February 18, 2010

Pym Says There's No Goalie Controversy in Calgary

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Goalie Matt King, who got hot to lead the Roughnecks through the 2009 NLL playoffs to a championship, has company now with NLL Overall Player of the Week Mike Poulin, who relieved King in a 10-8 win over Toronto.

© Cory Shannon

They speak the same language, are comfortable with quirky personalities like their own, and support each other because of an automatic empathy factor.

The enigmatic relationship between goalkeepers is one of the realities of lacrosse.

Separated from the rest of the team by their unique position, goalies are bonded by their common task: stop balls fired at 100 miles-per-hour, by any means necessary.

At the same time, they are competitors, fiercely fighting for the starting job.

In Calgary's situation, the defending National Lacrosse League champions traded for Boston backup goalkeeper Mike Poulin after a 1-3 start.

Poulin replaced Chris Levis, who was dealt to Colorado.

Matt King, the Roughnecks' starter, naturally saw the competition Poulin presented, yet also found himself with a potential confidant.

King, who shared the position for most of the 2009 regular season with Pat Campbell, then emerged as the hot stopper down the stretch and through the Champion's Cup final, started the first two games after the trade.

In the second game, last Sunday in Calgary, King allowed five goals on 14 shots over the opening 17 minutes, 32 seconds. Following a goal by Colin Doyle, King was pulled for Poulin.

The rest is history, as evidenced by whom the NLL named its Overall Player of the Week -- Mike Poulin.

All Poulin did over the last 42 minutes against East Division-leading Toronto (6-2) was limit the Rock to three goals, enabling the Roughnecks to rally for a 10-8 Valentine's Day victory.

Poulin, a 24-year-old from Kitchener, Ontario, made 28 saves.

On Wednesday, Calgary coach Dave Pym was quick to point out that there is no goalkeeper controversy.

"Mike and Matty, I think, have already solidified a fantastic relationship, similar to what Matty had with Cannonball [Pat Campbell] last year," Pym said.

"They're gonna feed off each other; they're going to push each other to be better goaltenders, even though there's really nothing to any story about these guys rushing each other out of the way or any of that kind of stuff.

"We're gonna ride our goalies as we see fit, and we have two great ones.''

Goalie depth is a luxury.

Poulin, for the moment, has shown that the Roughnecks possess it.

Comeback Trail

Amid the upset of Toronto, Pym discerned shades of his 2009 champions.

"Last year, we learned to love pressure, which allowed us to avoid some of the distractions and deal with some of the adversity that occurs during a game," he said.

"And I thought we did a much better job of staying focused in the moment, and what's next in our game, and sticking with our game plan. I felt we took a great step forward in our game against the Rock in doing that and hopefully, we can do that against the Stealth."

Chink in the Armor

The Stealth joined the ranks of the defeated, falling 16-12 to Minnesota, to drop to 6-1.

"Our game was inconsistent and not fundamentally sound," said Washington coach Chris Hall. "We'll work on some of those things in practice this week, and hopefully, get back to where we were at the start of the season."

The Stealth defense has slipped a bit lately and is weakened by a few injuries.

Minnesota (2-4) racked up 79 penalty minutes. Three Swarm players were assessed game misconducts, including Joe Cinosky and Sean Pollock in the first quarter.

Washington was penalized 52 minutes and Mike Grimes was ejected for his involvement.

If the Swarm was looking for fights to minimize the high-caliber skills of the Stealth, Hall wasn't crying foul.

"The rules are the rules," he said. "We're happy to play within the rules. If the cheap stuff is called early in games and there's control of that, we're happy to move forward.

"We have to try and maintain our discipline and understand that teams are going to try to get some of our players off their game."
Rookies Rock

Move over Garrett Billings. Another Toronto rookie, Stephen Leblanc is tearing it up for the Rock.

Leblanc scored four goals with three assists in the Rock's 16-7 pounding of Edmonton to earn his second straight NLL Rookie of the Week award.

An NCAA Division II standout at Queens University of Charlotte (N.C.),  Leblanc was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2009 draft. The Restoule, Ontario resident is tied with Washington's Jeff Zywicki for second in NLL scoring with 47 points, on 16 goals and 31 assists.

Colin Doyle leads the league with 50 points, including 38 assists.

Billings and teammate Blaine Manning are tied for fourth in the NLL with 46 points each. Manning scored five goals on only eight shots, and made five assists in the triumph over Edmonton.

Toronto players own four of the top five point totals, but the Rock is the only NLL team that has played eight games.

All NLL teams have played at least six games, except Orlando (3-1). The Titans' game at Philadelphia, originally scheduled for Feb. 6, was postponed by a blizzard.

Road Woes

With just one win on the road this year, Knighthawks coach Paul Gait has altered his players' travel routines. Instead of arriving the morning of an East Coast-based game, the team will check into a hotel in the Philadelphia area on Feb. 19, the night before Saturday's game against the Wings (1-5).

Gait's team is 4-3 overall, but just 1-3 on the road. He will also emphasize smart play.

"We need to stay out of the penalty box," he said.

Gait need only remind his players of recent history. In a 14-8 loss at Boston on Feb. 6, two of his charges were assessed game misconducts, and the Knighthawks rolled up 41 penalty minutes to the Blazers' 17.

In contrast, a rematch on Feb. 13 in Rochester yielded an 11-9 win for Gait's team, with no game misconducts and only 16 minutes of penalties, just four more than Boston.
Hunting for Victory

Philadelphia (1-5) owns a league-worst, four-game losing streak.

"We've got to get a win,'' said coach Dave Huntley. "We need to do whatever it takes to get a win."

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