April 15, 2011

National Lacrosse League Notebook: Powell Officially the Top American Scorer in NLL History

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

The Boston Blazers snapped a losing streak and clinched a playoff spot on the same night Casey Powell became the all-time points leader among American players in the NLL. "It's refreshing, it's relieving, and it's great for the morale of our team," Powell told NLL.com.

It's official: Casey Powell of the Boston Blazers is the highest-scoring U.S. player in pro box lacrosse history.

Powell entered Boston's home game against Philadelphia last Saturday needing two points to surpass the 644 regular-season and playoff points amassed by former Philadelphia Wings great Kevin Finneran. Powell scored two goals and assisted on three in the 9-7 victory to increase his career total to 648.

Powell has 34 goals and 47 assists for 81 points this season. It's the fifth consecutive year he's amassed 80 or more points. His career best is 86, in 2008, and he has a chance to surpass that when the Blazers complete their 16-game schedule in Buffalo on Saturday night.

The win over the Wings clinched a playoff berth and lifted Powell and his teammates out of a depressing losing streak, which was on Powell's mind more than his historic points after the game.

''It's refreshing, it's relieving, and it's great for the morale of our team,'' Powell told NLL.com.

Colorado can claim final playoff spot

One NLL playoff berth remains up for grabs.

The Colorado Mammoth can secure the fourth and final spot in the West Division by winning one of two remaining games, at home Friday against Calgary and April 23 at Minnesota, or an Edmonton Rush loss in its regular-season finale at home against the Toronto Rock this Saturday.

''We did what we had to do this past weekend -- we won in Edmonton,'' said Mammoth coach Bob Hamley. ''Now we have a chance to clinch in front of our great fans.''

Colorado missed the 2010 playoffs after qualifying each of the three previous years but going out in the first round each time. The Champion's Cup triumph of 2006 in Buffalo was the Mammoth's last playoff win.

Buffalo or Calgary will be No. 1 overall

The Buffalo Bandits, 10-4, will hope Colorado beats Calgary, 11-4, on Friday night because, if that happens, they'll retain their shot at finishing first overall. They'd have to win their last two games, at home Saturday against Boston and at home April 23 against Rochester.

A Calgary win in Denver would clinch first overall for the Roughnecks, even if Buffalo wins its last two games. In that scenario, the teams would both finish 12-4, but the tiebreaker would go to Calgary because it won the only meeting between the teams this season 10-9 in Calgary back on opening night Jan. 8.

Watson eight saves from record

Bob Watson of the Toronto Rock is eight saves shy of breaking Pat O'Toole's pro record for most saves by a goaltender in regular-season play.

O'Toole had 6,464 career saves when he retired from the Rochester Knighthawks prior to the 2011 campaign. Watson has 6,457 going into a game in Edmonton on Saturday night. Toronto still has a longshot chance of finishing first in the East so Watson will likely get the start so he can break the record in his last regular-season game before his previously-announced retirement.

The Rock has announced a 3:30 p.m. start for an East Division semifinal in Toronto on Sunday, May 1. The opponent will be Rochester or Boston.

Wings continue to build with U.S. players

Max Seibald is one of several American players around which the Philadelphia Wings hope to rebuild.

The Philadelphia Wings have missed the playoffs for the third year in a row, but are building a solid core of American players general manager Johnny Mouradian believes will be capable of returning pro lacrosse's oldest continuous franchise to prominence.

A 12-11 home win over Toronto on April 2 kept the Wings in contention for a playoff spot, but that hope vanished with a 9-7 loss in Boston last Saturday. The Wings made a go of it after trailing 7-2 at halftime.

''We would have won that game if we'd taken advantage on the power play -- we were 1-for-7 -- and stayed out of the penalty box ourselves,'' Mouradian said.

A 10-6 home loss Sunday afternoon to Rochester left Philadelphia's record at 5-10. The Wings got down early and another comeback attempt fell short.

Mouradian has been around long enough to know a last-place team doesn't morph into a champion overnight. That's why changes in his first year with the Wings, and more are to come.

