January 31, 2014

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Double Dips for Rock and Stealth This Weekend

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Vancouver and Toronto each play twice during the five-game NLL weekend coming up. Here are the matchups (all times EST):

FRIDAY

VANCOUVER (2-3) at TORONTO (1-2)

7:30 p.m (TSN2, ESPN3, YouTube.com/TLN outside North America).

The Stealth blew a 7-2 halftime lead in losing 9-8 at home against Edmonton last Saturday.

''They'll be hungry coming into this game,'' says Rock coach John Lovell.

Toronto had a bye last weekend to mull over a 12-8 drubbing in Rochester. Josh Sanderson couldn't score in the last two games so is still looking for his 400th goal, but he's not the only Rock forward failing to find the target.

''We need a little more production from myself, Kasey (Beirnes) and Garrett (Billings) goal-wise,'' says Sanderson. ''We don't want to be 1-3 going into Buffalo (on Saturday).''

Vancouver goalie Tyler Richards is having a great season.

''We don't want to be taking bad-angle shots that would let Tyler get into a groove,'' says Sanderson. ''We want to make him earn every save.''

Defensemen Pat Merrill, Bill Greer and Chris White of the Rock and Jeff Moleski and Kyle Sorensen of the Stealth have all been sidelined by injuries. Lovell said he expects only Greer back for his team's two weekend games. Stealth coach Chris Hall says Moleski is a probable while Sorensen isn't ready yet.

The Stealth won 14-9 the last time they played in Toronto, on March 2, 2012. This is the start of the most difficult stretch of their 18-game schedule as they play five of six on the road.

SATURDAY

TORONTO at BUFFALO (4-1)

7:30 p.m. (TSN2, ESPN3, YouTube.com/TLN outside North America)

The Bandits are riding high after defeating Rochester 11-10 at home for their fourth straight win. Goaltender Anthony Cosmo has been hogging the white 212-degrees hardhat given to the night's MVP after a win.

''He's got his swagger back,'' GM Steve Dietrich says of Cosmo.

The offense is clicking, too.

''We're really starting to gell together,'' says forward Ryan Benesch.

Nobody in Banditland is getting overconfident. Dietrich will make sure of that.

''We have to continue to tighten up defensively and keep cutting down on the mental mistakes,'' he says.

Toronto lost 12-10 in Buffalo in early January.

''It's always tough going into Buffalo in that environment but we're looking forward to it and hoping to make up for our last game in there,'' Lovell said during the league's weekly conference call Wednesday.

''We didn't play smart enough,'' Sanderson said of the early meeting.

VANCOUVER at PHILADELPHIA (2-3)

7:30 p.m. (YouTube.com/TLN)

The Wings are coming off an impressive 15-8 win in Minnesota and catch a Stealth side less than 24 hours after it finishes up in Toronto.

Philadelphia leftie Kevin Ross will remain on injured reserve. Recently-signed Roger Vyse might or might not play.

''That'll be a game-time decision,'' says assistant coach Jim Milligan.

Vancouver's Kinnelon, N.J.-born defenseman Chris O'Dougherty gets a rare chance to pull on the pads on the East Coast.

''I get to play in front of mom and dad and I always like that,'' says O'Dougherty.

MINNESOTA (1-3) at COLORADO (2-5)

9 p.m. (Altitude, YouTube.com/TLN)

Colorado rallied for a 14-13 OT win in Calgary last Saturday, when Adam Jones scored seven goals.

''Balls that usually don't go in were going in,'' Jones said.

Now he looks forward.

''We have a good rivalry with Minnesota,'' Jones said. ''We both play similar styles. I think it's going to be an exciting game. We could both use a win.''

Casey Powell, the all-time leading American NLL scorer, makes his 2014 debut, and the Mammoth also get back high-scoring forward Drew Westervelt who didn't go to Calgary because he was participating in a U.S. world field team camp. The two will provide some much-needed oomph to the right side.

Powell's return is uplifting, says coach Bob Hamley.

''His enthusiasm for the game of lacrosse is contagious,'' says Hamley. ''We're excited to have him back.''

Rookie Dhillon Ward will get the Mammoth goaltending start, Hamley divulged.

Minnesota lost 15-8 at home to Philadelphia last time out.

''That's the first game we've been outworked across the board,'' said coach Joe Sullivan. ''That's unacceptable.''

Minnesota is expected to use forward Dane Stevens, who was acquired from Edmonton last week.

''We're hoping he can help us out on the left-hand side,'' says Sullivan.

ROCHESTER (3-1) at EDMONTON (4-0)

9 p.m. (YouTube.com/TLN)

Rochester staged an impressive fourth-quarter rally but still lost, 11-10, in Buffalo last Saturday.

''They took it to us for most of that game,'' said coach Mike Hasen.

Forward Dan Dawson did not play the second half and limped out of the arena. He has declined to elaborate, but Hasen says he expects Dawson to be in uniform in Edmonton.

''He'll be there,'' says Hasen.

Craig Point, another right-handed 'Hawks shooter, sat out the last game and could be reinserted.

Hasen is leery of Edmonton's defense corps.

''They're big, strong and relentless,'' he says.

Meanwhile, their 9-8 win in Vancouver last weekend enabled the Rush to emerge as the league's only undefeated team.

''We kept grinding and managed to pull off a big comeback win,'' said GM-coach Derek Keenan. ''It was a big character win for us.''

Being undefeated doesn't mean his team has been perfect, said Keenan.

''We saw a lot of things from last weekend we can be better at.''

Rochester will be a measuring stick for the Rush.

''Rochester is a complete team from goaltending on out,'' said forward Zack Greer.

BYE: Calgary (2-3)

The Roughnecks are at Minnesota on Feb. 8. They've allowed 15 power-play goals and captain Andrew McBride acknowledges that his team is taking too many penalties because of lack of discipline.

''We just need to show up, shut up, and play,'' McBride told the Calgary Sun.


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