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Opportunity knocks for Big Dogs youngsters

If the youngsters on the Estevan Big Dogs wanted opportunity, they've got it.

If the youngsters on the Estevan Big Dogs wanted opportunity, they've got it.

Estevan enters its third year in the Prairie Gold Lacrosse League without the services of Kelsy Omland, who led the Big Dogs in goals and points 2008, and Landon Kosior, who did the same in 2009.

The duo combined to score 59 of the junior team's 100 total goals over its first two seasons of existence. Both players have since moved out of province.

"Omland was just a huge leader and that's not something that you can just fill," said new Big Dogs head coach Evan Handley. "Everybody looked up to him and he has so much skill.

"Landon Kosior was a great player and he didn't get quite as many goals as Omland but the rest of the players looked up to him too and again he'll be a huge loss."

The Big Dogs' crop of 1990-born players will be counted on to help fill the void as they enter their third seasons with the club, which lost in the league semifinal last year after finishing fifth in the regular season at 3-7.

Nathan Harris (five points in nine games), Lucas Smyth (six points in seven games), and Dylan Holzer (10 points in eight games) led that group in scoring last year.

Handley expects Marshall Holzer (six points in seven games as an AP) and Ryan Curzon (eight points in nine games) to have big years as well.

"Plus we have a bunch of other kids moving up from the midget ranks," said Handley. "Michael Bittman can run like the wind and plays very good defence. And Tanner Froese, he's improved so much over the last three years. It's going to be a long learning season, but I think we'll be OK."

Handley is also coaching the Estevan Devils midget team that will play in the Queen City Minor Box Lacrosse league for the first time this year.

He says he hopes to call up a number of the Devils to give them a taste of the junior game throughout the season, and that a more solid foundation at the midget level should pay dividends for the Big Dogs in the future.

The Big Dogs will play a 10-game regular-season schedule in 2010, beginning May 1 in Moose Jaw against the hometown Mustangs.

They make their home debut May 9 against the Prince Albert Predators.

"We're all excited," said Handley. "It's a brand new chapter for the Big Dogs. It's going to be a good year and hopefully the fans will come out to see what this sport is all about."