he said.
“Instead of going for the top junior A players available, we elected this year to change our draft strategy a bit and go for players who are going to school here or residing here. Jimmy Johnson graduates this year, so when he’s back from university, we have him. Myles Moffatt returned from university last year and went back for his fifth year this year. He’s got tryouts in B.C. We have some key guys going for tryouts in B.C. We still could have a few more coming that way.”
While there are plenty of new players to promote, Barley was quick to tout the strength of Rockyview senior B stalwarts like captain Taylor Crossley, Carson Trimble, Bryce Trimmer, and Jordan Kanscal.
“Those guys are now our vets and [some of them] have only been around for two or three years,” he said. “But our captain Taylor Crossley is still there and we have some familiar faces who have been around for four or five years.”
Rockyview's roster also boasts some prior professional experience, such as Kevin Dostie, who played in the National Lacrosse League for the Calgary Roughnecks and Buffalo Bandits, and Dylan Riley, who used to suit up for the San Diego Seals and Rochester Nighthawks.
“Adding those guys, along with our youth and our veteran leadership, I think we’ll be stronger and stronger as we go,” Barley said.
With a league-wide bye this week due to the long weekend, the Knights will be off the floor until May 27, when they host the perennially strong St. Albert Miners. The Miners are typically the strongest senior B team, not only in the RMLL but across all of Canada, with multiple national championships to their name.
For Barley, that reputation makes the prospect of beating the Miners even sweeter, and he'll be hoping for success when the St. Albertans travel south to Airdrie next weekend. Opening face-off for that May 27 game is at 7:30 p.m. at the Plainsmen Arena.
“They probably should still be the class of the RMLL,” he said. “We’ll hold them to that.”
The following day, Rockyview will be back in action to take on the Fort Saskatchewan Rebels at 1:30 p.m.
For more info on the team, visit rockymountainlax.com