March 4, 2014

NLL Notebook: Coaching Change for Mammoth

by Neil Stevens | | Twitter

The Colorado Mammoth have an edge on Vancouver for the final playoff berth in the NLL West division. (NLL Photo)

The announcement out of Denver on Tuesday afternoon that the Colorado Mammoth dismissed the coaching staff of Bob Hamley, Ed Comeau and Sean Ferris was a big surprise.

Ongoing goaltending instability has been a major weakness and losing Adam Jones, who was leading the league in goal scoring until suffering a shoulder injury a month ago, compounded early-season 2014 struggles. Those things were out of the control of these three veteran coaches and it is difficult to see how firing them at this juncture will enhance the team's prospects.

It looks as if Colorado (4-7) and Vancouver (3-7) are going to be scrapping for the third and final playoff berth in the West right down to the schedule's last weekend.

Eyeballing the remaining games, the Mammoth have three of their seven remaining games against sub-.500 teams, while only two of Vancouver's eight are against sub-.500 opponents.

March is a black hole for both struggling clubs: Colorado has to face a hot Calgary club coming in on a four-game winning streak Saturday then fly to Buffalo to challenge the East-leading Bandits the following weekend; and Vancouver is at undefeated Edmonton this Saturday, gets a bye week, then is at home against Calgary.

Fast forward to late April: Colorado finishes with road games a week apart against the East's bottom teams, Minnesota and Philadelphia, while Vancouver has to play in Edmonton and go back home to face Calgary on the April 25-26 weekend.

Colorado should get a late-season boost with the return of Jones.

Colorado and Vancouver have already met four times and they split 2-2 so that first tiebreaker is out the window. The second tiebreaker is won-lost records within the division, and Colorado is 3-5 while Vancouver is 2-5..

Paul Dawson Outscores Big Brother

So, Paul Dawson, who hadn't taken a shot on goal through Rochester's first seven games, lets two fly and both go in as the Knighthawks triumph 11-9 over Colorado. In what had to be a first in his NLL career, Paul, 28, outscored big brother Dan Dawson, 32, who managed only one goal on seven shots.

''It doesn't come very often but I try to pride myself that, if there is an opportunity, to make sure to bury it,'' Paul said of his rare chance to score.

Dan has 989 career points and Paul has 49 so don't expect a repeat any time soon of what happened in Denver but Paul definitely earned bragging rights on the trip home, and we're sure he used them.

Dan Dawson played his 188th straight game in Denver, tying him for second place all-time with Toronto captain Colin Doyle and the retired Steve Toll. Dawson's streak began on March 9, 2002. Buffalo's Shawn Williams is the leader with 220 consecutive games since March 11, 2000.

The Dawsons both have weekday jobs as firefighters in Brampton, Ontario, and have attained a fitness level few NLL peers can match.

''I am lucky that both jobs are geared toward being physically fit,'' a team release quotes Dan Dawson.

He's a picky eater.

''Recovery is based on what you put into your system,'' he says. ''I put a huge emphasis on my nutrition.''

Hot as a Firecracker

Calgary's Curtis Dickson became the seventh player with more than 20 goals when he fired in six in the Roughnecks' 19-13 demolition of the Toronto Rock last Saturday night. Calgary led 7-0 after one quarter and Dickson scored four times in 15 high-octane minutes. He's been an NLL scoring machine since starring at the University of Delaware, where he scored 162 goals in 62 games (2007-2010) in twice earning all-America honors.

''Dickson plays with a lot of emotion and a lot of passion,'' says coach Curt Malawsky. ''He's a real tough check. When guys get him the ball when he's hot, that's key.''

The 20 Goalers: 1. Dane Dobbie, Calgary, 30; 2. Stephan Leblanc, Toronto, 29; 3. Adam Jones, Colorado, 25; 4. John Grant Jr., Colorado, 23; 5. Drew Westervelt, Colorado, and Rhys Duch, Vancouver, 22 each; 7. Dickson, 21; 8. Garrett Billings, Toronto, 20.

Doyle Tops 1,300 Points

Rock captain Colin Doyle recorded his 800th assist and upped his career points total to 1,307 during his team's two games in Alberta last weekend.

The all-time points leaders: 1. John Tavares, Buffalo, 1,694; 2. Doyle, 1,307; 3. John Grant Jr., Colorado, 1,241; 4. Josh Sanderson, Toronto, 1,183; 5. Gary Gait, retired, 1,165; 6. Shawn Williams, Buffalo, 1,134; 7. Dan Dawson, Rochester, 989; 8. Gavin Prout, UFA, 922; 9. Lewis Ratcliff, Vancouver, 920; 10. Blaine Manning, retired, 833.

Goaltending, Goaltending

It has been written time and time again but it can never be overstated: top-flight goaltending is a must for any team with championship aspirations.

Goaltenders Anthony Cosmo of Buffalo and Matt Vinc of Rochester share a league-best .810 save percentage so it is no surprise that the Bandits (6-2) and the Knighthawks (5-3) are the only NLL East teams above .500. In the NLL West, Aaron Bold of Edmonton has a .808 save percentage for the first-place Rush (8-0).

Save percentages across the league (minimum 200 minutes): 1. Anthony Cosmo, Buffalo, and Matt Vinc, Rochester, .810; 3. Aaron Bold, Edmonton, .808; 4. Tyler Richards, Vancouver, .773; 5. Evan Kirk, Philadelphia, .763; 6. Dillon Ward, Colorado, and Nick Rose, Toronto, .757; 8. Zach Higgins, Minnesota, .748; 9. Mike Poulin, Calgary, .747; 10. Tyler Carlson, Minnesota, .696.

Poulin has been prominent in Calgary's four-game winning streak after a lukewarm start to his season. Toronto had a 61-50 shots advantage but lost 19-13 in Calgary last Saturday because Poulin made the net vanish behind him at key junctures in the game.

Five Long Years

Goalies aren't scoring goals anymore. The last time it happened was on May 9, 2009, when Matt King scored for Calgary in a playoff game against San Jose.

The Setup Man

Toronto's Garrett Billings, with 50 assists in 10 games, is well on his way to breaking the NLL record of 82 he set in 2012.

Merrill Ill

Veteran Rock defenseman Pat Merrill did not play in either of his team's games in Alberta last weekend. He was home with pneumonia, team media relations director Mike Hancock divulged.

Looking Back

On March 21, 1987, the Baltimore Thunder, coached by Bob Griebe, defeated the Washington Wave 11-10 to win the first league championship in front of 7,019 at the Capitol Centre. Baltimore goalie Buzz Sheain's 46-save heroics earned him MVP honors. Sheain played hockey, too, and was a goalie at Cornell University. His son, Trey Sheain of Baltimore, is a former Johns Hopkins University goalie.

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