Peter Dubenski is getting the opportunity to show that he was not merely a good goalie on a bad team.
He's showing he is one of the best at his position in Canadian Junior lacrosse.
The Nanaimo Timbermen sent the netminder to the Coquitlam Adanacs at the B.C. Junior A Lacrosse Association trade deadline, and he has helped backstop them to a league title and a trip to the Minto Cup this weekend in New Westminster.
While technically Dubenski, 19, has been the No. 2 goalie with the Adanacs, he has played in just about every playoff game, finished with the best save percentage in the playoffs and has been named this year's recipient of the Al Boles Memorial Trophy as the BCJLA's most inspirational player.
"It's something I've never experienced and something I never thought I would be a part of," he said of going to the Minto Cup. "I'm just taking it all in and enjoying the moment. I'm having fun and just getting ready for that first game. Whatever I can do to help this team win is what I'm going to do."
Getting a chance to play for a national championship is a far cry from where he was on June 30, with the struggling Timbermen. Nanaimo was sitting with just one earned win at that point and were just two points out of the league's basement, ahead of only the Burnaby Lakers.
Dubenski had played all but 126 minutes in 18 games with the T-Men before the deal, and at that point had faced 159 more shots than any other goalie in the league.
Still his goals against average of 12.99 and save percentage of 77.30 were hard to get excited about to the untrained eye.
With the Adanacs, that was righted in a hurry.
In three regular season appearances, his goals against average dropped to 5.95, while his save percentage jumped to 78.57.
In the playoffs he has been even better, stopping 7.62 per cent of his shots against and posting a league best 83.80 save percentage while spelling starter Davide DiRuscio, who was named BCJLA goalie of the year. In the best-of-five final against the New Westminster Salmonbellies, his play was critical to helping the Adanacs win the provincial championship in five games.
However, the trade was a puzzling one at the time. DiRuscio is one of the best goalies in the league, and the drop off was not that far to then back up Giulio Del Bianco. The Adanacs also, reportedly, paid a premium in their future considerations to secure his services.
But Coquitlam head coach Neil Doddridge says there has been no buyer's remorse.
"We feel we have the two top goalies in the league on our team," he said. "We're really happy with the way Peter's playing, we knew exactly what we were getting when we got him and we're very thankful to the Timbermen to lend him to us for the rest of the season."
Doddridge says there's really no designated No. 1 between the two goalies and that both bring a completely different style. At six-foot-four and 300 pounds DiRuscio is more of a blocker, while Dubenski is an athlete in net at five-foot-11 and 210 pounds.
It was the second time in two years the Timbermen have dealt Dubenski at the deadline, last year it was to the Delta Islanders.
This year they did not intend to do it again, but were given an offer they could not refuse.
"Until about the 23rd hour at the deadline, we told Coquitlam that we're not prepared to make a move unless you're prepared make an offer that meets what we're looking for," said Timbermen general manager and league governor Jon Nicholson.
Dubenski has been more than just a goalie with the Adanacs, he has fit seamlessly into the locker room and the culture of the team.
He has been the consummate teammate during his time in junior lacrosse, complaining little about the lack of defensive support he got in Nanaimo. Dubenski has the respect of the league as he was named the league's most inspirational player this year.
For first year Timbermen's head coach Brad Dougan, this has come as little surprise, after coaching him for two years with the intermediate T-Men.
"It doesn't matter what jersey he's wearing or the circumstances in a game, he works for every shot he faces in practice and games, he was our MVP this
year by far," said Dougan. "He's certainly up there as one of my most favourite guys I've ever coached. I couldn't be happier for him. If they make the finals I will be one of the first guys on the floor to congratulate him."
The key to the trade is Dubenski will be coming back to Nanaimo next season.
Expectations are sky high for the group with a number of skilled third-year players returning, including Corey Shires, Mitch Parker, Brett Flemming and Alex MacDougall.
Dubenski's run at the Minto Cup will be critical to the success they have.
But his main motivation for next year is to give the Harbour City a taste of the glory he is experiencing this year.
"It's been tough. Nanaimo is my hometown. .. and I've been playing with these guys since minor lacrosse," he said. "This is a pride thing. I want this organization and this town to have a winning lacrosse program and be able to have it for years to come when I'm up playing senior."
The Minto Cup begins on Friday with the Adanacs playing the Okotoks Raiders at 8 p.m.
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