The Prince Albert Predators get down to business for real on Saturday when they host the Estevan Big Dogs in Prairie Gold Junior Lacrosse League action at 7 p.m. at the Kinsmen Arena.
The Predators had a successful training camp where a large number of players auditioned for the club and when the roster was finalized as many as five new players made the line-up with a veteran component making up the rest of the team.
Head coach Darryl Frenette says that he is excited for the group of players that have been assembled and he expects his team to take that final step and get into the championship weekend in Saskatoon in July.
“We want to make the top four,” says Frenette, who last year watched his team lose in double overtime in their playoff match to be denied a trip to Saskatoon for the final weekend. “I think it is attainable as long as we get everybody working hard and paying attention to defence.”
“We are going to be strong for sure as the rookies we had last year all have that year of experience,” added Frenette.
The Predators’ leading scorer from a year ago, Tyler Tilford (12-16-28), is back for another season as are Jagg Carlson (7-15-22), Brady Leachman (7-11-18) and Bennett Hopkins (10-6-16).
Other veterans returning to the team include Kyle Sawchuk, Brennan Werrett, Lucas Wells, Brendan Ledoux, Jamieson Bird, Lucas Johnstone, Rhett Carlson, Arliss McCloy, Braelan Frenette, Connor Toporowski and Reid Corrigal.
Newcomers to the Predators this year are Taylor Wilcox, Josh Hopkins, Brendon Beaulac, Brody Low and Carson Remy.
The Predators will play 11 regular-season games this year – up one from previous seasons – with the league being down one club as the Moose Jaw Mustangs have taken a one-year sabbatical.
Also new this year is a weekend festival in Regina where each team will play three games with the all-star competition also included in the get-together. The Predators will take on Yorkton, Estevan and the Regina Riot during the festival, which is scheduled for May 31 and June 1.
Prince Albert opens the season with three straight games at home beginning on Saturday followed by a May 10 date with the Saskatoon Smash and May 24 encounter with the Saskatoon Steelers.
Following the weekend festival in Regina, the Predators will play four games in an eight-day span as they will host the defending league champion Regina Rifles on June 7 then take to the road for games in Saskatoon against the Steelers on June 8, a rematch with the Rifles in Regina on June 14 and conclude the hectic schedule with a game in Yorkton on June 15.
The regular season is completed on June 22 with a home game against the Regina Riot and the playoffs are scheduled to begin on July 5. The top four teams after the opening weekend of playoff action will then head to Saskatoon on July 12 for the championship weekend.