February 5, 2009

NLL Week 6 Notebook: The Week That Was

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

A look at the week that was in the National Lacrosse League:

Portland won in overtime at Boston, Rochester was the last to leave thewinless ranks, San Jose blitzed a weary Edmonton team, Colorado might have turned corner against New York and Buffalo turned it on late against Edmonton to stay undefeated.

The only salve for New York's Casey Powell in the aftermath of a loss to Colorado was learning that his brother Ryan Powell had succeeded in Boston an hour earlier. Ryan and the Portland Lumberjax edged the Blazers in overtime, 9-8.

Peter Morgan scored the game-winner off a pass from Ryan Powell, capping a comeback from a two-goal deficit. Matt Brown and Pete Jacobs scored late, and Brodie Merrill assisted on Brown's goal and had 11 loose balls, increasing his league-leading total to 102.

The burly Portland defenders, aptly named LumberJax, kept the Blazers from the cage, forcing former Jax star Dan Dawson into a 3-for-19 night and rookie of the year candidate Daryl Veltman into an 0-for-17 performance.

"They have the biggest defenders in the league,'' said Boston coach Tom Ryan. "They kept us outside, not only Daryl Veltman, but all our offensive players settled for outside shots. We need to work on better shot selection.''

Along with his defensemen, Portland goalkeeper Matt Disher had plenty to do with the Blazers' frustration. Disher made the usual saves and some spectacular ones in a 46-save effort that earned him NLL Overall and Defensive Player of the Week honors.

"Matt Disher was great. He earned the Player of the Week honors as far as I'm concerned,'' Ryan said.

Portland coach Derek Keener said: "He's really been good from Day 1. It was a goaltender duel, because [Anthony] Cosmo played well too. You do need good goaltending in this league to succeed.''

Unlike last season when the Jax went 6-10 then caught fire in the playoffs, losing the Champion's Cup by one goal to Buffalo, they appear more resilient with a 3-3 start this season.

"We seem to be getting better winning those types of games, close road games,'' Keenan said. "You get out of there, it is like an escape, good teams do that.''

Boston fell to 2-3.

Gait Gets 'Hawks off the Schneid 

Rochester Hall of Famer Gary Gait was back to his unpredictable self last weekend, scoring four goals and adding one assist to lead the Knighthawks (1-4) to their first win of the season, 13-11 over Toronto.

Gait, 41,  who came out of a three-year retirement to score five goals in his return, scored one goal over the next 13 quarters.

For the first time, Toronto (1-3) was under the direction of Jamie Batley, who coached Gait in Colorado from 2003-05.

Batley,  the replacement for fired Glenn Clark, is seeking more consistent offense. Pat O'Toole made 37 saves against the Rock. Lewis Ratcliffe (1-for-13) and Luke Wiles (1-for-10) were particularly stymied.

Ratcliff has only six goals in four games, well off the pace last season when he scored 42, including 12 for Calgary and five for Toronto after a late-season trade that gave him 17 regular-season games due to a scheduling quirk.

Batley attributed problems on offense to a disconnect between players on the left and right sides of the floor. He suggested that Ratcliff look off ball and said: "Hopefully, he'll come out of this frustration."

Kasey Biernes was terrific in defeat with four goals, one assist and 10 loose balls. Jason Crosbie was also productive: two goals, five assists, nine loose balls.

A Sleeping Mammoth Awakens; Langtry Gets Air Time

Mammoth veteran Brian Langtry ended a six-quarter scoring drought with a highlight film goal that was shown repeatedly on ESPN's SportsCenter. Langtry made the Top 10 Plays of the Day on Saturday and the Top 10 Plays of the Week on Super Bowl Sunday.

Langtry was cutting through the slot when he caught a pass from Gary Rosyski. Diving, he  whipped a behind-the-back shot to Matt Vinc's far side. New York coach Ed Comeau challenged it, but it was upheld that Langtry did not violate the crease.

The desperation for Colorado (2-2), following consecutive home losses, was palpable.

"I thought Colorado really wanted it,'' Comeau said. "They played like a team that absolutely needed a win and we didn't.''

The Titans tied it three times in the second half before falling 12-8.

"We were trying our best to get a lead,'' said NLL scoring leader Casey Powell (19g, 19a). "We made a lot of mistakes offensively and caused our defense to play a lot more than they should have and they kind of wore down in the end. And Colorado did a good job.''

In a sign that the slumbering Mammoth offense is waking, coach Bob McMahon and new offensive coordinator Dan Perreault are getting their players to set more screens, take closer shots and move the ball quicker on angles.

Team captain Gavin Prout, who is always trying to fit his versatile game to the team's needs, showed another side to his arsenal while scoring the 11th goal with 4:44 left, restoring a three-goal lead. Prout was looking to feed as he drove to the net, but as he drew closer, bulled his way through the shoves of Stephen Peyser and buried the ball.

Mammoth players who sign autographs after every home game were quick to thank their fans for their loyalty. "We had to pay our fans back for filling the building every game,'' said goaltender Andrew Leyshon.

It was New York's first visit to Pepsi Center and the Mammoth promotions department laid it on thick, terming it "New York, New York Night,'' driving two taxis onto the floor for introductions and playing New York-themed songs.

Casey Powell, who used to play in the Pepsi Center in 2004 and 2005 when he wore an Anaheim uniform, was appreciative of a crowd of 15,023.

"It makes you proud to be a lacrosse player to see the support they get here,'' he said. "It is fun to play here, better to win here.''

Stealth Meshes

San Jose showed balanced scoring with 10 players scoring 16 goals in a 16-6 pounding of a weary Edmonton team, which played its fourth game in nine days, its third on the road.

The Stealth, who are integrating 11 new players, were led by Cam Sedgwick's four goals and two assists. American rookie Paul Rabil, the No. 2 in the draft from Johns Hopkins, scored two goals and one assist, and Canadian rookie Rhys Duch, drafted No. 3, had a goal and two assists.

San Jose's Curtis Hodgson earned Transition Player of the Week honors for scoring two goals with two assists and eight loose balls.

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