January 18, 2012

NLL Notebook: Quinlan Earned Ring as Walk-On

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Jimmy Quinlan is a math teacher during the week and happens to be lefty, just like Buffalo's NLL legend John Tavares. "Hopefully I can play into my 40s, too," Quinlan said.
© Cris Anderson

Jimmy Quinlan was the obvious choice to take over from the traded Brodie Merrill as captain of the Edmonton Rush.

He's the last remaining original player from the inaugural 2006 season, he's the team's all-time leading scorer, he plays with a never-say-quit doggedness that inspires teammates, and to top it off, he's a local product.

Some background: Blaine Manning's family lived in the same Edmonton suburb, Sherwood Park, as Quinlan, and got him into lacrosse. Looking for enough kids to form a team, the Mannings urged Jimmy and his older brother, who like Blaine was eight, into registering to play. Blaine and Jimmy kept with it all the way to the pros.

Quinlan was drafted 53rd overall by the Calgary Roughnecks in 2001 but didn't make the team. All that did was make him work harder. While finishing his junior eligibility in Orangeville, he met members of the Toronto coaching staff who lived in that Ontario city northwest of Toronto. They followed his progress as he moved up to senior amateur boxla in Coquitlam, B.C., and they eventually invited him to camp. The walk-on made it, and he earned a 2005 NLL championship ring with the Rock -- with Manning a teammate again all those years later.

Edmonton, eager to get a champion who grew up in their market area, acquired him for Scott Campbell, who they'd claimed from Minnesota in their expansion draft. He was mainly a scorer in the early days but current coach Derek Keenan likes to use him in a transition role.

''First and foremost, it's an absolute honor,'' Quinlan said during an interview when asked for his thoughts on the 'C' that now adorns his No. 81 sweater. ''Coach Keenan phoned me and told me the news. I was surprised, proud and honored.''

The changing roles keep him evolving as a player.

''I always prided myself growing up in being a versatile player,'' he says. ''When I came to Edmonton and was asked to score goals, that was great. More recently they've asked me to play some 'D' and transition the ball. I'd be lying if I said I didn't like going out the front gate and scoring but I like the other side of it, too. It's a challenge.''

The Rush open their season at home against Colorado on Friday. The teams finished with identical 5-11 records last year and the Mammoth got the last playoff berth in the West by virtue of winning the season series against the Rush. A Quinlan-Gavin Prout fight last April is a YouTube reminder of how intense that revival became.

''We're well aware of the past history we have with them,'' says Quinlan. ''But we're really focused on what we've got to do. We know they've played a game before us this season (a 20-14 win over Minnesota). They're going to have some game experience but they're not going to know much about us. We'll go out and execute and take care of our game plan and if that happens we'll get the result we want.''

Quinlan is a math teacher in his weekday world. On the green carpet, he shoots from the left. Another NLL vet who is a lefty and teaches math? John Tavares. Quinlan wasn't aware of the similarities.

''Isn't that something,'' he said as the interview ended. ''Hopefully I can play into my 40s, too.''

Other teams with new captains: Rochester, Pat McCready; Philadelphia, Brodie Merrill; Colorado, Gavin Prout; and Minnesota, Andrew Suitor.

Iannucci Remains Unsigned in Edmonton

Edmonton will be without Athan Iannucci for its opener Friday night.

Iannucci, acquired from Philadelphia in the big off-season trade that sent Merrill to the Wings, remains a contract holdout. He holds the single-season NLL goals record (71) and would obviously be a potent offensive weapon for the Rush. But GM-coach Derek Keenan hasn't been able to lure him to Edmonton.

''He remains unsigned,'' says Keenan. ''He won't be in the lineup. We move forward without him at this point.''

Aaron Bold, the former Rochester backup, gets the start in goal for the Rush.

''He's been preparing for this for five or six years now,'' says Keenan. ''He's a super-fit kid who works hard at his craft. He really studies the shooters, as most goalies do these days. He really puts in the work.''

Grant Close to 1,000 Points

John Grant Jr.'s 11-point performance (4+7) in Colorado's 20-14 home win over Minnesota on Saturday moved him within 12 of becoming the fifth player in pro lacrosse history with 1,000 points. The 37-year-old Mammoth star is one of only eight returnees from the 2011 roster.

''All the new guys call me daddy so I guess I'm pretty old,'' Grant told ColoradoMammoth.com.

It's a challenging weekend for the Mammoth, who have to go to Calgary to face the undefeated Roughnecks on Saturday after their Friday game in Edmonton.

Roughnecks Perfect So Far

Wins in Toronto (12-9) and in Everett, Wash., (13-10) have Calgary sitting atop overall NLL standings with a 2-0 record.

''Other than the first quarter in Toronto, we've put together seven pretty good quarters,'' assistant coach Bob McMahon said during the NLL's weekly coaches' conference call Wednesday.

One word explains the superb start by head coach Dave Pym's squad: speed.

''The revised rules make the game faster and our team is built around speed,'' says transition star Jeff Shattler, the 2011 league MVP.

Washington goalie Tyler Richards would agree.

''We got beat in transition,'' Richards said after Calgary gained revenge for losing last year's West Division final to the Stealth.

