January 16, 2014

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Rivalries, Key Matchups on NLL's Busiest Weekend 

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Edmonton faces Calgary in a battle for Alberta supremecy on Friday before taking on Rochester in what could be a battle of unbeatens on Saturday night. (NLL.com)

Seven games involving all nine teams make for a hectic NLL weekend. Rochester and Edmonton will try to remain undefeated while Minnesota will try for its first win during a home-and-home set with Philadelphia. Here are the matchups (all times EDT, all games on YouTube.com/TLN - Lacrosse Magazine will post the embedded video links each day):

FRIDAY

CALGARY (1-1) at EDMONTON (2-0), 9:30 p.m.

Calgary won two of three from Edmonton last season. A goal by Shawn Evans 10 minutes into overtime gave the Roughnecks a 12-11 win in Edmonton in the last meeting last April 20. The ramifications: both teams finished 9-7 but Calgary earned first place and got a 7-9 opponent (Colorado) in the first round of the playoffs while Edmonton wound up third and got a 9-7 opponent (Washington) and, in the first round of the playoffs, Calgary advanced and Edmonton was eliminated.

Both teams are coming off home wins over Colorado - Calgary won 13-11 and Edmonton won 17-6.

''We're obviously pleased with the (2-0) start but it's a little bit early to get too excited,'' says Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan. ''It's a long season with 18 games. We know this weekend is going to be real difficult with Calgary coming to town. It's always a tough battle with those guys.''

''We're going to have to be at our best up there,'' says Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky. ''We need to be disciplined. They're power play is very, very good with (Mark) Matthews up top.''

''They're big and physical and fast,'' 'Necks forward Dane Dobbie says of the Rush.

Matthews scored five goals against Colorado last Saturday _ most of them the result of a style of shooting that includes a sharp release and pinpoint aim. The six-foot-five forward's size helps.

''He's worked hard on that shooting style,'' Keenan explained during the NLL's weekly conference call Wednesday. ''He has that quick, hidden release. It's something he's practised. He's worked on it a ton.''

The No. 81 sweater of former captain Jimmy Quinlan, who now coaches Edmonton's defense, will be retired in a pre-game ceremony.

COLORADO (1-3) at VANCOUVER (1-1), 11 p.m.

These teams clashed Jan. 4 in Denver. It was 11-11 with five minutes left. Adam Jones scored two goals in 32 seconds to put the Mammoth ahead to stay. This meeting will be the second of four this season.

''It's an important game in the series for us and it's an important game in terms of playoff standings looking down the road,'' says Hall.

Colorado's defensive shortcomings and goaltending inconsistencies were glaring in its 17-6 loss in Edmonton last Saturday. Didn't score enough goals either. So, GM Steve Govett has brought in free agent Athan Iannucci. Jordan McBride, who had only one goal in three appearances this season, was released. Iannucci, the 2008 MVP when he scored a record 71 goals for Philadelphia, scored 22 goals in 14 games last season for the Stealth, who released him in December.

''Athan is a big, dynamic goal scorer,'' said Govett. ''We're not going to stand pat. We need more scoring.''

''It's an opportunity for us to spark our offense,'' says coach Bob Hamley.

''The guy scores goals,'' says new teammate John Grant Jr. ''It'll be nice to have another guy out there who can put the ball in the net.''

The Mammoth have also dropped F Jamie Lincoln and activate F Mike McNamara from the practice roster.

Vancouver's goaltending, defense and transition breakouts were highly effective in an 8-5 home win over Minnesota last Saturday.

Grant is disatisfied with his play to date.

''Hopefully I can get back on track this weekend,'' he said.

SATURDAY

After splitting the season series a year ago, Philadelphia and Minnesota can both swing dissapointing starts with a home-and-home series this weekend. (Wingslax.com)

MINNESOTA (0-2) at PHILADELPHIA (1-2), 12 p.m.

They met twice last year and each team won at home: Minnesota 20-11 the last weekend in March and Philadelphia 15-13 the first weekend in April.

Minnesota lost its first two games this season 8-6 in Rochester and 8-5 in Vancouver. The defense was sound but the offense was blocked by fantastic goaltending performances by Matt Vinc and Tyler Richards.

