April 21, 2011

National Lacrosse League Notebook: Dawson Says Ankle Injury Won't Hamper Him in Playoffs

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Dan Dawson left Boston's game against Buffalo in the third quarter after rolling his right ankle, but said he will be 100 percent for the April 30 rematch in the NLL playoffs.

Boston Blazers captain Dan Dawson did not return to the game after rolling on his right ankle while scoring a goal at 6:44 of the third quarter in the Blazers' 16-9 victory in Buffalo last Saturday.

So, what's the status of the team's captain and leading point-getter for the East Division semifinal rematch with the Bandits on April 30 at HSBC Arena?

''The leg is good,'' Dawson said. ''I will be 100 percent for the game in Buffalo.''

Head coach Matt Sawyer said it was a decision by the coaches not to send Dawson back into the last game.

''If it was a game where we needed him, he easily would have continued,'' Sawyer said. ''We weren't going to chance any further damage in that game.''

Boston has bounced back with wins over Philadelphia and Buffalo to ease the memory of a five-game losing streak.

''Obviously, the boys are feeling much better about themselves,'' Sawyer said. ''We went through a tough stretch so it's nice now for them to have some success.

''Their backs were against the wall against Philadelphia, where we had to win to clinch a playoff spot, and they came through that. It feels that a lot of pressure has gone out of the room. But we know we have a tough challenge coming up against Buffalo. They're a team we have to get through to get where we want to go and we're feeling much better about ourselves than we were a couple of weeks ago.''

Added Dawson: ''Our total focus is on Buffalo and the new season that starts April 30. What happened in the regular season doesn't matter. They finished first in the East for a reason. We have our work cut out for us.''

Francis suspended for four games

Brandon Francis of the Buffalo Bandits has been suspended by the NLL for four games and Jason Duboe of the Boston Blazers for one game for their roles in a brawl at the Boston bench during an April 16 game at HSBC Arena.

Francis was ejected after fighting Jack Reid and tossing punches at other Blazers, and it was determined during a review conducted Thursday that Duboe threw a punch while standing at the bench and outside the field of play.

Matt Vinc has best save percentage

Recent heroics in the Rochester crease by Matt Vinc have thrust the Knighthawks goalie into the debate over who should be named goalie of the year.

Bob Watson of the Toronto Rock was the favorite during his long stretch with the best save percentage, while the Buffalo Bandits can legitimately argue that Mike Thompson has been so valuable that he should be considered for the MVP award as well as the top goaltending honor.

Enter Vinc, who has upped the ante during a Rochester run of four wins in five games. The .793 save percentage by the 28-year-old native of St. Catharines, Ontario, makes him No. 1 in 2011 and a prime candidate for a second straight selection as goalie of the year.

''He's a great goalie who has kept us in every game this year,'' said teammate Shawn Evans. ''He's definitely getting better every game and the defense is getting a lot better around him. It definitely gives us great confidence that we can win every game.''

Thompson is second at .789 and Watson, with the Rock having lost three in a row, has slipped to third at .788.

The rest of the goalies (minimum 300 minutes played): 4. Chris Levis, Colorado .787; 5. Tyler Richards, Washington, .781; 6. Brandon Miller, Philadelphia, .774; 7. Anthony Cosmo, Boston, .767; 8. Mike Poulin, Calgary, .765; 9. Nick Patterson, Minnesota, .764; 10. Matt Roik, Washington, .753; 11. Matt Disher, Edmonton, .750.

Levis was named NLL defensive player of the week on Wednesday for his 40-save effort in his team's 11-7 home victory over Calgary last Friday, and his teammates can't say enough about his play this year.

''I think Chris has turned the corner and is now a premier goalie in this league,'' said Colorado forward Brian Langtry. ''He has the full faith and confidence of the team in front of him, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.''

Watson sets goaltending record

Toronto Rock goalie Bob Watson set the pro record for most career saves during his team's 18-14 loss in Edmonton last Saturday.

Watson had 6,457 saves and needed eight more to surpass Pat O'Toole's 6,464 before the game, and the 40-year-old resident of Guelph, Ontario, made 14 saves before being relieved by Pat Campbell.

Watson, with no more regular season starts and having said this is his last season, goes into the record book with 6,471 saves.

Tavares does it again

All-time pro scoring leader John Tavares has scored 30 goals for the 15th time his his 20-year pro career.

Tavares is Buffalo's leading point-getter this year with 72, which ups his regular season total to 1,541, including 722 goals.
The single-season career best for goals out of the stick of the 42-year-old native of Toronto is 51 in 2009 and in 2001, when he amassed 115 points to win the scoring title. That's remained the NLL record, and it won't be broken this year.

Benesch chases Ratcliff

Minnesota's Ryan Benesch needs six points to overtake Washington's Lewis Ratcliff and win the NLL scoring race when the Swarm completes its 16-game schedule at home against Colorado on Saturday night.

Ratcliff has 92 points, teammate Rhys Duch and Boston's Dan Dawson each have 90 and Benesch has 87. The three ahead of Benesch have no games left to play.

Benesch, 26, from Kitchener, Ontario, has a league-best 43 goals. That's 10 more than his previous career best of 33 in his 2007 rookie season as a member of the Toronto Rock. His previous points high was 83 last year with Minnesota.

''The reason Ryan is leading the Swarm and the league in goals is because he is the best finisher in the game right now,'' said Swarm GM Marty O'Neill.

Jamieson needs six

Among first-year players, Rochester's Cody Jamieson has 46 points (25g, 21a), which leaves him six behind the leader, Calgary's Curtis Dickson (33g, 19a). While the Roughnecks' schedule is complete, the Knighthawks wind things up in Buffalo on Saturday night. Nothing to play for? Don't try to tell that to No. 88.

Pride comes into play

While nothing will be at stake for the Colorado Mammoth in terms of the standings during its regula -season closer in Minnesota on Saturday night, pride comes into play every time he and his teammates step onto the floor, said Mammoth forward Brian Langtry.

''Every time I put the Mammoth jersey on it is serious,'' Langtry said.

Besides, a recent upturn in the team's fortunes has fuelled a renewed sense of confidence that the players want to sustain.

''Confidence is such a factor in a league with teams that are separated by a bounce here and a save there,'' Langtry said. ''I know our defense will be great [in St. Paul on Saturday] because it always is. I want our offense to play well so we can all continue feeling that confidence as we move into the playoffs.''

Something to remember

Edmonton Rush players will have something to remember the next time they play the Calgary Roughnecks.

Dane Dobbie and Jeff Shattler, two of Calgary's best players, were left out of the lineup for a game against the Colorado Mammoth last Friday that had a vital impact on who would get the last playoff berth in the West Division. Colorado beat the Roughnecks 11-7 in Denver to clinch it. Edmonton played one of its best games of the year to beat the visiting Toronto Rock 18-14 on Saturday but it was too late.

Had Dobbie and Shattler dressed in Denver and Calgary had won, well, that hypothetical circumstance could add more heat to the next Battle of Alberta.

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