May 14, 2009

NLL Notebook: Champion's Cup Edition

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

They have been honored and rightly so. Calgary's Troy Cordingley is the National Lacrosse League Coach of the Year and New York's Ed Comeau is the NLL General Manager of the Year.

But when Comeau's Titans face Cordingley's Roughnecks at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Friday for the NLL title, the Champion's Cup, they acknowledge that most of their work is finished.

"As of Friday, Troy and I probably have the best seats in the house, and get to watch some of the best athletes in our sport play," Comeau said. "It is up to the boys to go out there and perform and play. You can say whatever you like about us, but our impact is pretty minimal at this point."

Before they hand the reins off, each coach talked about the crucial elements for his team.

"The biggest thing for us is consistency for the 60 minutes," Cordingley said. "If you have even five- to 10-minute lulls, they can cost you. We're playing with a lot of confidence right now, but we realize that the two teams (Colorado and San Jose) that we played, they had some injuries. And Colin Doyle being very ill and being the leader of San Jose, that kind of hurt them last week.

"And we know that New York will be very well prepared for us, as we will for them. Anybody that beats the defending champions, they're a very good team."

New York defeated Rochester in overtime in the first round of the playoffs, with Casey Powell scoring the last three goals of the game. The Titans had surprisingly little difficulty with defending champion Buffalo, prevailing 9-3.

Against Calgary, Comeau is gearing his players up again for a tense, tight battle.

"You better be prepared to play one-goal games," he said. "That's why, as coaches, we're always looking for how we can be a little better. With one-goal games, you really want to minimize any mistakes you make."

Comeau also spoke of the needs for defensive reads on the Roughnecks' vaunted pick-and-roll plays and their league-leading power play.

"They've got so many weapons," he said. "It is a real versatile offense."

Finalists boast plenty of offense

Powell leads the NLL in playoff scoring with 15 points on six goals and nine assists. Calgary players hold the next four spots with Tracey Kelusky leading in goals scored with eight and tying teammate Dane Dobbie and Portland's Brodie Merrill in shooting percentage among the top 15 playoff scorers at .333. Josh Sanderson has 14 points (3g, 11a), followed by Dobbie with 13 points (6g, 7a). Kelusky and Scott Ranger each have 11 points. New York's Brendan Mundorf is next with 10 points on five goals and five assists. Like Powell, Mundorf was raised in the American field game. This is only his third season of indoor box lacrosse. Calgary's Kaleb Toth holds down the next spot with nine points, including three goals.

All-Pros in Champion's Cup

The NLL released the 2009 All-Pro teams Wednesday, and Powell was named first team all-pro. Sanderson and Titans' transition player Jordan Hall were named second team all-pro.

Boston Blazers forward Dan Dawson was named the NLL MVP on Thursday.

Hairy Superstitions

New York's players have grown mustaches since the playoffs began, some more successfully than others.

"It brings a little bit of camaraderie to it and they have some fun with it," Comeau said.

Calgary, in contrast, has stuck with the more traditional beards.

"I don't pay attention to it because I can't grow one," Cordingley chuckled. "But anyway, most of the guys do have one; it is a superstition."

Motivation

Some Calgary players are motivated by the desire for a second championship ring, to go with the one they claimed in 2004. Others, like Dobbie and Curt Malawsky, are on a quest for their first NLL ring.

The entire team has shared one motivation the entire season, according to Cordingley -- they are driven by a preseason ranking of No. 9.

"You have proud players in this dressing room,'' he said.

CP's Cast

Cordingley is impressing upon his players the need to be prepared for the New York offensive players who are not named Casey Powell.

"I know a lot of people talk about Casey Powell, and he is probably one of the best players in this league, but the supporting corps is really talented," he said.

"We know that they are very strong, very physical, very athletic and don't have many weaknesses, if any. So I think we're going to be have to be prepared defensively."

After Powell and Mundorf, the Titans are led in playoff scoring by Ryan Boyle (seven points), Pat Maddalena (six), Mike McLellan (five) and Hall (four).


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