Vancouver Warriors defenseman Matt Beers will be third all-time in franchise games played by the time the 2019 season is over. The 28-year-old Coquitlam native has played 128 games over 8 seasons in the NLL and will trail only Rhys Duch (166 GP and counting) and retired leader Curtis Hodgson (211 GP).
Since entering the league as a 20-year-old during a championship 2010 season, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder has been Vancouver’s most durable and reliable defender for the most of the decade. Physical, responsible and intelligent, he’s seen just about everything on and off the floor for the franchise but is reinvigorated since the team moved downtown.
“My dad had Canuck season tickets when I was growing up,” says Beers. “I’m a huge huge Canucks fan and it’s going to be something else playing on the biggest stage in Vancouver. I’m excited for the opportunity and am excited about how well we’ve been treated by CSE up to this point. They’ve been first class.”
It might be the most off-season turnover Beers has seen to the organization in his tenure. GM Dan Richardson has brought change to the roster and promises more on the horizon. Beers was a first time captain last season and will be relying on every teammate this year to step up as leaders around him.
“It’s tough because O’Dougherty got injured recently and he was a very vocal guy,” said Beers. “We do have a lot of changeover but the core guys are still there – Ian Hawksbee who’s been a seasoned vet for a long time – Logan Schuss is a leader in the locker room and he’s a big voice especially as a personality. Joel McCready is still there, but I think we’re going to see a lot of young guys stepping into roles.”
Underdogs. Guys who haven’t had a chance. First class citizens. These are the intangible qualities of the free agents signed this summer. Players with successful lacrosse resumes in their own right, waiting to prove themselves in the NLL.
“With that influx of youth and just a good supporting cast in the locker room, everyone is going to be leading by example. It’s not necessarily what you say, but it’s what you do and how you carry yourself on the floor and in the public. A good example is Dan Lomas. I’m just starting to get to know him, but he is just a good character guy, and is someone you want to build a team around. He’s the type of guy you want to have in the locker room.”
Vancouver allowed a league worst 15.38 GAA last season – a full 4 goals per game worse than the champion Rush. Head Coach Chris Gill has said he wants that number to be around 12.00 GAA or less.
“The biggest thing we need to clean up on defense is consistency,” says Beers. “Last year we had decent goaltending but we struggled to find a consistent net minder to play the majority of the games. It seemed like we were always going with the hot hand.”
The team addressed that in the off-season by signing free agent Aaron Bold – the 33-year-old, two time champion with a career 10.58 GAA.
“You bring in a guy like Aaron Bold who is going to really help that consistency as far as us being able to predict what we’re going to get night in and night out. That is a big help for us right away. And then you pair him with a number two who’s had significant NLL playing time. It’s a nice one-two to have.”
Another team goal for the season is to get more ornery and tougher to play against – a style well suited for the franchise leader in penalty minutes (445) – though he’ll tell you it’s about playing with a controlled edge in the confines of today’s rulebook – similar to the NHL.
“If a guy leaves the rink thinking ‘I hated playing against that guy,’ then you’ve done your job as a defenseman,” says Beers. “Our defensive system will hopefully be frustrating opponents. We’ll play a nice tight system. We’ll force shots from the outside and from bad shooting lanes and then we have to be tenacious on the loose balls and not giving up second opportunities. If we can frustrate opponents with defensive positioning and good hard lacrosse, and with the guys coming in that fit the system – I have trust in Chris and Clay [defensive coach Richardson] that we can make good things happen this season.”
Not so coincidentally Beers had maybe his best season as a pro under Richardson’s defense in 2017 – near the top of the NLL in caused turnovers (36) and loose balls (95) while notching 4 goals. Beers had media members calling him the defensive player of the year just 2 years ago.
“I want to make the playoffs. My personal statistics mean absolutely nothing to me; it’s all about team success.”