January 29, 2010

Titans Enjoy Taste of Home, Topple K-Hawks

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Ryan Boyle had two goals, including a buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter, and five assists Friday in the Orlando Titans' 13-8 win over the Rochester Knighthawks.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Only in the National Lacrosse League could one of its biggest stars also be considered a journeyman. In Orlando, however, Titans captain Casey Powell feels he has finally found a home.

Powell, the first overall draft choice by the Rochester Knighthawks in the 1998 draft, spent two seasons there before he was traded to the Buffalo Bandits, for whom he never reported. He resurfaced in 2004-05 with the now-defunct Anaheim Storm, making the All-Star team both years.

When the Storm folded, Powell was chosen in a dispersal draft by the Portland LumberJax. He elected not to play in 2006, and then resurfaced once more with the then-expansion New York Titans in 2007. Three All-Star seasons culminated with a run to the Champion’s Cup final last year.

But something was missing. A home.

The Titans were supposed to be the darlings of Madison Square Garden. Instead, they were stepchildren. In three seasons, they bounced around four different venues for home games in New York and New Jersey.

So when the NLL relocated the franchise to Orlando in the offseason, Powell was the first on board, moving his family to Florida and embracing the organization’s community outreach.

“After two years in Anaheim and three years surfing around the greater metro Tri-State Area, I have the opportunity to have something I haven’t played in front of for a long time – a home crowd,” Powell said in the locker room following the Titans’ 13-8 victory over the Knighthawks before 7,367 fans at Amway Arena.

Powell scored three goals and added two assists for Orlando (2-1), which took over sole possession of second place in the East Division and improved to 2-0 at Amway. Jordan Hall, one of several Titans who have joined Powell living fulltime in the Orlando area, scored four goals – including two diving, helmet-jarring, crowd-pleasing tallies that helped Orlando build a 7-2 lead in the first half.

“These people are starving for lacrosse,” said defenseman Matt Zash, who along with Titans teammate Ryan Boyle (2g, 5a) will suit up this weekend for the U.S. national team at Champion Challenge. “For the first time, we have a home.”

Said Powell: “This has the potential to be a future lacrosse hotbed.”

The Titans figure to play a significant role in that development. Tailgaters and even ticket scalpers lined the streets of downtown Orlando prior to Friday’s game. Hundreds of fans loitered on the carpet after the game as players signed autographs, their exuberance stemming from a dominant, entertaining performance by the home team.

Rochester (2-2), which set a franchise record for futility with just three goals in a 17-3 loss to Toronto last week, again had trouble getting untracked against a hot goalie. Titans keeper Matt Vinc stopped 30 of 38 shots.

The Knighthawks broke out of their funk briefly in the second half, closing within three goals on three different occasions. But Orlando would not let them get any closer.

“Anytime they get the momentum,” Boyle said, “it’s so important to answer.”

Boyle’s answer came in the form of a buzzer-beater. He scored from just inside the restraining line with one second remaining in the third quarter to beat Rochester goalie Aaron Bold, playing in relief of Pat O’Toole, and give the Titans a 9-5 lead.

Knighthawks forward Craig Point (4g), a bright spot along with John Grant Jr. (2g, 3a), potted a transition goal after an Orlando crease violation on the other end at the 12:29 mark of the fourth quarter to make it 9-6.

The Titans’ response? Fury. Orlando scored three goals in a 23-second span to put the game out of reach.

Hall scored with 9:58 remaining. Greg Peyser (12-for-20) won the ensuing faceoff and hit Bill Greer with high pass. Greer caught and fed it with one hand to Pat Maddalena (1g, 5a), who punched it in at the 9:46 mark. Peyser did it again on the next faceoff, igniting another break, this time with Greer on the finishing end.

Appropriately, Powell punctuated the Titans’ dominant fourth quarter when he baited Knighthawks defenseman Sid Smith on a one-handed dodge, shimmied inside and sent a diving shot past Bold to put Orlando ahead 13-6 with 5:55 remaining.

Orlando is on the road next week with back-to-back games at Colorado and Philadelphia. The Titans return to Amway Arena to host Boston on Feb. 20.

The Knighthawks are headed back to Rochester to take on the first-place Toronto Rock (3-0) at 8:05 p.m. Eastern at Blue Cross Arena tomorrow night.

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