February 26, 2009
Boston Blazers rookie Daryl Veltman will likely match up against older brother Peter when the Blazers host San Jose on Saturday.

NLL Week 9 Preview: Rookies Veltman, Duch Battle

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Eight games are scheduled for the last weekend of play prior to the March 7 National Lacrosse League All-Star Game in Denver. Five teams play twice this weekend. Here's a look:

Friday: Minnesota (2-5) at Toronto (2-5), 7:30 p.m. Eastern; Philadelphia (3-5) at Edmonton (3-5), 7:30 p.m. Mountain.

Saturday: Calgary (5-2) at New York (5-4) (Madison Square Garden), 12:30 p.m. Eastern; Minnesota at Buffalo (7-1), 7:30 p.m. Eastern; San Jose (3-4) at Boston (6-3), 7:30 p.m. Eastern; Toronto at Rochester (2-5), 8:05 p.m. Eastern; Philadelphia at Portland (4-3), 7:30 p.m. Pacific.

Sunday: San Jose at New York (New Jersey's Prudential Center), 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Among the most intriguing individual matchups is the clash of leading rookie of the year candidates Daryl Veltman of Boston and Rhys Duch of San Jose.

Veltman, the No. 1 pick in the draft, leads rookies in scoring with 19 goals and 23 assists and has 60 loose balls in nine games. His 19 goals tie New York's Pat Maddalena for fourth in the league overall. His shooting percentage is .144 and his points average is 4.67 per game.

Duch has produced 13 goals and 23 assists in seven games with a .228 shooting percentage. His points average is 5.14.

Both players have competed against each other previously in the Western Lacrosse Association -- Veltman for the Coquitlam Adanacs, Duch for the Victoria Shamrocks.

Duch, who was selected No. 3 in the draft, grew up in Victoria, B.C., home of the Gait twins, Gary and Paul.

Veltman also has the specter of playing against his older brother, Peter, who has been limited by injuries to one game.

Stealth coach Jeff Dowling plans to put them in close quarters.

"We talked about putting Peter on Daryl and seeing what he can do,'' Dowling said. "Peter should definitely be in the lineup, and I'm sure he'll be matched up on Daryl.''

San Jose continues its Eastern swing on Sunday against the Titans, who are expected to have the league's second-leading scorer Casey Powell (26 g, 26a) back from a one-game injury absence.

Rock Puts Confidence to Test

Toronto showed heart in the wake of its 25-10 loss to defending champion Buffalo by giving the Bandits all they could handle in last weekend's rematch. It took a furious late fourth-quarter rally for Buffalo to tie it and force overtime, handing the Rock a 17-16 loss.

Losing the lead notwithstanding, Toronto's players gained confidence.

"They're obviously one of the best teams in the league,'' Toronto coach Jamie Batley said of the Bandits. "We figure we can play with them now. If we can play with them, we should be able to play with anybody and have success down the road, assuming they're the best. We played the best in our division this year, so there's loads of confidence coming from that game. We've got to continue with that confidence and hope we put it to a win."

The first test of the weekend is at home against Minnesota, followed by a trip to Rochester.

The Swarm has lost four games in a row. Coach Duane Jacobs believes the addition of Aaron Wilson, acquired by trade with Rochester on Feb. 19, has improved the sluggish offense.

Sold-Out Crowd Expected at Rexall Place

Philadelphia, buoyed by the return of 2008 NLL Most Valuable Player Athan Iannucci and a stellar performance by Geoff Snider, travels to Edmonton, where a sold-out crowd is expected at Rexall Place, due to a special promotion.

"There's a buzz in the city,'' said Edmonton coach/general manager Bob Hamley. "I know the players are excited.''

The crowd support is only part of it -- the Rush is coming off a 10-9 win over Colorado, ending a three-game losing streak.

Hamley's concerns about the Wings?

"Obviously, Philadelphia has a strong transition game and great goaltending, and having back one of the greatest goal scorers in the game," he said of Iannucci. "He's only going to get better as he gets healthier and in better shape."

Snider, winner of 22 of 29 faceoffs in his last outing, is also a concern.

"We're not great on faceoffs, so we're obviously going to talk about it," Hamley said. "Geoff is great on faceoffs and all the intangibles. We can't allow any fast breaks off faceoffs."

The Wings continue their trip west to play Portland (4-3), idle since a Feb. 7 win over San Jose.

Rochester Revival?

Rochester prepares for Toronto with an extra spring in its step on the heels of its second victory of the season, 15-7 over New York.

Each team was absent a superstar: the Titans' Casey Powell was injured and Rochester's Gary Gait was coaching the Syracuse women's lacrosse team.

Shawn Williams scored four goals with four assists, and Shawn Evans had a hat trick and three assists to inject some momentum into the Knighthawks' offense. Newly-acquired Craig Point, via trade from Minnesota, worked well with Evans and scored two goals with three helpers.

The K-Hawks got younger and faster with general manager Regy Thorpe cutting himself now that there is more depth on defense.

Along with Point, transition player Bobby McBride, acquired in the Chicago Shamrox dispersal draft, and 19-year-old forward Pat Saunders made their K-Hawks' debuts.

McBride wasted no time impressing Thorpe and coach Paul Gait, scoring two fourth-quarter goals to win NLL Transition Player of the Week honors.

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