April 30, 2013

NLL Notebook: Will Jamieson Give it a Go?

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Rochester's Cody Jamieson injured his ankle during the Knighthawks' first-round game and is questionable for the East Division final Saturday against Minnesota.
© Kevin Colton

Will Cody Jamieson play?

This is the big question as the Rochester Knighthawks prepare to play host to the Minnesota Swarm in the second round of the playoffs Saturday.

Jamieson limped off the Blue Cross Arena floor on a damaged left ankle late in the second quarter with the Knighthawks leading Philadelphia 5-4 last weekend. He did not return and his teammates went on to win 10-8.

Jamieson amassed a team-best 89 points during the regular season. It would be a serious blow to the left side of the offense should both Jamieson and Cory Vitarelli, who missed the last game with an injured thumb, be unable to dress for the division final. But coach Mike Hasen is hopeful both will be available. There are no casts on body parts and the players are huddling with doctors during the week.

''There is not much to update,'' Hasen said Tuesday.

Expect game-day decisions on the status of both players.

Congrats to Cordingley

It's rare for anybody to win a coaching award named for a coach for whom he played, but Troy Cordingley has done it twice now. He won the Les Bartley Award as NLL coach of the year in 2009 when he led the Calgary Roughnecks to the championship and he's the 2013 winner with the Toronto Rock, who he directed to a league-best 10-6 record during the regular season. He played for Bartley in Buffalo.

Cordingley's hunger to win always transfers to his players, which allows him to get the best out of each and every one of them. It was that way with Les, too. Expect the Rock to contend again next season because that is a given with a Cordingley coached team.

Billings Blanked

Keeping Toronto's leading scorer Garrett Billings, a 100-point man during the regular season, from scoring a goal was significant in Minnesota's 20-11 playoff rout of the Rock, and it didn't happen by accident.

''We did a heck of a lot of work to make sure we knew what they were going to throw at us,'' coach Joe Sullivan said of his pre-game preparations. ''We went through each game they played this year trying to find the niche that each guy did and how their goalies reacted and what their power play and penalty kill did.

''I think our guys bought into what we were throwing at them. We took it to [the Rock]. We knew they were going to get their shots and we wanted to keep them to the outside. We wanted to hold Billings off the scoresheet as much as we could.''

Billings is the 2013 winner of the league's Sportsmanship Award. He'd much rather be sharing the Champion's Cup with his teammates.

Unsung Heroes

Minnesota's offense was dynamic, but the defense also was impressive in Toronto. Greg Downing, 28, a native of Auburn, N.Y., was one of the unsung heroes.

''We came out and stuck to our game plan,'' the three-time all-America pick at Fairfield said as he toweled off in the winners' dressing room. ''It was a great team effort.''

Could he have imagined beforehand that the Swarm offense would be scoring 20 on Nick Rose in Air Canada Centre?

''No,'' Downing said. ''Rosie had a great season and their defense is really great but we stuck to our game plan and really studied where to shoot on him. I think the results showed.''

Mammoth Look Ahead

The Colorado Mammoth went 7-9 during the regular season and were a 15-10 first-round playoff casualty at the hands of the Calgary Roughnecks. The Mammoth didn't go nearly as far as they wanted to but at least they solidified their goaltending and can now rely on Dan Lewis, 24, and Tye Belanger, 22, for years to come.

''We're obviously extremely happy with the goaltending,'' said GM Steve Govett. ''We started out slow this season and goaltending was a major part of that. We addressed that. We'll see our two young goalies get better playing summer lacrosse and then come into camp playing well.

''We need to continue to develop players who will move here and live here and be part of this program. Our goal is to get back to the elite level of the NLL. There's such a miniscule amount of difference between the top and the bottom — as evidenced Sunday in Toronto where the No. 1 seed lost by 10. It's such a fine line that the smallest things matter. We have to focus on the small things. We have a three-year plan and we're heading into the third year and I think execution is what we have to concentrate on.''

As for Gavin Prout, his days as Mammoth captain appear over. The 35-year-old forward was often a healthy scratch down the stretch and again in Calgary. Casey Powell was favored at the position after he was acquired at the trading deadline.

''That was a coaching decision,'' Govett said of not using Prout. ''That's not a slight on Gavin or to blame him for losing. It was just a chemistry issue and the coaches felt the offense was playing well with Casey and some of the other guys. We had a more consistent flow.''

Wings Like What They've Got

There's a positive vibe coming out of Philadelphia. The 10-8 loss in the East semi in Rochester was disappointing but the Wings pushed the defending champions to the limit and came away believing that their season laid the groundwork for a bright future. They were a credible 7-9 during the regular season despite a rash of serious injuries to front-line players.

''We really felt that we spent a lot of time the last couple of years rebuilding and now we're very happy with where we are,'' GM-coach Johnny Mouradian said during an interview.

It was less a matter of personnel than it was of execution against the Knighthawks. Paul Rabil, Kevin Ross, Jordan Hall and Mike McLellan didn't score a goal.

''That's 50 percent of our eight offensive guys who we didn't get a goal from,'' said Mouradian. ''We got lots of shots. It was 7-7 with six minutes left. Brandon Miller and our defense gave us a huge opportunity to win that game. We were in it all the way. We have to work on scoring more goals. We need more transition goals.''

It is the only NLL team that uses U.S. players to fill the majority of lineup spots.

''We're tweaking this team now,'' Mouradian said. ''We're not overhauling. We're not panicking.''

The Wings haven't won a playoff game since the 2001 roster won the championship. A win in Rochester would have ended the drought.

''With Minny advancing, if we'd been successful we'd have been hosting the division final this weekend, which would have been big for the franchise,'' Mouradian said.

It was not to be.

League Reviewing Dickson Hit

The NLL reviews all high-sticking penalties to determine if additional punishment is warranted, which means a second look is being taken at the hit Curtis Dickson delivered to Colorado defenseman Rory Smith early in the third quarter in Calgary.

Dickson is lucky he didn't get a match penalty, which would have resulted in his ejection and suspension. Rule 62.2 states the referee can assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, a player ''was reckless or endangering his opponent by high sticking.''

Neither player had the ball and Smith wobbled off the floor after being struck above the shoulders by the shaft of Dickson's stick. Smith returned to the game and there has been no indication he was injured so it is highly unlikely the league would suspend Dickson from a big playoff game in front of his home crowd.

Looking Back

May 2, 2003: Colorado forward Gary Gait was named league MVP after a 61-goal season.

May 3, 2003: The Toronto Rock defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 8-6 in Rochester to win their fourth title in five years. Rock goalie Bob Watson made 40 saves and was named MVP.

May 5, 2005: An NLL franchise was awarded to Edmonton.


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