''There were some bright spots,'' he said. ''We beat some good teams -- Toronto, Buffalo, Boston and Colorado twice-- and I thought we'd finish the season 7-9 and grab a playoff spot. Our defense is where it needs to be and our goaltending is where it needs to be.''

It's the offense that needs to be retuned, especially the left side.

''Everybody wants to win,'' Mouradian said. ''In that sense, it's disappointing to be where we are, but we're happy, philosophically, with the direction we're going. We love our U.S. component. Besides the free-agent market, there's really only two other ways to improve, and that's through the draft and through trades, and we'll be working both those areas real hard during the offseason.

''We had 18 new players and, with the exception of John Tucker moving from assistant coach to head coach, we have a new coaching staff, new GM and assistant GM. There were lots of changes and now we begin the tweaking process.''

A finger injury that became infected put oft-injured Canadian forward Athan Iannucci on the shelf following his March 26 appearance versus Rochester. Iannucci's status for the Wings' season finale in St. Paul, Minn., this Saturday was undecided.

Points race goes down to last game

We won't know who the NLL scoring champion is until the last game of the season.

Lewis Ratcliff of the Washington Stealth is first with 39 goals and 49 assists for 88 points, and teammate Rhys Duch is second with 40 goals and 44 assists for 84 points. They've each played 15 games and finish at home Saturday against Rochester.

Ryan Benesch of the Minnesota Swarm is third with 40 goals and 42 assists for 82 points. He's got two games left -- at home Saturday against Philadelphia and at home April 23 against Colorado in the NLL schedule's last game -- so he'll have a good opportunity to close the gap.

Boston captain Dan Dawson also has 82 points, and teammate Casey Powell has 81, but their one remaining game is Saturday in Buffalo against the No. 1 defense in the NLL.

Players visit cancer patients

NLL teams have done some wonderful work to raise money for cancer research and lift the spirits of patients since launching the Black Out Cancer campaign last year.

The Colorado Mammoth and Altitude Authentics, the team store at Denver's Pepsi Center, donated 500 hats on Tuesday to the local chapter of Caps For Kids, an international non-profit organization that gives caps signed by athletes, entertainers and other celebrities to pediatric cancer patients. It was part of the team's initiative to Lacrosse Out Cancer.

Mammoth players John Grant and Nick Carlson and coach Bob Hamley as well as members of the Wild Bunch dance team visited with children during the hat donation at HealthOne's Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

''It's the ultimate thrill of being a professional athlete, being able to make a child's day a little bit brighter,'' Grant said. ''I cherish every opportunity we have to make a difference in the local community.''

Meanwhile, when the Minnesota Swarm face the visiting Philadelphia Wings on Saturday night, Swarm players will wear pink helmets and jerseys that will be auctioned off with proceeds to benefit the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.

''The Hive Cares Night is near and dear to my heart as I lost my mother to cancer during the 2009 season,'' said Minnesota co-owner and vice-president Andy Arlotta. ''In my heart, this night's game is played for her and all the others who have battled cancer.''

The NLL's other teams have held similar auctions, and all of it for a good cause.

Best in the crease

Buffalo's Mike Thompson has crept ahead of Toronto's Bob Watson, barely, to sit first in goaltending save percentages.
Thompson has a .796 average and Watson is at .795. That's as close as it can get, and the two are neck and neck for the major league awards this spring.

Rochester's Matt Vinc has been outstanding, too, and has the third-best save percentage at .793.

The rest (minimum 240 minutes played): 4. Tyler Richards, Washington, .787; 5. Chris Levis, Colorado, .782; 6. Brandon Miller, Philadelphia, .769; 7. Mike Poulin, Calgary, .766; 8. Nick Patterson, Minnesota, .765; 9. Anthony Cosmo, Boston, .764; 10. Matt Roik, Washington, .762; 11. Matt Disher, Edmonton, .753.

Five NLL players in England's lineup

At the 2011 world indoor lacrosse championships in Vrsovice, Czech Republic, May 21-28, England will be coached by the Washington Stealth's Chris Hall and have on its roster NLL players Lewis Ratcliff, Tom Johnson, Cam Sedgwick and Matt Roik of the Stealth and Andrew Suitor of the Minnesota Swarm.

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