Regals look to turn up aggression and speed

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

KITCHENER – The Guelph Regals figure on being a young squad this Ontario junior B lacrosse league season and they hope to use that youth to increase their speed and aggression.

“We’re going to have a young team and be fast and aggressive and exciting,” coach Keith Begley said following Saturday’s training camp session at Queensmount Arena. “They’re all very energetic and they want to be here. That’s one of the biggest hurdles for a coach, having kids that want to play. If you’ve got that, you can work with them. If not, it’s a lot different.”

Saturday’s session was the third of the season for the Regals at the Kitchener arena and it attracted 18 players including three goaltenders.

“We’re just starting to get numbers out so it was more promising today having almost a full squad out,” Begley said. “We’re just looking to see what’s there because we lost a lot of players from last year’s team to this year’s.”

Begley is entering his first season with the Regals as he takes over from Brady Campbell who stepped down for personal reasons earlier this year. Begley also becomes the team’s third coach in three years as Wayne Burke had coached in 2015.

“I’ve coached for about the last 10 years,” Begley said. “It’s something that I like, but it’ll be a different style that we’ll be bringing to the team, more of a junior A style and hopefully by mid-season, everyone will be in full flight and we’ll be ready to go after them.”

Begley, who’s from the Toronto Beaches area, was out of coaching last year, but was head coach of the league’s Newmarket Saints in 2015 after serving as an assistant coach with the team the two seasons before that.

The Saints were 9-12-0 in 2015, but swept from the opening round of the playoffs by the Akwesasne Indians.

Begley was also head coach of the Toronto Beaches junior A team for four seasons. He had played junior B for Beaches in the 1980s and also played major lacrosse with the Brooklin Redmen.

By bringing a junior A style to the Regals, Begley intends on getting the team to be more aggressive and faster and he’ll want the players to move the ball a lot quicker.

“Getting the kids to learn how to create space and take the space that they create, that sort of thing instead of sitting back,” he said. “It’s not a drastic change, but from midget to junior, it’s a big step and we want to get them there as quick as possible.”

The Regals, who’ll have a new logo and uniforms this season, went 11-9-0 last year, but were ousted in the opening round of the playoffs 3-1 following a close series with the Niagara Thunderhawks. All of the games in the series were decided by two goals or less.

As for this season, Begley is hoping for another campaign with a record of above .500 and a third consecutive appearance in the playoffs.

“It’ll be tough, but I think it’s doable,” Begley said.

He’ll also be hoping to get the Regals beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and the second time since 1997.

“They’ve been slowly going up, but now we’ve got to get over that hump of making the playoffs,” he said. “They make it into the playoffs, but then how do we get past that? How do we get to the second round? Or third? With a young team, there’s going to be mistakes but hopefully they’ll learn from them and next time they won’t make them.”

After using Cambridge’s Galt Arena Gardens as their home arena last year with the Victoria Road arena unavailable due to renovations, the Regals will be back to playing home games in Guelph. Vic Road is still unavailable, but the Regals will play their first two home games of the regular season at the West End Community Centre before switching their home base to the Sleeman Centre for the rest of the season. They haven’t used that as their home arena since 2009 when they didn’t qualify for the playoffs, but were still silver medalists in the national Founders Cup tournament that they played in as the hosts.

The Regals will have another session at Queensmount Arena April 8 before playing the Wallaceburg Red Devils in a pe-season game there April 9 starting at 3 p.m.

“It’ll probably be close to the last cuts there,” Begley said. “We’ll let the kids go out and play and see what they can do and see if there’s something that we see in them that we think we can work with.”

The Regals are to begin their regular season April 15 with a game against the Elora Mohawks at the Elora and District Community Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.