2023 Preview: New season, new coach, same goal

by Gary Ahuja

The Langley Thunder enter the 2023 season with a new head coach and a revamped transition/defence as the reigning Western Lacrosse Association champions begin the hunt to successfully defend their WLA title from last summer.

The biggest change for the squad is behind the bench with Curt Malawsky set to put his stamp on the team. While this may be Malawsky’s first foray behind the bench in the WLA, but he is no stranger to the coaching ranks with an impressive resume that includes success at the Junior A, professional and international levels.

On offence, Langley is expected to return all but three forwards with the returnees accounting for 151 of the 175 goals scored by that position. Dane Dobbie (37 goals, 80 points), Curtis Dickson (27 goals, 68 points), Robert Church (30 goals, 61 points) and Chase Scanlan (29 goals, 44 points) are back and ready to go. The team does begin the regular season without captain Connor Robinson (18 goals, 45 points) and fellow left-side forward Dylan Kinnear (8 goals, 15 assists) who remain in the National Lacrosse League as their Colorado Mammoth squad goes up against the Buffalo Bandits for the NLL Cup. The best-of-three series is set for May 27 and 29, and if necessary, June 3.

Joining the team up front will be rookies Kyle Brunsch and Tristan Kirkham, as well as Jordan Roberts and Jake Bowen.  Brunsch scored 66 goals and 104 points in 25 regular season and playoff games combined for Langley’s Junior A team while Kirkham split his time between the Thunder’s Tier 1 and Junior A teams. He also played three games for the Senior Thunder and managed a goal and four points as an underage callup. Brunsch was a Territorial Protection pick while Kirkham was selected in the WLA Junior Draft.

Roberts played a pair of games for Langley in 2022 and finished with four assists. Bowen joins Langley from Alberta where he scored 76 points in 15 games for the St. Albert Miners, leading the Junior A Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League in points while his 31 goals were second in the league.

In goal, Frank Scigliano is back between the pipes for Langley and is looking to build on a sensational first year where he led all WLA goaltenders with an 8.13 goals against average and was second in save percentage (.837). He also went 8-3 in the playoffs with an 8.79 GAA and .832 save percentage.

While the forward corps returns largely intact as does the starting goaltender, the biggest positional overhaul comes with the Thunder’s defence and transition units.

The back-end features returnees Cal Slade, Jordan Magnuson, Reece Callies, Keegan Bell, Trent Kellner, Tyler Sceviour and Aaron Skye, who will be joined by Matt Abbott, Jake Boudreau, Jesse Gillespie, Ryan Heard, Nikhal Dhandwar, Graydon Bradley, Tre Mason, Jacob Taylor and Bobby Kidd III.

Abbott was a Territorial Protection pick and he excelled in the face-off circle as a junior, leading the BCJALL with a .616 winning percentage. He also joined the Senior Thunder as a call-up during the WLA Finals and the team’s Mann Cup appearance. Heard (Burnaby) and Dhandawar (New Westminster) were selected in the WLA Junior Draft.

Mason – who played three games for the team in 2022 – Gillespie and Boudreau were signed as free agents and Taylor returns to the team after taking last season off. Bradley and Kidd III were both acquired via trade for the 2023 season from the Burnaby Lakers and each comes to Langley with NLL experience.

Malawsky is joined behind the bench by assistant coach (and former Thunder standout) Ian Poole. Also new to the team is another former player, Jamie Hackel, who will serve as an assistant general manager alongside Remo Spagnuolo. Rob Buchan returns as general manager.

The Thunder play their home games on Wednesday nights at Langley Events Centre.

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