April 27, 2014

Jamieson Takes NLL Scoring Crown as Knighthawks Soar

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Stevens Archive

Cody Jamieson captured the league scoring title with a 10-point showing in Saturday's regular-season finale, Rochester's ninth win in its last ten games and fifth straight going into the playoffs. (Kevin Colton)

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Curt Styres was one proud owner-GM as he stood in the middle of the visitors' dressing room following Rochester's latest win Saturday night.

''I love the Knighthawks, absolutely love the Knighthawks,'' Styres replied when asked how he was feeling about his team.

The 'Hawks capped their 14-4 regular season with their fifth consecutive win and ninth in their last 10 games, 16-14 over the Bandits on Saturday night, and now look forward to a weekend off to await an opponent for the two-game NLL East final during the May 9-11 weekend. They are determined on having a third straight Champion's Cup celebration.

''We're going to be ready,'' Styres said of the challenges ahead.

In a corner of the room sat Cody Jamieson, the new NLL scoring champion. A 10-point night against the Bandits did it for the 26-year-old First Nations star.

''It's cool and everything but at the same time it's a testament to the guys around me,'' Jamieson said in sharing the glory. ''Scoring championships don't really mean much. They just mean that you're playing with some great players.''

Players like Johnny Powless, who weaves and twists in traffic near the crease like a contortionist so he can pull in Jamieson's passes for shots on goal.

''He's definitely one of the best pick players in the league,'' Jamieson said. ''He gets open and he's money on the crease.''

'''We've been together for a few years now so we've developed pretty good chemistry,'' says Powless. ''It's nice to set each other up.''

We asked Jamieson how the first-place 'Hawks could convince themselves to play with such passion a game that had absolutely no impact for them in the standings.

''Every game in this league means something,'' he replied. ''You only play once a weekend, usually, so you think about the game all week. You don't want to go into the playoffs on a losing note. You want to keep getting better every game so we were just trying to be better and prepare ourselves for the next game.''

Jamieson scored 36 goals and assisted on 72 for 108 points in 18 games, overtaking Toronto's Garrett Billings who had 101 in the 15 games he played before tearing the ACL in his right knee. Calgary's Shawn Evans was runner-up with 105 points. Colorado's John Grant Jr., who sat out his team's win in Philadelphia, and Rochester's Dan Dawson tied for fourth with 91 points each.

''He's been our leader on the front end from the get-go,'' head coach Mike Hasen says of Jamieson, who has done nothing but get better since being No. 1 entry draft pick of 2010. ''It's a credit to him and it is also a credit to his teammates because he made everyone around him better this year. He deserves it.''

Sid Smith has been a teammate forever.

''I think Jammer is happier with the win than winning (the scoring title) but he deserves it,'' said the 'Hawks captain. ''He's been a good player in this league for a long time now and it's kind of fitting that he's coming into his own and putting up those kind of numbers.''

Craig Point is another longtime pal of Jamieson.

''It's always great when someone on our team wins a league award,'' said Point. ''It's pretty hard to do in this league because everybody is so competitive. I know Jammer works hard. We tried to work the ball around as much as we could (Saturday) so he could get the opportunity to win it. It's not his first time winning an award like that but in this league it is so it means a lot to him and the team.''

Jamieson was MVP of the last two title games. He was MVP of the 2007 Canadian junior championship tournament won by his Six Nations team. He was rookie of the year, scoring champion and MVP in his rookie senior summer league season. He's been well known, of course, in NCAA lacrosse circles since scoring the OT winner for Syracuse in its run to the 2009 championship.

''He's the best offensive player in the game right now,'' says Dan Dawson, who loves feeding leftie Jamieson the ball from the right side. ''You don't put up 100 points by being lucky. Cody has taken accountability for working out hard and watching a lot of game film to better himself. He's the ultimate team player. He's very unselfish. I know he really doesn't care about winning scoring titles but, to us, it's something he's worked hard for and deserves.''

So, Rochester gets this weekend off to await the Buffalo-at-Toronto winner.

''We'll have a good high-tempo practise and try to keep out routine as much as possible and then we'll go from there,'' says Hasen.

Bruises will heal. The Bandits didn't go down meekly in front of a capacity crowd of 19,070.

''A lot of credit goes to Buffalo tonight,'' Hasen said after the win. ''They came out full value and they were a heck of a lot better than they were the week before (in a 10-5 'Hawks win in Rochester). We got up early (in the score, 4-0) and settled in but they kept coming.''

He'll be sure to remind his players that allowing as many as 14 goals is unacceptable.

''There's still a lot of room for improvement,'' says Hasen. ''We've still got a lot to learn and a lot to get better at.''

''We'll watch some film and fix our mistakes,'' said Powless. ''I know I turned the ball over one or two times. Just sloppy plays. We've got to fix those up.''

Are they feeling unbeatable?

''Definitely not, we're definitely not unbeatable,'' says Smith. ''We've got a lot to improve on, actually. We got the win, which is the main thing, so we're happy with that. We'll take it. Our offense did a great job. (Buffalo) played tough. They wanted that home floor against Toronto. You've got to give them credit for getting 14 on us.''

Smith, with the first of his five-year NLL career, and Mike Kirk each scored a goal as the back end contributed some offense.

''You don't get a lot of those chances so it's nice to contribute when you can,'' said Kirk. ''We had some holes in our game so it'll be nice to have this weekend off to work on some things.''

Added Point: ''We wanted to end (the regular season) on a good note. We went into this game knowing they were going to come out and play with a lot of emotion. They'd lost seven and we knew they were going to play us hard. We had to match it and keep our composure and try to keep out of the penalty box but the refs made their decisions and we got into a little bit of trouble. They had four or five power-play goals and a lot more chances on their power play than we did. They're a good team. They're just having a little trouble right now. That was good on our part, finishing off like that, keeping our composure and not getting into stuff.''

Rochester had beaten Buffalo 8-4 at home the previous weekend.

''We're showing we can win in a bunch of different ways,'' said goaltender Matt Vinc. ''Last weekend it was a tight game. This one, our offense put up big numbers. That's definitely a positive looking ahead two weeks when we'll be playing one of the top teams in the East in a hostile environment.''

Rochester has to be favored to represent the NLL East in the championship series. The 'Hawks are 12-1 within their division. Their only loss in those 13 games was by one goal, 11-10, back on Jan. 25 in Buffalo.

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