February 6, 2013

NLL Notebook: Reigning MVP Grant Off to Another Hot Start

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Colorado Mammoth star John Grant Jr. leads all NLL scorers with 17 goals in only four games.
© Larry Palumbo

Colorado Mammoth star John Grant Jr. leads all NLL shooters with 17 goals in only four games.

The 2012 league MVP made an alteration after a recent loss and amassed 11 points — five goals and six assists — in a 15-9 home win over Minnesota last Saturday night.

''We made a point on how terrible we played last week holding the ball and I was one of the biggest culprits,'' he explained. ''This week, I focused on just trying to feed the ball and, if I was getting some shots, hopefully I would put them in.''

Incredibly, Grant has scored at least three goals in 18 of the last 20 games in which he has appeared.

Nine of the 17 he's scored this year were on power plays.

Surgery Soon for Mac Allen

Colorado defenseman Mac Allen is expected to undergo surgery later this month to repair the ACL in the knee he injured last month.

It's the same knee he tore up playing summer ball in 2011 in Peterborough, Ontario. That injury delayed his availability well into the 2012 NLL season, and now this. Allen, who is an apprenticing lawyer in Toronto, is understandably upset.

''It's terrible for Mac,'' said Mammoth GM Steve Govett. ''Any time you have an athlete who worked as hard as he did to get back and he somewhat miraculously gets back — and we were thrilled with that — what has happened now is a blow to Mac and to the team.

''We'll persevere. We were successful before he came back last year in the early part of the season and we're hoping we can overcome this, too.''

Gibson, Gastaldo Score in NLL Debuts

Matt Gibson of the Minnesota Swarm and Jaeden Gastaldo of the Colorado Mammoth each played in an NLL game for the first time last Saturday night, and each scored a goal in Denver.

Gibson, 23, is a 5-foot-10, 175-pound forward out of Point Lookout, N.Y., via Yale University. He scored 18 goals playing outdoors last summer for the MLL's Long Island (now New York) Lizards. He was the only rookie named an MLL all-star and was the league's rookie of the year. Gibson, who shoots from the left side, wears No. 66.

Gastaldo, who just turned 22, is a 5-foot-11, 180-pound transition runner from New Westminster, British Columbia. He shoots right and is wearing No. 4 with the Mammoth.

Both were fifth-round draft picks last September: Gastaldo 44th and Gibson 46th overall.

Roughnecks Lighting It Up

Calgary's offense is No. 1 in the NLL with 15.2 goals, on average, per game. Shawn Evans, with 15 goals, and Dane Dobbie, with 12, are hitting the target most often for the surging 'Necks, who have won three consecutive games.

Colorado, 13.8, and Edmonton, 13.0, are next and are followed by Buffalo, 12.2, Washington and Minnesota, 12.0 each, Toronto, 11.3, Philadelphia, 10.5, and Rochester, 9.8.

Rock D Strong as Ever

A strong defense has been a huge Toronto Rock asset since the team came into existence in 1999 and five weeks into the new season the Rock D is No. 1 in the league in allowing an average of 9.8 goals against.

Goaltender Nick Rose has been sensational in front of a veteran back-end core comprised of Sandy Chapman, Pat Merrill, Rob Marshall, Mike Hobbins, Stephen Hoar, Cam Woods, Bill Greer and free-agent pickup Chris White. The stature of second-year pro Jesse Gamble grows game by game. Damon Edwards is just back after missing four games with a hamstring injury. Rookies Kyle Belton and Scott Johnston are being eased in, which helps a lot because vets Phil Sanderson and Drew Petkoff have been unable to resume their careers after being injured last year.

Rochester, despite a 0-3 start, has had the second-best defense with an 11.0 GAA.

Philadelphia, 11.2, is close behind. Next is Calgary, 12.2. Washington and Edmonton each have allowed 12.5 goals a game. The rest: Buffalo 13.0, Colorado 13.2 and Minnesota 13.7.

The NLL got a larger crowd in Denver for a Colorado Mammoth win over Minnesota last Saturday night than the NHL got for an Avalanche home game Monday night.

Rose, Miller Hardest to Beat

Six goalies have played at least 200 minutes and Toronto's Nick Rose and Philadelphia's Brandon Miller lead the way with identical .809 save percentages.

Rochester's Matt Vinc is next at .790 followed by Washington's Tyler Richards at .781, Calgary's Mike Poulin at .781 and Buffalo's Anthony Cosmo at .715.

Bandits Coach Rips Veteran

Toronto scored two goals while Buffalo defenseman Billy Dee Smith languished in the penalty box during the second quarter and Bandits coach Darris Kilgour didn't use the volatile veteran again for the rest of the half. The Rock went on to win 14-12, and Kilgour unloaded on Smith after the game last Saturday night.

''Obviously, talking to him isn't going to change him,'' said Kilgour. ''I've been talking to him for 11 years. I'm sick of it. I'm not taking it anymore.''

Mammoth Outdraw Avalanche

The NLL got a larger crowd — 16,231 — in Denver for the 15-9 Colorado Mammoth win over Minnesota last Saturday night than the NHL got — 13,441 — for an Avalanche home game Monday night.

Attendance elsewhere last weekend: 14,918 in Buffalo for Toronto's 14-12 win over the Bandits; 7,914 in Rochester for the Knighthawks' 7-6 squeaker over Washington; and 7,349 in Edmonton where Calgary prevailed 18-15 over the Rush.

Long Distance Runners

The weekly commute by Colorado forwards Adam Jones and Mat MacLeod is demanding.

The cousins live in Owen Sound, Ontario, where Adam is a teacher and Mat works for the city (pop. 22,000), which is located 120 miles northwest of Toronto.

It's a three-hour-plus drive — longer when roads are covered in snow — to Pearson International Airport to grab flights to NLL cities. The only trip they'll take this season that doesn't require flying is to Toronto, March 8, and to Buffalo, March 9.

Jones lived in Denver last season and was the league's rookie of the year.

''He's adjusting to life in the NLL as a fly-in player,'' said Colorado GM Steve Govett. ''He's got a good support system and is dedicated to the team. He travels with his cousin Mat and if you're going to do it you might as well do it with somebody you know and like.''

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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