Steve Ewen The Province August 15, 2013even Neufeld is such a unique lacrosse prospect that the guy likely most comparable to him retired more than a decade ago.
Neufeld is a mammoth marksman. He’s a 6-foot-8, 270-pound right-hander who can sneak a lacrosse ball into a slice of daylight behind an opposing netminder.
Curtailing him will be crucial to Coquitlam Adanacs’ rivals at the four-team Minto Cup junior national tournament, which opens Saturday at Queen’s Park Arena in New Westminster. Coquitlam, the B.C. champions, face Alberta’s Okotoks Raiders to kick things off, while the host New Westminster Salmonbellies meet Ontario’s Whitby Warriors.
Coquitlam needed the full five-game final to beat New Westminster for their fifth straight provincial crown, and Neufeld was the playoffs’ most valuable player after producing a league-leading 29 points, including 14 goals, in eight games.
His tally total came on a mere 39 shots, giving him a ridiculous shooting percentage of 35.90. Only one other player in the top 15 scorers was above 25 per cent.
Adanacs coach Neil Doddridge tags Neufeld as being reminiscent of Peter Parke, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound righty who used his reach and his touch from in tight to put up a 57-goal Western Lacrosse Association regular season with the Vancouver Burrards in 1989. Parke retired after the 2000 WLA campaign with New Westminster.
“He reminds me of Parke, but maybe a little bit smoother,” said Doddridge, who played Senior A himself from 1991 to 2001.
“I’ve never seen a big man with better hands than Neufeld. I really think he could play at the next level.”
He didn’t make the Junior A level his first two years of eligibility, oddly enough, playing Junior B in Coquitlam instead. Of course, it’s hard to argue with who the Adanacs picked over him, considering their success.
When Doddridge took over as coach this past off-season, one of the first things he did was meet with Coquitlam stalwart defender Tyler Garrison. Garrison, who already has a National Lacrosse League campaign under his belt with the Washington Stealth, had been working out with Neufeld over the winter, and raved about him to Doddridge.
Neufeld ended up leading Coquitlam in goals in league play, with 26 in 17 games, including 10 on the power play from his usual post on the crease. He also had 14 assists overall.
He played assorted sports growing up, but fell for lacrosse.
“Junior B was a good experience for me,” said Neufeld, 20, whose older brother Kevin, a defender, just wrapped up his first WLA season with Coquitlam after playing Junior A with the Adanacs.
“You get more looks at that level, but I also learned a lot about team aspects of the game.”
Neufeld stresses that team play will be key to an Adanacs run at the Minto. Adanacs star Wesley Berg, one of the bonafide game breakers in the junior ranks and a 56-goal man in 19 games this past season with the field powerhouse University of Denver, missed the final two games of the New Westminster series and reportedly has a broken foot.
Berg, 20, had 12 goals and 28 points in six postseason games.
“Tyler is one of the best defenders in the country, and especially after having that experience of a full pro season,” Neufeld said of Garrison, the Adanacs captain. “That helps us.
“Up front, with Wes missing the past couple of games, we haven’t had the superstar. I wouldn’t say I have felt a lot more pressure. I know that everybody has to step up now.”