January 11, 2012

NLL Notebook: Langtry Recalls Colorado's Biggest Win

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

On Saturday night, Brian Langtry will become the second Mammoth player to have his jersey retired. The other is Gary Gait, who coached Langtry and the Mammoth to the 2006 NLL title.
© Colorado Mammoth

Memories of the night in May 2006 when the Colorado Mammoth won the Champion's Cup will come flooding back when Brian Langtry's No. 6 is raised to the rafters of the Pepsi Center in Denver on Saturday night.

Langtry, who announced his retirement from the National Lacrosse League last autumn, joins Gary Gait as the only Mammoth players to be so honored.

Gait coached the Mammoth to the 2006 title and Langtry played a huge role as he and teammate Gavin Prout led the attack with four goals each. The outcome was never in doubt. Colorado led 2-0 after one quarter, was up 9-2 in the third quarter and went on to beat the Buffalo Bandits 16-9.

''Going into Buffalo was always something that you had to mentally prepare for,'' Langtry recalls. ''They have always been a tough, gritty, well-coached team and you knew that you were going to get roughed up.

''We came out and played our best game of the season and it got out of reach pretty quickly. We had great transition back in those days and I think that was the difference. Josh Sims, Jay Jalbert and Nick Carlson were so deadly in those days and they got us a few easy goals with their speed. Prouter was on fire and (goaltender) Gee Nash was a wall.

''We definitely had some serious chemistry in those days. It is easy to be a tight group when you are winning. Everybody sensed that we had a chance so the commitment that year was different as the year progressed. We had a great time on and off the floor that year and and it will always go down as the best one yet.''

Langtry was NLL rookie of the year in the franchise's first year in Denver in 2003 and amassed 504 career points on 231 goals and 273 assists in 135 regular-season games. In 11 playoff games, he had 41 points including 27 goals -- 10 of them in the three games it took the Mammoth to win the 2006 title.

''Brian exemplifies what the Colorado Mammoth is all about,'' GM Steve Govett said when Brian Langtry Night was announced last autumn. ''Grit, determination, heart and desire were staples of Brian's game. Every time he put on the Mammoth jersey, he always had a knack for scoring the timely goal, creating a big hit, or getting a key loose ball.''

Prout saw it all.

''We would never have got to the championship game in '06 without Brian Langtry's overtime winner in Round One of the playoffs against Calgary,'' Prout recalls. ''He is definitely one of the best clutch scorers I have played with in my career.''

Forwards shared the ball unselfishly that night in Buffalo. They gave the Bandits defense fits.

''We won as a team and Brian Langtry was a really big part of that championship game in scoring four key goals,'' says Prout. ''His ability to score big goals at important points of the game will be missed but the thing I will miss most about Brian is his passion and love for each and every second he was on the lacrosse floor.''

Head coach Bob Hamley enjoyed coaching Langtry much more than coaching against him when Hamley was behind benches in Arizona and Edmonton.

''I hated coaching against him,'' says Hamley. ''He's one of those guys who brought it every night.''

Philadelphia Wings Ready to Fly

Having added 2009 league MVP Dan Dawson and No. 1 entry draft pick Kevin Crowley up front and dynamic Brodie Merrill to spearhead transition attacks, there is no doubt that the Philadelphia Wings are going to have a dynamite offense.

But what about the defense, which allowed more goals than any other team in the East Division last year?

Goaltender Brandon Miller isn't worried.

''If you look at our defensive numbers from last season, five on five we were pretty good,'' says Miller. ''Short-handed, not so much, but we have almost all of the same guys returning so they all know the system. As a group, we know what worked and what didn't.

''Add the fact that we have a loose ball hound like Brodie back there to limit second and third possessions off rebounds. That stat killed us in some key games last year. In all, we addressed the key pieces that we were missing last year. Now it's time for the hard work to begin.''

The Wings have missed the playoffs the last three years but there's a sense among the players that this is a fresh start and better days lie ahead. There's an obvious change in the vibe in the dressing room, says Miller.

''Most notably, it's the confidence we have developed in ourselves,'' he explains. ''The new guys that have come in this year have brought in so much leadership, skill and pride. It has rubbed off on the whole team. It has developed a new kind of attitude that hasn't been there for a while. You need to believe you can win, and now we do!''

Wiles Eager for Fresh Start

Buffalo is the fifth team Luke Wiles has been with in his seven years in the NLL but amid all that change there's been a constant theme to his career.

''I have gone into every year of lacrosse that I have played with the notion that I want to win a championship,'' says Wiles.

His 2012 campaign begins Saturday night when the Bandits play at home against the Toronto Rock.

''This is a great team with a great mix of veteran leadership and youth and we'll strive to attain our first goal, which is home-floor advantage throughout the playoffs,'' says Wiles, 29.

In 91 regular-season games with Philadelphia, San Jose, Toronto, Washington and now Buffalo, he has scored 159 goals and assisted on 204 for 363 points.

''I am very fit going into the season and I'm looking forward to having my best season as a pro,'' says Wiles. ''I have trained very hard and feel very comfortable in this offense.

''I am living in Buffalo this season and for the first time in three seasons I don't have to travel across the country to play games. It is a huge relief for me and I hope it pays off as I am looking to have a big season for the Bandits.''

''I have gone into every year of lacrosse that I have played with the notion that I want to win a championship."

-- Buffalo forward Luke Wiles

Wiles is impressed by his new teammates.

He refers to John Tavares as ''the best lacrosse player I have seen to date.''

''He doesn't say much but goes about his business as a true professional.''

Mark Steenhuis is ''an awesome athlete who scores goals at will in practice and in games.''