''Our offense just didn't catch fire,'' said Minnesota coach Joe Sullivan. ''All you can do is go back and reiterate keeping the focus on the game plan. We'll stay patient and ride this thing out.''

Philadelphia lost 13-9 in Rochester and 12-11 in overtime at home against Buffalo last weekend.

''We had a couple of lapses each game that didn't give us a chance to win,'' said assistant Wings coach Jim Milligan.

But it wasn't for lack of effort.

''We're happy with the way the team is playing,'' Milligan added. ''Our offense is starting to gell.''

TORONTO (1-1) at ROCHESTER (2-0), 7:30 p.m.

Toronto took two of three last season, winning 11-7 and losing 12-8 in Rochester before winning 10-9 at home. But it was Rochester than went on to win the Champion's Cup, and start this season 2-0.

''Rochester is probably the best team in the league right now,'' says Rock goalie Nick Rose. ''Anytime we play Rochester it's a good way to see where we stand.''

Last weekend, Toronto blew 4-0 and 6-2 leads in losing 12-10 in Buffalo, while Rochester edged Philadelphia 13-9 at home.

''We know we're going to be in tough against Toronto,'' says Knighthawks coach Mike Hasen. ''They're going to be hungry.''

The Knighthawks have activated D-man Jon Sullivan, who debuted with them last March but then went on the holdout list due to work commitments with the Brampton (Ontario) Fire Department. The 10-year vet is eager to play again.

''This is the longest I haven't played lacrosse for since I was probably 10 years old so, to be on the team that just won the Champion's Cup, I'm definitely really excited to get back into it,'' says Sullivan.

To make room, Tyler Burton was dropped from the active roster. The' Hawks have also activated backup goalie Angus Goodleaf and moved Mike Thompson to the holdout list.

VANCOUVER at CALGARY, 9 p.m.

The Stealth won two of three meetings last season when they were based in Everett, Washington, winning 12-11 in Calgary before losing 13-11 and winning 16-14 at home. The Stealth tacked on a playoff win that eliminated the Roughnecks. Dobbie says he and his teammates haven't forgotten that one.

''They'll be coming off a game the night before but I don't think tiredness is an issue in this league,'' Stealth coach Chris Hall said of the renewal of the rivalry. ''I expect the usual spirited game in Calgary.''

Vancouver is coming off an 8-5 home win over Minnesota, while Calgary won at home 13-11 over Colorado. Malawsky says he's been impressed with the work of Stealth goalie Tyler Richards and the defense.

''You've got to earn everything you get,'' said Malawsky. ''It's going to be a battle, it's going to be a war.''

''Tyler is clearly one of the top goaltenders in the league,'' says Hall. ''We got outshot last weekend by Minnesota _ 20-4 in the fourth quarter _ but Tyler was rock solid. He was a little disappointed with his opener down in Denver. We let that one slip away and lost by a goal. So he was pretty determined to have a good outing last weekend and he certainly did.''

BUFFALO (2-1) at COLORADO, 9 p.m.

These teams met twice in March last season and Colorado won both games _ 16-13 at home and 12-6 in Buffalo. Bandits GM Steve Dietrich would rather forget those two.

''They basically knocked us out of the playoffs,'' says Dietrich.

Colorado will be coming off a game the previous night in Vancouver, while Buffalo will be fresh, and revved after winning two last weekend.

''It's amazing how things change from week to week,'' Colorado coach Bob Hamley said of the Bandits' rebound from an opening-night loss. ''They're a good team, talented from goaltending on out. Once we get through with Vancouver on Friday night we'll start preparing hard for Buffalo.''

''They're going to be riding some momentum,'' Grant says of the Bandits.

John Tavares, Buffalo's 45-year-old captain, erased his disappointment over what he considered a sub-standard performance to start the season by scoring five goals for the Bandits last Sunday in Philadelphia.

''He's feeling spry,'' says Dietrich. ''He doesn't look a day over 40 so, hopefully, he can keep it going.''

SUNDAY

PHILADELPHIA at MINNESOTA, 3 p.m.

These teams will have met the previous afternoon in Philadelphia and now Minnesota, after opening with three on the road, finally gets a home game.

''They'll be looking to run and push the tempo and we have to match that,'' says Milligan. ''We're an athletic team and we can run with them.''

Wings goalie Evan Kirk faces his former team for the first time in the home-and-home set.


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