February 5, 2014

NLL Notes: Sanderson Surpasses Gait in Points

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Josh Sanderson continued to climb the league career points and goals tables with a big weekend for Toronto. (NLL.com/Richard Olson)

Josh Sanderson achieved two impressive career milestones with a 12-point weekend.

The five-foot-seven, 160-pound Toronto Rock forward scored three goals in a 17-12 home win over Vancouver on Friday and got three more in a 12-10 loss in Buffalo on Saturday, giving him 405 and making him only the seventh player with more than 400 in the 28 years of indoor pro lacrosse.

Sanderson also picked up six assists, increasing his points total to 1,167 to move two points ahead of retired star Gary Gait and into fourth place on the all-time list.

''Whenever you're mentioned with Gary Gait, it's humbling,'' said the 36-year-old resident of Orangeville, Ontario.

He declines to gush about himself but others can't say enough about his dedication to the team and his will to win.

''He's a character, heart-and-soul player, always has been,'' said head coach John Lovell. ''He's a guy who never made his size an issue. Josh plays big.''

''I'm proud of him, really proud of him,'' said captain Colin Doyle. ''He takes a lot of pride in being a great lacrosse player. We all know he's special and it's nice for him to have the stats to back it up.''

Blaine Manning, now coaching the Rock offense, was a teammate on Champion's Cup teams.

''He's probably the most competitive teammate I ever played with,'' Manning said. ''Winning is more important to him than it is to anybody I've ever met. He's so passionate about the game. He's a winner _ pretty effective for being a smaller guy.''

BANDITS SURGE UNDER CORDINGLEY

Buffalo is on a five-game winning streak and what is most striking about the 2014 Bandits is the improvement on the back end. Billy Dee Smith and the rest of the defensemen are applying punishing pressure to keep forwards to the periphery, and Anthony Cosmo is supplying better goaltending than he did last year.

''Our defense is much improved,'' says captain John Tavares. ''Cosmo is one of the best goaltenders around. I know he's had his struggles in Buffalo but he's playing the way Anthony Cosmo can play now. He's a big reason why we're 5-1.

''Defense wins championships. If our defense keeps doing what it's doing and Cosmo keeps doing what he's doing, we think our chances are pretty good.''

Troy Cordingley has made a difference, too. The 2013 coach of the year with Toronto could wind up winning the Les Bartley Award again this year with the Bandits.

''He's been bringing in a new system,'' says Tavares. ''He's been very patient with the players, very complimentary. At the same time, he's been making us work hard. There's a different atmosphere altogether. We're 5-1 some something is working.''

EVAN KIRK'S REPUTATION RISING

Evan Kirk keeps impressing. His 45-save effort in Philadelphia's 15-9 home win over Vancouver on Saturday lifted him into third spot in goals-against averages among goaltenders who have played at least 60 minutes this season.

''Evan Kirk has established himself as one of the league's top starters,'' says head coach Blane Harrison.

How they stack up:

1. Aaron Bold, Edmonton, 8.19
2. Matt Vinc, Rochester, 8.59
3. Tyler Carlson, Minnesota 10.68
4. Evan Kirk, Philadelphia, 10.85
5. Anthony Cosmo, Buffalo, 10.98
6. Zach Higgins, Minnesota, 11.31
7. Nick Rose, Toronto, 11.40
8. Tyler Richards, Vancouver, 11.70
9. Dillon Ward, Colorado, 12.04
10. Mike Poulin, Calgary, 13.44
11. Tye Belanger, Colorado, 16.99.

JOEL McCREADY WENT TOO FAR

Tempers flare after this weekend's Rochester-Edmonton game. (NLL.com/Dale MacMillan)

The league is reviewing what happened after time expired in Edmonton last Saturday night. After Mark Matthews scored an overtime goal to give the Rush a 8-7 victory, as players began to prepare for post-game handshakes, Rochester players took exception to perceived taunts by Jeremy Thompson.

Knighthawks transition player Joel McCready took several punches at Thompson. This was a no-no. Fighting on the floor after a game can draw a lengthy suspension.

''It was an emotional, tough game and they had one guy who wanted to goad our guys and tempers flared,'' said 'Hawks coach Mike Hasen.

Time to rethink the post-game handshake tradition, says Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan.

''Maybe I'm wrong but that's not the first time it's happened and it's becoming more common,'' Keenan said. ''I think we've got to make a change. It's an emotional game _ intense and physical and nasty at times. It's unfortunate the whole thing boiled over.''

GARRETT BILLINGS BACK ON TRACK

Garrett Billings looked like a different player in scoring five goals in a 17-12 home win over Vancouver last Friday night. The team's most lethal shooter potted another two during the 12-10 loss in Buffalo on Saturday. He'd scored only two goals in the first three games, and wasn't happy about it.

''I'm always pretty hard on myself,'' Billings said. ''I watch a lot of film and really break down my game each time. I was getting chances but you've got to put the ball in the net.''

ROOKIES DROP THE GLOVES

Toronto only got a split of its two weekend games but captain Colin Doyle said, at the very least, his team showed they won't be pushed around. Rookies Ethan O'Connor and Mike Lum-Walker were involved in fights after teammates were bashed by Stealth opponents.

''That's always nice to see, especially from the young guys,'' Doyle said after the Friday night win. ''We had a conversation about things beforehand about maybe being a little too easy to play against. We certainly wanted to see that change. I think it was a start (Friday). We played with an edge.''

O'Connor exchanged punches with Nick Weiss.

''Scotty Johnston went for a ball and got hit from behind,'' said O'Connor. ''We preach family on this team. You've got to stick up for your brother. We're not going to back down from anybody.''

Lum-Walker tangled with Billy Hostrawser.

''It was a bit of a chippy game,'' he said. ''Sometimes you've got to answer the bell. (Weiss) called me out. He'd got in Doyle's face. We can't let anyone touch Doyle. I had to step up and do what I had to do. It felt good to help out the team. If I have to throw down, I'll throw down.''

MIKE ACCURSI BACK WHERE HE BELONGS

Mike Accursi scored a goal and picked up an assist in Rochester's overtime loss in Edmonton last Saturday. The Knighthawks re-signed the 38-year-old forward after placing Craig Point on injured reserve last week. Accursi had been working in the team's front office after supposedly packing up his pads for good.

''He is a great player who knows what our offense does and how important chemistry is,'' said teammate Cody Jamieson. ''He can step right in and be the same type of player he was last year. He was a clutch performed who got us the big goal when we needed it and said something when it needed to be said.''

Accursi is 11th on the all-time points list with 824 _ nine behind retired Toronto forward Blaine Manning.

Point is eligible to return for games of the weekend of Feb. 21-23.

ZACK GREER OUT WITH NECK INJURY

Zack Greer, who has been one of Edmonton's most effective forwards, left the game in the second quarter Saturday after suffering a neck injury.

DENVER DELIVERS

The Colorado Mammoth continue to make other teams green with envy in terms of average attendance.

The breakdown:

1. Colorado 15,162
2. Buffalo 12,769
3. Toronto 11,177
4. Calgary 9,770
5. Minnesota 8,213
6. Edmonton 7,695
7. Rochester 6,954
8. Philadelphia 6,224
9. Vancouver 3,617.

(Colorado and Buffalo have each played four home games; Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Rochester and Philadelphia three each; Toronto two; and Minnesota one)


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