June 8, 2007

June 8, 2007

by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

The dive is alive in Major League Lacrosse - and so is Doug Knight, who at 32 years young has rediscovered his launching ability as a member of the Philadelphia Barrage, if only briefly.

Knight revolutionized the dive shot - where you dodge from the wing or from behind the cage and go airborne, hopefully with enough time to throw a fake and/or shot before landing in the crease - during his days as an attackman at the University of Virginia. It was subsequently banned by the NCAA.

The MLL's a different story.

Knight, who has toiled in and out of the league with the Barrage and Boston Cannons, reemerged last weekend with two goals in Philadelphia's 21-17 victory over Rochester. Even if brief, there were shades of the Knight of old when he dove from behind the cage and stuffed a goal late in the second quarter.

Knight developed his airborne ability as a high school player at Connecticut's Westminster School. His reckless style, stemming also from his experience in soccer and in hockey, often caught him in the crease. His coach told him to leave his feet before he got there.

Some rate Virginia's 1996 attack of Knight, Tim Whiteley and Michael Watson (currently of the Los Angeles Riptide) among the best in NCAA history.

The Barrage, now 2-0, will look for its third straight win when it hosts Boston at 7 p.m. Saturday. Expect more high-flying action, especially as the Cannons come in with their highfalutin combination of John Christmas, Chazz Woodson, Brett Bucktooth and, of course, Mike Powell. They were made even stronger by the addition of Canadian finisher and Cornell graduate David Mitchell in the draft, who had three goals in his debut last week, a 19-15 win over the Riptide.

Reached via e-mail Thursday, Christmas said, "The attack unit is meshing alright. It was good to get a lefty in the draft."

With the return of Knight-time and the most explosive attack in the MLL visiting, there are sure to be fireworks in Philadelphia on Saturday.

New-Look Bayhawks Delight D.C.; Murtha Gets His Chance

An old rivalry rekindles Saturday when the Baltimore, er, Washington Bayhawks host the Long Island Lizards at Georgetown University.

Since enduring the worst season in franchise history, the Bayhawks have unloaded Mikey Powell, acquired Chris Garrity, Conor Gill and Ryan Curtis, and saw Mark Millon call it quits after two games this season.

That's a lot of turnover, but through four games the Bayhawks are atop the Eastern Conference with a 3-1 record, boasting the MLL's top two scorers in second-year players Kyle Dixon (11g, 4a) and Matt Ward (10g, 4a). (Maybe the move south on the Baltimore-D.C. corridor has the two former University of Virginia standouts feeling a little closer to Charlottesville.)

Last week, Ward scored the game-winner in overtime as the Bayhawks defeated the New Jersey Pride, 17-16.

This week, they host the 2-0 Long Island Lizards, who have undergone some changes of their own. Goalie Greg Cattrano and defenseman Pat McCabe both retired after a disappointing 2006 season. Jay Jalbert decided to sit out the 2007 season for personal and professional reasons.

Frank D'Agostino has proven a capable replacement for McCabe, now an assistant coach. It's hard to screw up with John Gagliardi and Nicky Polanco playing to either side.

More notable has been the emergence of Nick Murtha in the cage. Murtha has never been a full-time starter in the MLL. He was drafted in 2002 by the Lizards, backing up Brian Dougherty and then Cattrano, before he went to expansion Chicago in 2006, where he was a part-time starter. Before the first game this season, he had his chin split open by a blistering warm-up shot. It took 20 stitches to repair before he replaced backup Joe Canuso in the second half of the Lizards' victory over Boston.

Murtha's collegiate experience wasn't all that extensive, either. As a goalie at Johns Hopkins, he sat behind the likes of Brian Carcaterra (two years) and Rob Scherr (one year) before winning the starting nod from Scherr his senior year in 2002. All he did that year was lead Hopkins to the NCAA semifinals as the national goalkeeper of the year

"I took it on the chin," Murtha would later say of his time as a backup. "I had one option to quit but another option to work harder. And I chose the latter of the two."

In addition to the 10 saves he had in one half against Boston, Murtha added 15 saves in Long Island's victory over San Francisco.

