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Shamrocks look left as WLA season opens

Victoria hosts Langley on Friday night
Jesse King returns as the Shamrocks open the WLA season on Friday. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST)

It usually takes until mid-June before Western Lacrosse Association rosters are completely set with all the players having returned from the professional National Lacrosse League or U.S. collegiate field lacrosse in the NCAA.

“This is an unusual year for us with only three players missing to start the season,” said Shamrocks GM Chris Welch, whose club opens the 2024 WLA season tonight at The Q Centre against the Langley Thunder.

Chief among them is Casey Wilson, who is with the ­University of Denver in the NCAA Final Four this ­weekend at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, and a prime ­candidate for the Canadian team when field lacrosse returns to the Olympics in 2028 at Los Angeles.

Also to be arriving later is a major signing this week. Clarke Petterson was 10th in NLL scoring with 40 goals and 104 points in 18 games with the Halifax Thunderbirds.

Otherwise, it’s all hands on deck for tonight’s opener.

That includes a loaded left side on offence with NLL pros Jessie King, Chris Wardle, Brad McCulley Matthew Gautier, Ronin Pusch along with returnee Thomas Vaesen.

Gautier and Pusch are friends who went to two Minto Cup national Junior A championship tournaments with their powerhouse hometown Edmonton Miners team and are sophomore pro teammates in the NLL with Panther City of Forth Worth, Texas.

“We have incredible depth down the left side,” said Welch.

Which is never a bad thing in either lacrosse or hockey.

Balancing on the right side will be Petterson.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join one of the most historic teams in Canadian lacrosse history,” he said in a statement.

“We have a great roster and I look forward to joining and competing with the guys this summer with the goal of winning a Mann Cup.”

The crease will feature two players, both pro starters in the NLL, who the Shamrocks believe will be their goaltenders of the future. Sophomore Cam Dunkerley, 24, knows The Q Centre well after having backstopped the Junior Shamrocks to the Minto Cup national championship tournament in his junior days before becoming the starting goalie for the New York Riptide of the NLL. Chris Origlieri is 21 and the starting goaltender for the San Diego Seals in the NLL.

“It’s exciting to have two goaltenders who are No. 1’s as pros with their NLL teams and we believe we have two starters who are 1A and 1B,” said Welch.

“These are two top calibre goalies who we plan to keep together as a tandem for years to come.”

Last season was the first of a major rebuild for the Shamrocks, who now feel they are ready to take the next step.

“It is a process that is ­continuing,” said Welch.

“Last year was the first step and this year is another step. We believe the Shamrocks have given notice that we have the makings of a solid program moving forward. We can’t wait to get started [tonight].”

Victoria’s first away game is Sunday at Cam Neely Arena in Maple Ridge against the ­Burrards.

The Nanaimo Timbermen open Saturday night in Coquitlam against the Adanacs. The first game at Frank Crane Arena in the Harbour City is June 1 against the Burrards.

The WLA season began Thursday night at Queen’s Park Arena in New Westminster with the defending-champion ­Salmonbellies hosting the ­Burnaby Lakers.

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