With the majority of last year's players back for another season of Jr. B lacrosse with the Halton Hills Bulldogs, the most noticeable new arrival on the 2006 team will be behind the bench. The Bulldogs opened their training camp Tuesday night at Memorial Arena in Georgetown and figured up until about a month ago that Mike Falkiner would be returning as head coach for a second season. But Falkiner couldn't pass up an offer to guide his hometown Orangeville Jr. B Northmen, so the Bulldogs quickly turned to a familiar face as his replacement.
Georgetown's Blaine McCauley, the current assistant coach with the Georgetown Jr. A Raiders' hockey club, accepted the Halton Hills head coaching position and will retain last year's assistants J.J. Dickie, Ryan Marshall and Mike Bland. Most locals know about the McCauley family's long-time involvement with hockey, but 30-year-old Blaine and his late father John have strong lacrosse ties as well.
"My favourite sport is lacrosse, but growing up in Georgetown, there wasn't any lacrosse here, so you had to go to Brampton to play," McCauley said."When I got to a point where I had to choose my sport, I chose hockey. The nice part now about coaching the Bulldogs is that people like (ex-minor lacrosse president) Gordie Lyons have put so much hard work into building Halton Hills as an elite lacrosse centre in Ontario over the years, we're able to reap the benefits of that today." McCauley played in a Minto Cup national Jr. A lacrosse championship in 1993 with the Brampton Excelsiors, who lost in a seventh- and-deciding game to New Westminster, B.C. After a stellar junior hockey career that culminated with a Royal Bank Cup championship with the Vernon, B.C. Vipers, McCauley earned a scholarship to
Lake Superior State University in Michigan and played a couple of years of minor pro hockey afterwards. Now a Grade 4 teacher at St.Elizabeth Seaton Catholic School in Burlington, McCauley coached novice age groups in Halton Hills lacrosse the past couple of years and is excited to move up to the junior ranks. "It'll be a big difference from coaching the little kids because it had more to do with teaching, and with the juniors, there'll be more of a dissecting of the game, doing all of the little details that make a team successful. We're going to have a hard-working, disciplined team. That's what I expect," he added. Bulldogs' general manager Mike Hancock said that although there weren't many holes for him to fill during the off-season, the graduating players who left will be difficult to replace. Leading scorer Mike Dube, top defender Rick Gallinger and Bulldog of the Year Matt Knoepfli have moved on, presenting opportunities for some talented forward prospects. "Almost everyone returns but we did lose some key guys and it's going to change the way we play offensively," Hancock said. "For the better part of five years, Dube was a player we depended on to generate a lot of our scoring, so now some of our younger players like Braden Artem and Nic Grasby will have to step up and try to fill the void." Artem was drafted in the second round by the Mississauga Jr. A Tomahawks in January and the 16 year-old Grasby, a Brampton Excelsiors' draft pick, had two goals for the Bulldogs last season in a call up appearance. Graham Knoepfli
and Matt Brown figure to be key scoring contributors as well, Hancock said. In goal, the Bulldogs expect Kyle Kennery to get the lion's share of playing time in his final year of junior eligibility. Georgetown residents Scott Beedham and Michael Cregan will duel for the back-up spot in training camp. Halton Hills begins its exhibition schedule with a game this Sunday in Acton against defending Canadian champion Elora beginning at 6 p.m. In a division with Oakville, Mimico and the returning Milton Mavericks in the Ontario Lacrosse Association's Jr. B league, Halton Hills has never advanced past the second round of the playoffs, falling to the powerhouse Oakville Buzz last summer after upsetting Mimico in the opening best of-five series 3-0. The Bulldogs will open the regular season on Sunday, May 7 at 6 p.m. against the Scarborough Saints. On that evening, the number-27 Bulldogs' jersey belonging to Adam Holton, who was killed in an automobile accident last August, will be retired. "It's going to be an emotional season for us for a lot of reasons because Adam played with us here since 2002 and was a big part of the team," Hancock added.