April 19, 2013

Weekender: The Two Sides of Colorado's Goalie

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Mild-mannered computer science nerd off the field, Brad Macnee morphs into a completely different guy when he steps between the pipes for second-ranked Colorado.
© Cecil Copeland

Colorado head coach John Galvin has two standing rules he likes to enforce during his practices: no cursing among the players and no smiles spreading across his face.

Galvin's no prude, he just feels swearing represents a certain lack of discipline, something that his entire Buffalo program is predicated on. He's no grouch, either, but he likes to keep a businesslike demeanor when his second-ranked program gets ready for games in the MCLA. As much as he tries to adhere to these cornerstones, there are certain occasions when he'll allow the rules to be bent, and typically they involve senior All-American goalie Brad Macnee.

"At practice, he is kind of a fiery guy," Galvin said of Macnee. "Brad probably has a little more leeway, not because he's Brad Macnee, but he has been there before and he's trying to fire up our guys. He says some things that will make me smirk. He says some things to our guys to get them fired up. He's serious, but I find it pretty amusing."

A case in point was a couple of weeks ago when the Buffs were doing their walk-through prior to a game at Cal Poly. One of the long-stick middies operating in front of Macnee had his foot stepped on, stopped playing and said that it really hurt. It wasn't anything serious, just one of the daily occurrences in the life of a backliner.

After a couple of seconds, Macnee asked in tone of faux concern, "Are you OK, [expletive]?"

"It wasn't yelling. It was just like me and you talking right now. It was almost like he wanted to give him a hug," Galvin said. "But everyone just cracked up. Just the demeanor and way he said it, he was serious. There was no smile. The LSM kind of looked at him and couldn't say anything, and everyone was looking at me to make sure I wasn't mad, but I was kind of cracking up. It loosened up the mood. That's kind of his M.O."

Macnee is definitely an interesting bird when it comes to lacrosse. Before games, Macnee will have his earphones on with the music cranked — Galvin described it as "death metal" — and immersed in almost a catatonic state. And if there are any screw-ups in front of him, whether during a game or practice, Macnee is not afraid to let his teammates hear it.

"I definitely get heated at people on the field," Macnee said. "I've told off people before and lost it a couple of times. After practice, I try and go up and say my bad for losing my cool, and not to take it personally. I'm like the crazy uncle on the team that is going to tell it to you straight, but I love you at the same time. It's not personal, it's not that I have a grudge, but if you're messing up or being a [expletive], I'm going to let you know."

Cranky, loud-mouthed goalies are nothing new to the sport, but the contrast between Macnee the lacrosse player and Macnee the student is stark. A computer science major, Macnee is a quiet, unassuming guy who enjoys the challenges that technology provides. He has already locked down a job next year working for Level 3 Communications based out of Colorado, and he finds the solitary life of an IT guy to be fulfilling.

"I'm definitely much more introverted off the field," he said. "It's nice, because it's the best of both worlds. I can be into my computer science stuff and thinking inside of my head, and when I get to the field I can be more social and outgoing. As far as computer science goes, I really love how it stretches my mind. It's about being well-rounded and living a lot of different ways and trying things different ways. I can be that nerdy guy off the field, and then when I'm on the field, I can switch gears and put myself in a different attitude."

"He's kind of your typically nerdy kid, but all of a sudden you walk by him before a game and you try to talk to him..." Galvin said.

Macnee is allowed to make this transformation without much blowback because of his accomplishments for the Buffs. Colorado has made the MCLA tournament the first three years of Macnee's tenure and, at 14-0 heading into this weekend's game with top-ranked and defending national champion Colorado State, it is a lock for Greenville once again thanks in large part to his presence.

It's not as if he's infallible. He lets in his share of goals like any other netminder. And over the last two years, he's had to wean himself off several bad habits like a false step and a pretty significant hitch as a shot approached. But whenever Colorado has called on him to save the day, he's always been there.

"He just has that 'it' factor," Galvin said. "He has that moxie to play well when it counts. You see it in the professional leagues whether it's Derek Jeter or Kobe Bryant; they are just kind of clutch when you need them to be. That is something that Brad has."

The 'it' factor was there right from the beginning.

Macnee earned his first start 11 games into his freshman year and it happened to come against Michigan, which had won the previous two national championships and was riding a 44-game unbeaten streak — the longest in the history of the league. Macnee made 17 saves in that game, in which the Buffs entered with a 2-5 record, as they stunned the Wolverines, 12-10.

He's been in the Colorado goal ever since, so when he played his last game on CU's home turf — Folsom Field, the same site as the triumph over UM — last weekend against Georgia, he got nostaligic.

"I was kind of reflecting on that Michigan game and what a ride it has been," Macnee said.

The ride certainly isn't over with the Rams looming on Saturday and the postseason not too long after, but when Macnee — who is the frontrunner for MCLA player of the year — is gone, it will be difficult for the Buffs to fill his shoes. On the bright side, however, Galvin can go back to enforcing his rules.

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