April 18, 2012

NLL Notebook: Grant Takes Shot at Scoring Record

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

John Grant Jr. needs 12 points to break the single-season points record of 115 set by John Tavares in 2001.
© Colorado Mammoth

John Grant Jr. needs 12 points to break the single-season points record of 115 set by John Tavares in 2001, and the Colorado star will be up against two of the top defenses in the National Lacrosse League in trying to get them.

Colorado is at home Friday against Edmonton, which is averaging 11.0 goals against per game, and completes its 16-game schedule April 28 at Minnesota, which is averaging 11.9. Only Calgary, at 10.9 a game, has better goals-against numbers.

So, it won't be easy but, if anybody can do it, Junior is the man.

Garrett Billings has an outside chance. The Toronto forward has 99 points and given the way he's been piling up the points in the last month it's not inconceivable he could parcel 17 together with games remaining in Washington this Friday and at Edmonton on April 28.

Doyle About to Pass Gait

Colin Doyle has moved into a tie for second place on the all-time pro indoor points list with Gary Gait at 1,165, and Toronto's captain can move ahead when the Rock play in Washington on Friday night. A more lasting Doyle-Gait tie exists in the business world as Doyle endorses a full range of lacrosse equipment created by Gait Lacrosse. Gary's twin brother Paul heads up Gait Lacrosse.

''It is truly an honor to be associated, in any way, with one of the greatest of all time,'' Doyle says about reaching 1,165. ''Gary and Paul were everything to lacrosse when the sport needed it the most. So many of us owe so much to them.''<

All-time leaders: 1. John Tavares 1,620; 2. Gary Gait and Colin Doyle 1,165; 4. John Grant Jr. 1,081; 5. Josh Sanderson 1,070; 6. Shawn Williams 1,030; 7. Gavin Prout 881; 8. Dan Dawson 862; 9. Lewis Ratcliff 807; 10. Blaine Manning 801.

''He's a very valuable piece of our puzzle,'' GM Terry Sanderson says of Doyle.

Zack Attack

Zack Greer has a team-best 27 goals for the Edmonton Rush and is emerging as the impact player many envisioned he'd become when the Minnesota Swarm selected him third overall in the 2009 entry draft.

Greer was all-America in field lacrosse at Duke after excelling at the indoor game in his home city of Whitby, Ontario. He was no flash in the pan in the NLL, scoring only 10 goals in his rookie season. He had four in 2011 when then-GM Marty O'Neill traded him to Edmonton. Greer finished out that season with seven for the Rush. Those were far from all-star numbers, but this season has been different for the six-foot-two attacker.

''Zack Greer has just been awesome all year,'' says GM-coach Derek Keenan. ''Very few nights has he not been a dynamic player for us.''

Greer, 26, is the brother of Toronto defenseman Bill Greer, 30. A cousin, Shawn Thornton, 34, is an NHL forward with the Boston Bruins.

A Wing And a Prayer

The Philadelphia Wings, after spending a bye week digesting a three-game losing streak, are 7-7 and clinging to first place in the East Division as they prepare to travel to Minnesota to take on the Swarm on Saturday night. They'll close out their schedule in Rochester on April 28.

''We have been inconsistent this season,'' Dan Dawson, the team's leading point-getter, responded when asked what was up with the Wings. ''We control our own destiny and it is important that we close out the regular season on a high note.''

Thompson Goes Down

Buffalo goalie Mike Thompson had to leave in the 10th minute of the Bandits' 11-8 loss in Edmonton last Saturday when he was clipped at the knees by Rush forward Tom Johnson. Anthony Cosmo went the rest of the way.

The incident was a flashback to a serious knee injury Thompson suffered during the world indoor tournament in Prague last May. He was less than 100 per cent when he started the season and has struggled to repeat on a consistent basis the standout performances that marked his 2011 season. Here's hoping the latest setback turns out to be far less serious than the one that ruined his spring nearly a year ago.

Associate GM Derek Graham said during the NLL's weekly conference call Wednesday that it's doubtful Thompson would bit able to play this weekend. He's ''sick and tired of this league not protecting goalies,'' he added.

Standout Rookies

Kevin Crowley of the Wings, Adam Jones of the Mammoth and Jordan MacIntosh of the Swarm are main contenders for the award that will go to the rookie of the year.

Only two NLL players _ John Grant Jr. (46) and John Tavares (38) _ top Crowley's 35 goals.

Jones leads all rookies in points (70). That's eighth best in the league, and five more than Crowley.

MacIntosh has a checking role at his transition position but he's still managed to score 20 goals. That's amazing, especially for a rookie. He just earned for the first time the award as transition player of the week for his two goals, one assist and nine loose balls in a 14-9 home win over Washington last Saturday.

Johnny Powless, the Knighthawks' teen wonder, has been hot lately and has increased his output to 24 goals. With seven points in a 14-12 home win over Calgary last Saturday, he's the rookie of the week.

Jamie Lincoln of the Mammoth is coming off a five-goal game that upped his total to 23.

Other forwards making names for themselves in the pro game are Stephen Keogh of the 'Hawks, who has 21 goals, and Corbyn Tao of the Swarm, who has 17 goals.

Going, Going ...

Only one of the nine teams will miss the playoffs and it is going to be Buffalo (5-9), Edmonton (5-8) or Washington (4-10).

The Bandits, loaded with veteran talent, have baffled coach Darris Kilgour. They will finish below .500 for the first time since 1999. Nobody could have predicted such mediocrity from this veteran group. Funny thing is, with only two games remaining the Bandits could still snag a first-round home playoff date.

The Rush, rebuilt with a zillion roster changes last year, had the potential for a significant upswing but it never materialized. Having Athan Iannucci and then Paul Rabil refuse to report to the team following trades was a bummer. It's hard to win with the weakest offense in the league.

The Stealth had a terrible start to their season with injury problems no team could overcome but even at full strength have been unable to rediscover the winning ways of their championship 2010 season.

Looking at remaining games, Edmonton has the best chance of the three of playing in May.

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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