The Roughnecks now get to play their next two games at home: this Saturday against Colorado (1-0) and Jan. 28 against Toronto (0-2).


Rochester's Cory Vitarelli feeds rookie Johnny Powless during Rochester's 22-12 opening night win over the Wings in Philadelphia. Powless, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 NLL entry draft, scored three goals and had two assists in his league debut.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Knighthawks Offense Impressive

While much of the talk after Rochester's 22-12 opening night win in Philadelphia was about the last-minute brawl, there had to be an opponent or two around the NLL taken aback by the offensive fireworks the 'Hawks unleashed. Coach Mike Hasen and his staff obviously did a superb job coordinating the offense going into Philly.

''We focused all camp on movement -- off-ball player movement, swinging the ball across the floor and making it difficult for defenses to get comfortable,'' explains transition star Jordan Hall. ''Because the ball didn't sit in one player's stick, we were able to get everyone looks and spread the scoring.''

The infusion of fresh legs -- chiefly those of No. 2 overall draft pick Stephen Keogh and No. 5 pick Johnny Powless -- had immediate impact. These two are dynamite.

''They're very talented,'' says Hall. ''They can both score from the inside and from the outside, which makes them tough to shut down. They're showing that they can also contribute without the ball in their stick. Keogh moves well off-ball and Powless works hard getting myself and other lefties open with picks. It's rare to see guys who are good off-ball players in their rookie season.''

Mouradian Not in Panic Mode

The lopsided loss isn't going to induce Wings GM-coach Johnny Mouradian into any drastic measures. He retains faith in his players and hopes for a better result when the Washington Stealth visit on Saturday. Avoid some of the costly penalties they took in their opener and the Wings will be OK.

''Obviously, when you let in 22 goals there is concern,'' says Mouradian. ''We have to really redeem ourselves in our building this weekend. We'll refine our defense and be a solid contender. We do have the level of talent to be successful.''

Rookies Have Big Opening Nights

The first five players selected in the 2011 NLL entry draft all scored in their pro debuts.

No. 1 pick Kevin Crowley scored three goals and assisted on five in Philadelphia's 22-12 home loss to Rochester; No. 2 pick Stephen Keogh had two goals and four assists for Rochester; No. 3 pick Adam Jones got three and set up three for Colorado in its 20-14 home win over Minnesota; No. 4 Jordan McIntosh of the Swarm had a goal, three assists and 27 faceoff wins among the 37 he took; and No. 5 Johnny Powless potted three goals and assisted on two for Rochester.

Wiles Perfect Fit in Buffalo

Luke Wiles' Bandits teammates sent him out of their First Niagara Center dressing room in a gaudy red -- or was it pink? -- kimono for his media interviews after scoring three goals in a 14-10 victory over Toronto.

''I guess this is what you get for playing half decent, you've got to wear something that looks pretty stupid,'' said the blushing forward.

Wiles scored two power-play goals during a major penalty to Ryan Sharp in the fourth quarter and they put Buffalo ahead to stay. It's a key role coach Darris Kilgour had envisioned Wiles filling when he acquired him from the Washington Stealth.

''It was a great night for us, a great first win,'' said Wiles. ''We're going to be kind of jockeying for position all season so you need to get these kind of wins against division opponents.

''Our goalie played awesome, our offense stepped up and got goals when we needed them and our defense was swarming them all night. They didn't get much room to breath.''

The pace of play was ''a lot faster with the new rules,'' he said.

''You have to think fast out there. I thought that we out-thought them and we wound up getting a huge win.''

He's enjoying being a teammate of John Tavares, 43, and Tracey Kelusky, 36.

''This is a group with some older players,'' says Wiles, 29. "I call them dinosaurs. They're very, very bright and for somebody like me, who's coming into my prime, I need to listen to those guys a lot. They're unbelievable.''

In his six previous NLL seasons, he'd played in Buffalo as a visitor so got little love from the crowd. This time there were nearly 17,000 screaming in delight when he scored.

''The crowds here are incredible,'' he said. ''Going from playing in front of 3,000 to playing in front of 17 strong, the chants, and how much they're into it -- I don't know if there's lots of drinks being passed around up there. It's quite the scene here and I couldn't be happier to be a part of it.''

Manning's Streak Ends

When Toronto Rock forward Blaine Manning broke his left collarbone in a corner scrum during his second shift in Buffalo on Saturday, his NLL record for most consecutive regular-season games with one team -- 162 -- came to an end. Manning, just beginning his 11th pro campaign, had played every game since entering the league with Toronto in 2002. Including playoffs, he'd played in 177 in a row.

Coach Troy Cordingley said after Toronto's 14-10 loss that Manning will be out six to eight weeks.

Brenden Thenhaus has been signed by the Rock as a right-hand shot to take Manning's place in the offense. Thenhaus had been on Buffalo's practice roster. The Bandits had 24 hours to match Toronto's one-year contract offer and declined. Thenhaus scored 17 goals for Buffalo last winter, while Manning scored 23 for the Rock.

Toronto captain Colin Doyle played in his 187th consecutive game Saturday. That's one shy of Steve Toll's NLL record of 188 for consecutive appearances with multiple teams.

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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