May 28, 2014

NLL Notes: Calgary's MacRae Happy for Return to Rochester

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

Dan MacRae played college lacrosse at RIT and will be returning to the area with his Calgary teammates for Saturday's NLL Champions Cup finale. (RIT Athletics)

Going to Rochester to try and win the NLL championship Saturday night has added significance for Calgary defenseman Dan MacRae.

He got playing tips from the Knighthawks' Dan Dawson in their home city of Oakville, Ontario, when he was playing minor lacrosse, he was a regular at Knighthawks games when he was a student at Rochester Institute of Technology before being drafted by Calgary, and his summer league teammates in Victoria, British Columbia, last year included Rochester goalie Matt Vinc and faceoff man Dylan Evans. And this July he'll be working in a lacrosse camp in Victoria alongside Rochester players Dawson, Vinc, Cody Jamieson, Craig Point and Stephen Keogh.

''It can be a small world in lacrosse,'' he says.

Growing up in Oakville, he was well aware of the lacrosse exploits of brothers Dan and Paul Dawson.

''Dan came out to some of our practises when I was in minor,'' MacRae recalls. ''I remember when I was in bantam and Dan was playing for Arizona he'd come out and help us on our shooting.

''Dan has been a great role model for me.''

Dawson missed Game 1 of the home-and-home championship with an upper body injury and his status for Game 2 this Saturday night is uncertain.

MacRae, 25, lives in Calgary during the NLL season and helps teammates Andrew McBride and Dane Dobbie in the team's program to teach lacrosse to elementary and junior high school students.

He played his junior and senior NCAA seasons at RIT. Some of his Ontario Jr. A teammates were in the NLL so he'd go to Blue Cross Arena to cheer them on.

''Anytime (RIT) had a home game there was always a big group of us going out to the Knighthawks games.''

MacRae has a reputation as a first-rate stringer of lacrosse sticks.

''I did one (Tuesday) for Curtis Dickson,'' he says. ''He broke a stick last game. I had to do an emergency rush job on that one.''

Trying to prevail against familiar faces in NLL games is a kick.

''It definitely gives you extra motivation,'' says MacRae. ''You want to have the last word when you're sitting around during breaks at those summer camps. It adds fuel to the fire. We definitely won't be lightening up on each other (Saturday) just because we know each other.''

GAME ON TV SATURDAY

The last NLL game of 2014 can be seen live via ESPN3, Directv and Dish Network in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET Saturday. TSN2 has it in Canada but will be joined in progress after the completion of a Major League Soccer game that starts at 7 p.m. ET. Fans in Canada can watch the first half live at YouTube.com/TLN.

KNIGHTHAWKS UNBEATABLE AT HOME?

Rochester is 9-0 in home playoff games since an 8-6 loss in Blue Cross Arena to Toronto in the 2003 title game.

Rochester is 9-1 at home this year, including the playoff elimination of Buffalo. The only home loss was 15-11 to Edmonton on March 29.

TRADES CONTINUE TO REAP BENEFITS

The Calgary Roughnecks continue to reap benefits from two 2010 trades.

Just 15 months after Josh Sanderson was named Champion's Cup MVP as a member of the 2009 Roughnecks, he was traded along with the seventh overall entry draft pick to Boston. Here's what Calgary got in return: Daryl Veltman, Jon Harnett, Kevin Ross and the third overall draft pick, which was used to select Curtis Dickson.

The 'Necks were sad to see Sanderson go but he wanted to get back east. He would eventually wind up in Toronto, while Veltman, Harnett and Dickson have become crucial components in a loaded Calgary lineup.

Another trade with the now-defunct Boston club that paid huge dividends: goalie Mike Poulin, who was a backup to Anthony Cosmo in Boston, was acquired in February 2010 for a first-round draft pick. The Blazers bit the dust before it could be used. Poulin won a goalie-of-the-year award in Calgary and is still impressing.

