Anthony Kalinich has started his professional lacrosse career with the Calgary Roughnecks. The Maple Ridge product is still eligible to play two seasons of junior A with the Langley Thunder. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge player gets ‘thrown into the fire’ in NLL

Rookie defender Kalinich starts pro lacrosse career

Injuries have hit the Calgary Roughnecks of the NLL, and one of their top prospects, Maple Ridge’s own Anthony Kalinich, has been called up.

Just turned 19, he’s among the youngest players in the National Lacrosse League, and got the call on Christmas day.

“It was a bit of a Christmas present for me,” he said.

The 6’1”, 190-pound defender was “thrown into the fire,” as his GM put it, on Dec. 29th against the Colorado Mammoth at the Saddledome.

“I was super nervous,” Kalinich remembers. “And it’s a super loud arena.”

But he played a super game for a rookie – solid defensively and tough on anyone within crosschecking distance.

His Langley Thunder Junior A teammate Ryan Martel also got into his first regular season contest as a Roughneck and scored, which added to what was a big moment for the rookies out of the Fraser Valley.

Kalinich was struck by the speed and physicality, and the raucous fans.

“It’s something I’m never going to forget.”

He also got into their next game in Buffalo against the Bandits.

His approach has been to play on instinct.

“I just try not to over-think it. I lose confidence over-thinking things,” he said.

His role is that of the physical defender, and he’s been advised “don’t be giving anybody too much respect.”

His teammates have given him pointers along the way, and Kalinich is taking it all in.

“The vets are awesome. It’s a great group of guys,” he said.

Kalinich said he was always glad to have been drafted by Calgary, and that has been magnified since he started playing professionally. These were players he grew up idolizing.

“They’ve taken me under their wing, and helped me as much as they can.”

He has impressed GM Mike Board.

“He’s been asked to do a lot more than we probably thought,” said GM Board. “We haven’t been able to ease him in, we’re throwing him right into the fire. He’s going to make some mistakes, but he’s a sponge out there and he’s learning every game and he’s improving every game. On that front, it’s a positive. He’s a great kid, great in the room, pretty quiet, but he’s a good guy.”

Board drafted Kalinich in the second round, 21st overall, in the 2017 draft. He entered the draft early, after he officially renounced his college eligibility to make a push to play professional lacrosse.

On Saturday the Roughnecks play the Georgia Swarm, and

The roughnecks defensive coach is Rob Williams, who is the WLA Burrards head coach. He likes what he sees from his rookie defender.

“He’s very mature for a 19-year-old,” he said. “He’s got good size and strength, and good speed –you’ve got to have good speed in the game now.”

Williams has done it all in lacrosse, and predicts Kalinich is at the start of a successful career.

“He has played really well. He’ll stick. He has given us no reason to take him out (of the lineup),” he said. “He’ll have a long career, and a solid career, and be a Steady Eddy back there, and every team needs those guys.”

It’s a quirk of the lacrosse world that players like Kalinich can start their professional careers, but still be two years away from playing WLA lacrosse. When the summer box season rolls back around, he still has two years left in junior.

He would look good in a Burrards uniform when he is eligible for the WLA draft, said Williams.

“We’ll see in the draft – we like to get our hometown boys, and he’s a gem.”

If he is still in the lineup, local fans will get the chance to see Kalinich close to home, when the Roughnecks visit the Vancouver Stealth at the Langley Events Centre on March 31.

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