Del Bianco's dynamic offence from goal crease assists Roughnecks, KidSport

NLL team, city charity both benefitting from Calgary backstop’s deft ability to move ball

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Christian Del Bianco loves to lend a helping hand.

And his offer’s often been made twice as nice in one fell swoop — literally — during his nine-year career with the Calgary Roughnecks.

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For every assist the superstar goaltender contributes to his team’s effort, KidSport pockets $500-plus to help Calgary youth.

A win-win, for sure.

“I’m proud that this program is entering its fifth year,” said Del Bianco of the Assists for Kids program, backed by Ascent Consulting Ltd. and the Roughnecks Foundation. “It’s a great cause, and it obviously helps our ability to win games, and I think it’s just something that I really take pride in and enjoy.

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“My goal is 20 assists this year, so we’ll see if I can make that happen.”

That would be one more apple than the 19 he put up as a personal-best last season.

Heading into Friday’s pivotal meeting between the Roughnecks (5-7) and the rival San Diego Seals (9-4) on WestJet Field at Scotiabank Saddledome (7 p.m., TSN+), Del Bianco’s amassed 15 helpers in 12 games in the 2023-24 National Lacrosse League campaign.

And the NLL record is certainly within reach — that being 23 set by Colorado Mammoth goalie Erik Miller in 2003 and tied by the Rochester Knighthawks’ Pat O’Toole in 2007.

“Earning assists is a fun part of my game, in general,” said Del Bianco, who’s now totalled 88 career helpers. “I obviously enjoy it, right? I don’t think there’s many times that I’m as fired up in the game as when our guys score in transition.”

Particularly if it’s off his pass — often a beauty long bomb over top of the enemy defence.

For instance, his three such assists — including on the tying and go-ahead tallies — last Friday night helped the Roughnecks rally from multiple four-goal deficits. Unfortunately, it was ultimately a stinging 13-12 overtime loss to the host Georgia Swarm.

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But heartwarming is that it still meant $1,680 for the kids — $500 per from Ascent Consulting, with Del Bianco himself and the Roughnecks Foundation throwing in $30 apiece for each helper.

“We always joke about it,” said Del Bianco, who founded — with the help of the Roughnecks — Assists for Kids with an idea brought up by the father of his fiancée, Hannah. “Shane Simpson scored an empty-netter a couple games back, and we kind of joked that he was doing it for the kids. But he was probably doing it for his goal totals.

“I think it’s a fun little thing that we kind of joke around on the side. And it’s obviously a pretty awesome cause it goes to.”

Pretty awesome describes just how easy Del Bianco makes it look, especially the long-haul passes.

“In peewee, I felt like I was a little guy and that was kind of one of my stronger parts of my game compared to other goalies my age, so I just stuck with it,” said the 26-year-old native of Coquitlam, B.C. “And then obviously just kind of messing around playing with a player’s stick every once in a while, all the guys kind of joke around and make fun of me when I shoot the ball. Just keeping a stick in your hand, whether it be coaching or playing all the time, probably contributes to it.

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“Even after practices, I’ll be shooting on our other goalies once in a while, and I know they just hate it. Every chance they can, they’ll make fun of me. So it’s just fun, right? I think it’s one of those parts of lacrosse where no matter how old you are, you’re still kind of a big kid.”

Even better for all the kids — big or little — is that he’s forever trying to improve his read on the offence he provides.

That attention to detail — whether in his net or contributing up the floor — is what helped him become the NLL’s most valuable player last season.

Another such award shouldn’t ever be counted out again for the Roughnecks’ heart and soul lauded as the top goalie in the circuit.

“My game could be better — it could be worse,” Del Bianco said. “I think I just kind of play the game in front of me. I’m not too concerned about my play up to this point. I think it’s just what am I doing next game. That’s kind of always my attitude is play where your feet are and don’t get too caught up in the past. And the reality is me and one of my buddies that’s a goalie in the league, we always kind of joke about you’re only as good as your last game, right? How good were you your last game — that’s all anyone thinks. So I don’t buy into that stuff too much.

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“And if you’re being pragmatic about it, you realize that a goalie winning MVP — never mind anybody — winning MVP two years in a row isn’t probably probable,” added Del Bianco. “So I don’t really think you look at that accolade now. You realize that you won that award thanks to your peers and everyone who voted for you and your teammates. So I think I’m just wanting to kind of have a similar performance and stay at the kind of the top tier of the league. Trying to kind of solidify yourself as a top-three goalie always is an important thing. And then obviously, you just try to use it for team success, right?

“We’re having kind of a similar season that we had last season, but currently, we’re not quite there. But we’re definitely not out the mix. So you just bite down and you keep pushing forward.”

QUICK STICKS

Since its inception in 2018-19, Del Bianco’s Assists for Kids program has raised more than $38,000 for youth sport programs in Alberta, including $10,640 last year. “Ascent Consulting is incredibly proud of Christian and his accomplishments,” said Ascent Consulting president Bill Alston. “Thanks to Christian and his teammates’ efforts, we were able to provide our largest-ever donation in a single year to KidSport. This comes at a critical time for families and KidSport, as the current high cost of living means some families must make tough choices when it comes to registering their children in sport. Hopefully the money raised will help ease some of the challenges.” … Roughnecks transition Josh Inacio (lower body) missed last week’s loss in Duluth, Ga., and is out for Friday’s affair … Riggers defender Seth Van Schepen (upper body) is questionable. 

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