''He makes the game look easy in practice and he is a great competitor.''

Tracey Kelusky is ''an awesome guy and a great player.''

''He sees the floor so well and has such a knack for getting to the net, understanding how defenses work and more importantly how to beat them. He is a treat to play with on the right side.''

Mike Thompson 100 Percent

One of the Bandits' worries going into training camp was the fitness of No. 1 goalie Mike Thompson, who blew out a knee in the title game at the 2011 world indoor championship in Prague last May. Not to worry.

Thompson comes into the new season in top shape, so much so that he's 25 pounds lighter than last season, says coach Darris Kilgour.

''He's 100 percent and we have 100 percent confidence in him,'' Kilgour said during the NLL's weekly coaches conference call Wednesday.

Defenseman Billy Dee Smith, who missed all of last season rehabbing knee ligaments torn at the 2010 world field tournament in England, is questionable with a hip pointer.

Roik Played Well in Rock Debut

The shocking collapse of the Toronto Rock in their 12-9 home loss to Calgary last Sunday couldn't be blamed on Matt Roik's goaltending.

Toronto blew a 5-0 first-quarter lead and the final score would have been more lopsided if not for the new guy in the Rock nets. Calgary outshot Toronto 53-38. Toronto's forwards supplied all of two goals in the second half. Stephan Leblanc, the leading supplier of Rock goals last season, failed to score in the game.

The big question going into the opener was whether Roik could take over successfully from Bob Watson, who retired after being named MVP of the championship game Rock triumph last May.

The early answer: yes.

Colin Doyle is among many players nearing career milestones. Doyle can jump to the second spot on the career regular-season NLL points list.
© Toronto Rock

Roik didn't buckle under the increasing pressure the speedy Calgary offense applied as the game progressed. But his forwards couldn't match the aggressiveness of their 'Necks counterparts.

''We laid off the gas in the second half,'' the 6-foot-5 goalie said as he stood in a sombre Rock room. ''Collectively, we've all got to be better -- from the goalie on out.''

GM Terry Sanderson called his players' effort ''horse crap'' but nothing the players should be dwelling on going into Buffalo, where they must play with more urgency, says Sanderson.

Career Milestones Within Reach

Colin Doyle has a chance this year to jump to the second spot on the career regular-season NLL points list and John Grant Jr. and Shawn Williams should easily crash the 1,000-point party.

Many players are close to career milestones.

John Tavares, the 43-year-old Buffalo icon, is the all-time leader in goals, 724, assists, 823, and points, 1,547, as he begins his 21st season _ all with the Bandits. When playoffs are added, his next goal will be his 800th.

The retired Gary Gait is second in regular-season career goals, 635, and points, 1,165.

Doyle, who picked up three points in Toronto's 12-9 home loss to Calgary on Sunday, is second in assists, 688, fourth in goals, 434, and third in points, 1,122, so he now needs 44 to pass Gait in career points.

Rock teammate Josh Sanderson is third in assists, 672, and fourth in points, 1,019.

Grant's 469 goals are third all-time and the Colorado forward is fifth in points with 977, needing 23 for the rare 1,000.

Williams, the longtime Rochester captain now with Edmonton, is fourth in assists, 573, fifth in goals, 396, and sixth in points, 969. Another 31 and he hits 1,000.

Colorado's Gavin Prout needs two points to become only the seventh player in NLL history with 800, and Toronto's Blaine Manning needs only four more points to become the eighth.

Stealth Coach to Miss Opener

With head coach Chris Hall at home in the British Columbia capital of Victoria coping with cancer, assistant Art Webster will run the Washington Stealth bench when they open at home against Calgary on Saturday night.

''He's in great spirits but his health isn't where he'd like it to be right now,'' Webster said Wednesday. ''I'm pretty sure he'll be unable to travel but he'll be watching it live. We're in touch every day.''

Hall has been undergoing treatments since November for a cancerous tumor on his right tonsil. He is expected to make a full recovery and return to the bench during the season.

Washington, the 2010 champion and 2011 finalist, has one of the most stable lineups in the league with only three changes from last season.

''We have a great team on paper but you have to take it off the paper and put it on the floor,'' says Webster.

Maddalena Wants to Play

Pat Maddalena is eager for a chance to show he's still got a lot to offer.

''I am still looking to play,'' says the 33-year-old forward. ''I am not officially retired. I still think I can be a valuable asset to any team right now.''

Maddalena wasn't re-signed by Toronto. Hampered by an injury last winter, he got into only seven games and scored just four goals. But in 172 regular-season games over 12 seasons, Maddalena has amassed 685 points on 318 goals and 367 assists. He had a 75-point season as recently as 2009 with the New York Titans.

With the NLL losing five teams over the last five years, it's difficult for vets such as Maddalena to hold onto roster spots.

''The economy has impacted many businesses including the NLL,'' he says. ''I feel that the union and the league need to work together to create a model that allows for growth in teams and establishing markets.

''We have to look to put teams in areas where lacrosse will be successful in the long term. From there, there needs to be strict guidance to new teams to make sure they get people in the arenas and develop a strong business relationship in their community. If we develop strong franchises that will attract league-wide major sponsors, that will provide a great TV market. After that, I feel the league can grow to 14 to 18 teams in 10 years.''

Maddalena is a chiropractor with a practice in St. Catharines, Ont. He's keeping himself in top physical condition so he'll be ready to play if he gets the call.

''There are a lot of great memories that I will save to share because I look to create a few more,'' he says. ''Either way, I am very happy with my life. I have a great wife, healthy children and two growing businesses.''

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli -- a longtime Lacrosse Magazine contributor -- are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.

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