April 22, 2014

NLL Notes: Colorado Looking to Stop Playoff Slide

By Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Stevens Archive

The Mammoth are in the playoffs, with a date against Calgary on May 3rd. The next step is to end a streak of playoff losses dating back to their Champions Cup victory in 2006.

The Colorado Mammoth have not won a playoff game since beating the Bandits 16-9 in Buffalo to win the championship in 2006. It is a fact of franchise history the team is soon hoping to bury.

Nobody that was in the lineup that May night eight years ago plays for the Mammoth now, although current interim co-coaches Dan Stroup and Pat Coyle were among head coach Gary Gait's celebrating players. Colorado has since lost all six post-season games in which it has appeared. Three were in Calgary, including last spring's 15-10 first-round ouster.

With their 18-12 win in Minnesota last Saturday, Colorado clinched third place and a playoff berth. They'll return to Calgary for a one-game-elimination NLL West semifinal on May 3 intent on upsetting the second place Roughnecks, and captain John Grant Jr. and his teammates will have high hopes in the knowledge they took the three-game season series 2-1.

Grant's three goals in St. Paul increased his career total to 602. The only men with more are Buffalo's John Tavares (802) and retired NLL Hall of Famer Gait (635). The 39-year-old native of Peterborough, Ontario, was his usual playful self when asked to comment on the milestone.

''It either means I shoot a lot or I've played a long time,'' he said. ''Either way, 600 times I got lucky, I guess.''

As big as his role was in the win, goaltender Dillon Ward again stole the spotlight. Minnesota outshot Colorado 63-48. Ward made 51 saves.

''Slowly but surely, the team is coming together,'' said Grant. ''We're getting contributions from different players all the time. It's great.''

McGLONE TO THE RESCUE

After Evan Kirk became ill with food poisoning Friday, the Philadelphia Wings turned to backup Kevin Croswell to start in goal against the Stealth in Langley, British Columbia, which meant they needed a runner to volunteer to be the second goalie in uniform Saturday night. Bill McGlone raised his hand.

''Billy dressed in a spare set of goalie's equipment on loan from the Stealth,'' explains coach Blane Harrison. ''He had never tended goal before.''

McGlone saw no game action as Croswell went the distance in making 40 saves in a 15-11 victory.

''Although the team appreciated Billy stepping up, I was very glad we did not need to use him,'' Harrison adds.

Kirk was in such a bad way that he not only did not make the trip but he had to be admitted to hospital near his Ontario home. He was released Sunday.

40-GOAL CLUB

Curtis Dickson's seven-goal effort that gave Calgary a 14-13 OT win in Edmonton last Saturday made him the fourth player with 40 or more goals. The Roughnecks' Dane Dobbie has 48, Toronto's Stephan Leblanc has 42, Dickson has 41 and Colorado captain John Grant Jr. has 40.

SCORING RACE CLIMAX

Toronto's Garrett Billings missed the last two Rock games after tearing the ACL in his right knee but he still leads the scoring race with 101 points. Rochester's Cody Jamieson has 99 points and Calgary's Shawn Evans has 98.

Who will pass Billings?

Evans, the 2013 scoring champ, has the best chance. Jamieson plays his last regular-season game in Buffalo, where points for opposing players are usually hard to come by, while Evans and the 'Necks are at Vancouver against the non-playoff Stealth who might have to use backup goalie Matt Roik again because No. 1 Tyler Richards has been hampered by injury.

JAMIESON IS HIS TEAM'S MVP

Cody Jamieson was named MVP for the two-time defending NLL champion Knighthawks. (Kevin Colton)

Cody Jamieson has been named team MVP by the Rochester Knighthawks.

''He's done what he needs to do getting the ball in the net for us,'' says head coach Mike Hasen. ''He's doing all the little things well and that's showing on the scoresheet for us.''

Jamieson also won the team award in 2012. He was also MVP of the championship games of 2012 and 2013.

RARE WINNING GOAL

Scott Johnston scored the first winning goal of his career in Toronto's 13-9 victory over Buffalo last Saturday night. The five-foot-11 defenseman was appearing in his 42nd NLL game.

Toronto was leading 9-7 when Mark Steenhuis ran to the edge of the crease to put a ball behind Nick Rose at 14:14 of the third quarter. Coach John Lovell threw a challenge flag onto the floor. The verdict after video review: no goal. In the fourth quarter, Johnston ran the floor and, when nobody moved to check him, he discarded any notion of passing the ball and took a low shot that beat Anthony Cosmo at 3:28. It was his only shot on goal in the game. His fourth goal of the season put Toronto up 10-7. The disallowed goal combined with the Johnston goal was the key swing point in what had been a close game.

''I had a couple of rough plays in the third quarter and I needed to do something to bounce back,'' Johnston said. ''I'm glad I did because I might have been in the press box next week.''

As he ran towards Cosmo, one thought took control of his brain.

''I was talking to our third-string goalie, Steve Fryer, before the game and he said, 'If you get a chance, rip it five hole.'''

That is exactly what he did. Fryer did not get an assist on the official scoresheet, but he deserved one.

BANDITS RUN INTO HOT GOALIES

Buffalo's losses of 13-9 in Toronto and 8-4 in Rochester during the weekend made it a club-record seven consecutive defeats, but nobody need panic in Banditland. Head coach Troy Cordingley wasn't throwing things in the dressing room. It wasn't as if they played poorly. They just ran into two hot goalies.

Buffalo outshot Toronto 57-49 and Rochester 49-41. The goaltending of Nick Rose and Matt Vinc ruined the weekend for Cordingley's crew. The work ethic was just fine. If they beat Rochester at home this Saturday, they'll be at home for their NLL East semifinal against Toronto and the losing streak will be forgotten.

LOOKING BACK

April 28, 1998: The Philadelphia Wings, having defeated the Baltimore Thunder 16-12 in Game 1, won Game 2 17-12 to sweep a best-of-three championship series. Wings goalie Dallas Eliuk was named series MVP. Also in the seven-team league that year were Buffalo, Rochester, the Ontario Raiders, the New York Saints and the Syracuse Smash. Gary Gait, playing for Baltimore, was the regular-season MVP.


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