Brad Banister is no longer owner-GM but his influence lingers in a positive way.

HOW CALGARY GOT DOBBIE

Calgary star Shawn Evans was a teammate of current Rochester head coach Mike Hasen on the Knighthawks' 2007 Champions Cup-winning team. (Brad Watson)

Scoring machine Dane Dobbie might have wound up elsewhere had it not been for an adroit trade by Calgary on Dec. 18, 2006.

The Roughnecks selected Kyle Wailes in the first round of the 2006 entry draft and traded him before the 2007 season began to Philadelphia for a 2007 first-rounder. The 'Necks used it to select Dobbie, a native of Elora, Ontario, who emerged as one of the NLL's most prolific scorers. He's potted 234 goals in 96 regular-season games. That's an average of 2.4 a game. He's been just as good in the postseason with 32 goals, including 11 so far this spring, in 14 appearances in his career.

Wailes had twice won the Ontario Jr. A scoring title with Toronto Beaches and he had a 25-goal season with the Wings in 2010 but soon slipped below the radar. The Wings listed him on injured reserve when they released their 2014 roster last December.

MIXED EMOTIONS

Some like it, some don't. We're talking about the new format for division and championship finals in which 1-1 won-lost splits result in a 10-minute minigame plus sudden-death overtime, if needed.

Rush players didn't like being eliminated, after taking Game 2, when Calgary won a minigame 2-1. Edmonton had lobbied for a two-game, total-goals format when change was being discussed last year. The Rush didn't get their way. They'd have advanced to the Champion's Cup finals if the format they suggested had been in place.

''It needs to be switched around to a full game,'' Rush goalie Aaron Bold said as he tried to absorb the disappointment of being ousted. ''I may be saying that because we're on the short end of the stick but, realistically, that's not a way to win. But Calgary won and hats off to them.''

The Roughnecks were just happy to keep playing.

''I think it has been a positive step for the league,'' assistant coach Bruce Codd says of the new format. ''It might be the first step towards building to a three-game series.''

FORMER TEAMMATES

Rochester head coach Mike Hasen and star Calgary forward Sean Evans were teammates on the 2007 Knighthawks team that won the Champion's Cup. Hasen was one of the league's top defensemen. Other players who were on that team and who are still active in the NLL are John Grant Jr. (Colorado), Shawn Williams (Buffalo), Sandy Chapman (Toronto), Bill Greer (Toronto) and Stephen Hoar (Philadelphia).

MALAWSKI STARTED NLL CAREER IN ROCHESTER

Calgary coach Curt Malawski spent the first six years of his 12-year NLL playing career with Rochester. He scored a career-best 31 goals for the Knighthawks in 2002.

VETERAN REF HAS WHISTLE READY

Mark Gardonio will be the refereeing crew chief for Game 2 of the Champion's Cup final. Chris Williams and Shawn Grenier will be the assistant referees and Ryan Fowler will be the shot clock official. This crew worked the Buffalo-Rochester East Division final. Gardonio and Grenier are past recipients of awards presented by the Ontario Lacrosse Referees Association.

ROCK EXTEND GM'S CONTRACT

Toronto general manager Terry Sanderson has agreed to a two-year contract extension through the 2016 season. The Rock were bounced 15-13 at home by Buffalo in the first round of playoffs after a 9-9 regular season.

''It's unacceptable that we have bowed out in the first round the last two years,'' said Sanderson.

It was obvious before the last game that defense, once a franchise strength, has become mediocre, and Sanderson knows it.

''I think we have to look at things defensively,'' he says. ''When you have games that you allow 15 or more goals, that indicates a problem. I think we need to shore up the defensive end of it and improve our lacrosse IQ.''

Toronto does not have a first-round pick in this year's entry draft. It was traded on March 19, 2012, to Calgary for goaltender Nick Rose, then a Roughnecks backup, and a second-round pick. Toronto is up 11th.


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