January 10, 2014

Three Days of Action in Busy NLL Weekend

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Buffalo travels to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, capping a busy week of NLL action across North America. (NLL.com)

All nine NLL teams are in action this weekend. Buffalo, Philadelphia and Colorado, making a swing into Alberta, each play twice. Here are the matchups (all times EST and all games on YouTube.com/TLN):

FRIDAY

TORONTO (1-0) at BUFFALO (0-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last season: Feb. 2, Toronto 14 at Buffalo 12; Feb. 28, Buffalo 15 at Toronto 13; March 29, Buffalo 11 at Toronto 18.

Buffalo was 2-6 at home last year and lost its Dec. 28 opener at home 17-13 against Philadelphia.

''We were incredibly disappointed not only with the outcome but with the performance,'' GM Steve Dietrich said during the league's weekly coaches' conference call Wednesday. ''But we'll be ready Friday night and I think you'll see a different Buffalo team.''

Getting back to the basics, such as winning possession of more loose balls, is essential, Dietrich said.

Toronto is coming off a 16-11 home win over Calgary.

''We watched that game and took some notes and, hopefully, we'll have a better outcome (than Dec. 28),'' said Bandits forward Dhane Smith.

Troy Cordingley coaches his first game against the team he coached to the 2011 NLL championship and that canned him last May, but Deitrich said he doesn't expect any revenge factor will weigh heavily on his new head coach.

''Troy has never said anything about his dismissal,'' said Deitrich. ''Troy has the utmost respect for the Toronto organization and (owner) Jamie Dawick. ''If you know Troy Cordingley deep down, he wants to win every game.''

''I want to help win it for him,'' said Smith. ''We want to win it _ period.''

Bill Greer, hurt in the win over Calgary, joins fellow-defensemen Pat Merrill and Chris White on the injured list. Look for Dustin Dunn to make his NLL debut in place of Greer.

Veteran forwards Aaron Wilson and Chad Culp, both of whom sat out Buffalo's opener, will be available.

COLORADO (1-1) at CALGARY (0-1), 9 p.m.

Last season: Jan. 19, Colorado 13 at Calgary 12; Jan. 25, Calgary 19 at Colorado 12; March 23, Colorado 11 at Calgary 12; April 27, first-round playoff game Colorado 10 at Calgary 15.

After the 16-11 loss in Toronto, the Roughnecks are eager to even their record at home.

''We're looking forward to getting back at it,'' said coach Curt Malawsky. ''The guys are chomping at the bit.''

Winning more battles for loose balls is a necessity, says Malawsky.

Said Colorado coach Bob Hamley: ''We have a good rivalry with the Roughnecks and are looking forward to heading out on the road after two home games.''

A decision on a starting goalie will be made when the team gets to Calgary, said Hamley. Rookie Dhillon Ward relieved starter Tye Belanger in the first two games.

Calgary already has injury woes. D Peter McFetridge and T Travis Cornwall remain on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. With T Scott Ranger out indefinitely with impending jaw surgery, ''We're a little bit behind the 8-ball with injuries,'' says Malawsky, adding he was satisfied with the way rookies Tor Reinholdt, Karsen Leung and Garrett McIntosh played in Toronto.

SATURDAY

PHILADELPHIA (1-0) at ROCHESTER (1-0), 7:30 p.m.

Last season: Feb. 8, Rochester 20 at Philadelphia 10; Feb. 23, Philadelphia 10 at Rochester 8; April 6, Philadelphia 7 at Rochester 14; April 27 first-round playoff game, Philadelphia 8 at Rochester 10.

Rochester opened with an 8-6 home win over Minnesota. Forwards Cory Vitarelli and Craig Point, who sat that one out with minor injuries, will be available for this one.

Wings T-man Jordan Hall knows it'll be a challenge to find space against the two-time defending champions' defense.

''We'll have to play an up-tempo style and try to spread them out,'' said Hall.

Rochester is 13-2 against the Wings in the last 15 meetings.

''The last couple of years we've had some great goaltending from Matt Vinc which has really been the difference against them,'' said assistant coach Paul Day.

The veteran-laden Knighthawks have shown they know how to close out games.

''It's a mentality _ do whatever it takes,'' says forward Cody Jamieson. ''When (owner-GM Curt Styres) does so much, you want to do whatever it takes to win for him.''

COLORADO at EDMONTON (1-0), 9 p.m.

Last season: Feb. 16, Edmonton 14 at Colorado 7; April 6, Colorado 9 at Edmonton 7.

Edmonton won 13-10 in Denver in the season opener for both teams Dec. 18.

''They were full marks for their win in Denver,'' said Hamley. ''Obviously, we're going to have to be much better there than we were in our building.''

Colorado evened its record by beating Vancouver 13-12 at home last weekend.

''It sure was encouraging to see us bounce back,'' said Hamley.

Finding holes in Edmonton's strong defense will be tough for Mammoth forwards.

''You have to be patient and stick with the plan,'' said Hamley. ''You can't get off the plan because if you do they'll take it to you even more.''

Edmonton was 2-6 at home last year.

''We've had our struggles at home and we need to change that,'' said Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan. ''No better time to start than this weekend.''

UFC star Georges St-Pierre will be on hand to support the Rush.

MINNESOTA (0-1) at VANCOUVER (0-1), 10 p.m.

Last season: Jan. 26, Washington 14 at Minnesota 15; March 3, Minnesota 8 at Washington 11; March 16, Washington 5 at Minnesota 12.

It'll be the first pro game in the Vancouver region _ the Stealth will play out of suburban Langley _ since the Ravens folded 10 years ago.

''It's been a long wait to have the NLL back to where we think it will do well,'' said head coach Chris Hall. ''Everybody is excited about getting it started.''

''There's a lot of B.C. guys on our team and we're all excited to play in front of friends and family and to bring NLL lacrosse back to B.C.,'' said rookie Tyler Digby. ''It's expected to be a packed house so we want to go out and have a good performance.''

Minnesota is 2-7 in its last nine regular-season road games including an 8-6 loss in its season opener in Rochester on Dec. 28.

The Stealth look to rebound from their 13-12 loss in Denver, while the Swarm want to break even following the 8-6 loss in Rochester. It'll be the only game between these two teams this season.

''We've got some new pieces to our offense,'' said assistant coach Aime Caines. ''We need to share the ball and keep the ball hot. We've made some adjustments. I think we're going to have a much-improved offense this weekend.''

Rookie Minnesota D Jason Noble misses this one on a one-game suspension from a high hit during the preseason.

SUNDAY

BUFFALO at PHILADELPHIA, 4 p.m.

Last season: Jan.11, Philadelphia 13 at Buffalo 8; Jan. 26, Philadelphia 13 at Buffalo 14; March 1, Philadelphia 11 at Buffalo 10.

Wings coach Blane Harrison is well aware of how inspired the Bandits will be to spoil Philadelphia's home opener just as the Wings spoiled the opener at First Niagara Center.

''We're expecting to see a much different team Sunday,'' said Harrison.<

Smith wants another go at the Wings' defense.

''It's going to be a big one for us,'' said Smith. ''They kind of embarrassed us at home so we want to come out with a better effort.''


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