He'll have his hands full with that Washington attack, which already consisted of Gill, Ward and Tom Marechek before the addition of finisher Andrew "Buggs" Combs, who was reacquired for a pair of 2008 draft picks in a trade earlier this week.
Banks, Powell Reunite

Despite the loss to the Lizards, the San Francisco Dragons can be happy with the reunion of former Syracuse attack mates Liam Banks, who was acquired from New Jersey in a draft-day trade for Joe Yevoli, and Ryan Powell. The two combined two goals and six assists last week against Long Island's tough-as-nails defense. Powell has 13 points in just two games.

On Sunday, the Dragons play at the Chicago Machine, who last week against Denver snapped a 13-game losing streak dating back to last year behind an early push from No. 1 overall draft pick Pat Heim (4g). These teams will meet for the first time since San Francisco cemented Chicago's winless 2006 campaign and played its way into the playoffs with a win in the season finale. The Dragons had to come back from six goals down in the fourth quarter to win that one.
Slow Starters

The Rochester Rattlers (0-2) host the New Jersey Pride (0-3) in a battle of winless Eastern Conference teams Friday at 7:30 p.m.

The anticipated match-up of the top two faceoff specialists taken in this year's draft - Rochester's Alex Smith and New Jersey's Chris Collinates - will not happen, as Smith will be at a training seminar for his full-time job. Smith won 19 of 29 faceoffs in the Rattlers' loss to Philadelphia last week.

The Rattlers have been prone to slow starts, having never been above .500 after three games in their seven-year history, a streak which will stand regardless of Friday's outcome. With a roster heavily comprised of indoor players who were finishing up NLL and ILF World Indoor Championships competition during training camp, Rochester has been caught on its heels early.

"You don't want to make excuses because every team has their issues, but because of our market and geography, we've elected to go with a lot of the indoor guys, and their season overlaps with our preseason," Rattlers head coach B.J. O'Hara told the Democrat & Chronicle. "So we're trying to figure out who we are."

New Jersey's Scott Urick last week became one of just three players in MLL history (Mark Millon, Jesse Hubbard) to eclipse the 200-goal plateau.

New Jersey (0-3) at Rochester (0-2) - Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The Rattlers receive a boost with the return of Kevin Cassese from his personal and professional obligations as an assistant coach with final four participant Duke University. He'll handle faceoffs in Smith's stead. The Rattlers have too much firepower, with Casey Powell and John Grant playing opposite each other on the wings and Colin Doyle debuting last week with a goal, to stay down very long.

LMO Predicts: Rochester 18, New Jersey 15

Boston (2-2) at Philadelphia (2-0) - Saturday, 7 p.m.
This is usually a trash-talking, big-hitting affair with these two teams. Boston is still on its heels after all the roster turnover, while Philadelphia remains steady as ever.

LMO Predicts: Philadelphia 17, Boston 13

Long Island (2-0) at Washington (3-1) - Saturday, 4 p.m.
The Lizards' offense is among the most well-balanced in the league, boasting six players with at least three goals through two games. No longer a secret is Stephen Berger (7g), whose five-goal outing in the opener against Boston opened eyes. "The thing about Berger, we're going to use him on attack the majority of the time this year - that's good. It helps us out on midfield," said Blake Miller. "Berger's been great. He doesn't get a lot of credit, but the guy's one of our best players."

LMO Predicts: Long Island 14, Washington 13

Los Angeles (2-1) at Denver (1-1) - Saturday, 9 p.m.
No Tillman Johnson (sitting out season due to work obligations) was no problem for the Riptide in its first two games. But the combination of former Navy goalies Mickey Jarboe and Matt Russell did not get the job done in a loss last week to the Cannons. To make matters worse, L.A. had to send its top scorer, Coombs (13g), to Washington because of geographic implications. That's not a terrific turn of events against that vaunted Outlaws midfield, led by Jeff Sonke (10g). Denver's shooters are to be feared.

LMO Predicts: Denver 20, Los Angeles 15

San Francisco (0-2) at Chicago (1-1) - Sunday, 2 p.m.
So the big burden is off the Machine. What an impact those rookies had in Chicago's first-ever win, a 19-17 decision over Denver last week. In addition to Heim: former Hofstra standout Athan Ianucci (first pick, supplemental draft) had seven points on four goals (one two-pointer) and two assists; Jordan Hall (Delaware) had two assists; and Dan Kallaugher (Loyola) assisted Ianucci's game-winner. Now what? Two-fers? Sure. Why not?

LMO Predicts: Chicago 13, San Francisco 12
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