February 12, 2009

NLL Notebook: The Week Ahead

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

There are only four games on the National Lacrosse League schedule this weekend:

Friday: Boston at Philadelphia (8 p.m. Eastern)
Saturday: Toronto at Buffalo (7:30 p.m. Eastern), Calgary at Colorado (7 p.m. Mountain)
Sunday: Rochester at New Yotk (8 p.m. Eastern)

Boston, Philadelphia Meet Again

The Blazers (3-3) and Wings (2-4) are meeting for the third time. Boston swept Philadelphia on back-to-back nights last month, 13-11 and 11-7, and coach Tom Ryan’s Blazers are coming off a thrilling 9-8 victory over New York in which they scored two goals in the last 10 seconds.

“We’re playing a team that obviously has two guys who are premier players in the league with Dan Dawson and Anthony Cosmo,’’ said Wings coach Dave Huntley. “And Tom’s done a great job with some of the young players. They showed unbelievable toughness and character for a young team to come back. We know we’ll have our hands full and we’ll have to play better than the first two times, and we hope that will be enough.’’

Philadelphia is coming off a split. The Wings became the first team to defeat Buffalo, 13-11. Then, they blew an 8-3 lead to New York in a 15-12 loss.

Faceoff man Geoff Snider won 24 of 28 against Buffalo’s Phil Sanderson, but only 11 of 30 against New York rookie Stephen Peyser.

In the earlier games against Boston, Snider spent 21 minutes in the penalty box. Over the weekend, he was not whistled for a single penalty.

“That was an unfortunate incident,’’ Huntley said of Snider’s decisions against Boston. “And I think that’s behind us.’’

Huntley would not update the condition of 2008 NLL Most Valuable Player Athan Iannucci, who returned for the first Boston game, then left in the first quarter when he appeared to reinjure his surgically repaired knee.

Transition, Conn Return Has Rock on the Move

With a more aggressive transition game, Toronto (2-3) is coming off its first win under coach Jamie Batley and facing a 5-1 Bandits team coming off its first loss.

Batley, who replaced Glenn Clark after the Rock started 1-2, was pleased to see resilience after his squad fell behind 4-0.

“I thought we got off to a slow start, but I was impressed with the way we battled back and didn’t get frazzled,’’ he said.

Lewis Ratcliff answered with three consecutive goals, and the game was close through the third quarter, which ended with Toronto leading 10-9. Then the Rock blew out the Rush with a six-goal fourth quarter.

Batley’s  green light for the transition game – in the right circumstances – paid off with six goals,  including short-handed goals by Stephen Hoar, Jason Crosbie and Chris Driscoll, who earned NLL Transition Player of the Week honors. Crosbie finished with four goals and one assist, and Ratcliff scored a game-high seven points on four goals and three assists.

Craig Conn made his return, scoring one goal with one assist after missing all of 2008 with an injury.

“Everything looks like it’s going in an upward direction for Craig, and we’re happy to see that,’’ Batley said.

Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour believes he has his players’ rapt attention as they prepare for Toronto, following the first loss of the season, to Philadelphia.

“It’s a good lesson,’’ he said. “We’ve been sort of toying around with teams, not playing as hard as we could and getting away with it. It’s a lot easier to coach a team after a loss than after a win …Guys are ready to hear the message.’’

Kilgour felt his players were overconfident and overly reliant on the marvelous goaltending duo of Ken Montour and Mike Thompson.

“It’s great when he can stand on his head and bad when he has to,’’ Kilgour said.

Fourth-leading scorer Roger Vyse is expected to face Toronto after missing the Wings’ game with a groin pull. Forward Delby Powless will serve the second game of a two-game suspension for breaking team rules.

Mammoth’s Carey Likely Out

Colorado (3-2) is likely to be without fourth-leading scorer Dan Carey for its home matchup with undefeated Calgary (5-0). He is undergoing an MRI this week as the Mammoth try to determine the cause of neck and head pain.

Carey missed the last five games of the 2008 season and the first round of the playoffs due to a concussion. “It could be one of 100 things, but we want to make sure it is not related to the concussion he had last season,’’ said coach Bob McMahon.

Mammoth transition player Chris Gill has a broken bone in his foot and is sidelined until at least after the March 7 all-star game. The other Chris Gill, the veteran forward, has lost his place in the lineup, for the moment, to hustling rookie Tyler Crompton. Goaltender Gee Nash, on the injured reserve list with a back injury, has been superbly replaced by Andrew Leyshon, who will face his former team, the Roughnecks, on Saturday.

Leyshon’s backup, Curtis Palidwor, who signed Jan. 27 to take Nash’s roster spot, also played for Calgary, winning Champion’s Cup MVP  in 2004 when the Riggers won the title.

When asked about his goalkeeping situation, McMahon said: “I’ve watched Curtis for six of seven years, I know what he’s capable of. Andrew’s been with us since day one in training camp. Andrew’s answered the bell, so we’ll go back with Andrew. Curtis hadn’t seen a shot since last August. Now he’s had a chance practice. But right now we’ll go with Andrew until he proves he shouldn’t be in there.’’

With two starts, Leyshon ranks second among NLL keepers with an 8.38 goals against average.

His counterpart, Calgary’s Pat Campbell, is coming off his best game as a Roughneck, according to assistant coach Dave Pym.

“For him to enjoy personal success is great,’’ said Pym of holding Minnesota to eight goals. “He’ll pass it along to his defense; that’s his nature.’’

Rochester Loses Sparkplug Henhawk for 3-4 Weeks

A key injury also affects the Sunday matchup in Madison Square Garden between Rochester (1-4) and New York (4-3).

The Knighthawks lost Jason Henhawk for three to four weeks with a dislocated hip. In a breakout game, Henhawk scored three goals with four assists to break Rochester’s season-opening four-game losing streak.

Coach Paul Gait’s team used the bye week to heal less-serious injuries and to prepare for the Titans.

“We are trying to build on things that worked well in the last game,’’ Gait said.

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