NLL Week 3 Team Reports: ‘Take all the Xs and Os out of it and it’s man against man’ – Calgary Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky
We’re getting ready for Week 3 of the National Lacrosse League season but hasn’t it felt a bit incomplete so far? Just 3 games in Week 1 and 2 in Week 2 so we understand if you’re still a bit starved for lacrosse action. That should change this weekend as the loop has 6 games on tap, with all 9 teams in actions. Some of them twice. It all starts Friday night with a pair of games and after 3 games are played on Saturday, the weekend is capped with a Sunday afternoon game in Philadelphia. So buckle up, don’t forget to fill out your fantasy team roster before you leave work on Friday and if you’re wondering what’s on the mind of your team heading into the weekend, check out our Team Reports for Week 3 action.
|Toronto Rock at Buffalo Bandits|
|Friday, Jan. 10 - First Niagara Center - 7:30 p.m. EST|
Records: Rock 1-0; Bandits 0-1.
Last week: Rock defeated Roughnecks, 16-11; Bandits did not play.
History: Toronto leads series, 22-17 (14-7 in Buffalo).
Goals for: Rock 16 (3rd); Bandits 13 (tied 4th).
Goals against: 11 (4th); 17 (8th).
The Rock came out strong with their opening win over Calgary, but the depth of the defense took a hit with Bill Greer and Patrick Merrill joining Chris White on IR. Coach John Lovell pointed out that there really is just 1 roster move to make since White started the season on the list and Merrill didn’t dress due to an injury suffered in practice. Greer was injured in the first half against Calgary, so the Rock are looking at Dustin Dunn or Mike Lum-Walker to see some time. “We’re not sure exactly who will go in the lineup,” said Lovell. “Dustin had a great training camp and really opened some eyes with his work ethic. Lum-Walker hasn’t really played and is still trying to get his feet wet. We’re working him in slowly.” Lum-Walker was a rookie in 2013 but missed last season with an ACL injury … The Rock have been fairly successful in Buffalo, but they’re aware of a Bandits team eager to atone for its poor showing in the season-opener on Dec. 28. “We know it’s coming,” transition man Jesse Gamble said. “They’re going to come out with lots of energy right off the hop … but we did well on loose balls against Calgary so we have to continue that. It wasn’t just our D guys. Our offensive guys were getting a lot of loose balls and resets. If we can get loose balls … all over the floor, that’s what it might come down to this Friday.”
GM Steve Dietrich did not try to spin his team’s performance in the opener 2 weeks ago, a 17-13 loss to Philadelphia. “We were incredibly disappointed with the outcome, and with the performance, too,” he said. “And we had 2 weeks off to wait for this. So I think you’ll see a different Buffalo team this weekend.” … Dietrich said there may have been a comfort zone with the Bandits after beating the Wings twice in the preseason. “What’s going to be different is we’re going to be a little more focused. Not that we took Philadelphia for granted, but when you’re 6-10 and finish dead last, you can’t take anybody for granted. I think we had a little too much swagger for a team that was 6-10 … and they definitely knocked the swagger out of us.” … T Dhane Smith agreed, but also said it’s way too early to panic. “It was a tough one, for sure, but there are tons of games to be played. We have a lot of new guys so it’s a learning curve.” … Smith said a hard practice last weekend should set the tone for the 2 games this weekend, serving as a reminder that nothing comes easy in the NLL. “We’re really excited to get the Toronto game going. I think we’ll be more prepared this week,” he said. “They’re not going to take it easy on us, we don’t expect them to.” … Dietrich said the Bandits put a renewed focus on fundamentals. “We dumbed it down,” he said. “We went back to the basics, we need to get the loose balls and that will lead to everything from there. And that’s what Philadelphia did to us, they just gained possession of the ball. And when you have the ball, you have a better chance of winning, obviously.” … There are 2 driving forces heading into the weekend, said Smith. One is the loss to Philly, and they’ll deal with that on Sunday. The other is trying to get a win for coach Troy Cordingley against the team that fired him. “He hasn’t said anything to us about it or anything like that. But he’s a great coach and we have a really good relationship so far and personally, for myself, I want to win it for him but also, we want to win it, period.”
|Colorado Mammoth at Calgary Roughnecks|
|Friday, Jan. 10 - Scotiabank Saddledome - 9 p.m. EST|
Records: Mammoth 1-1; Roughnecks 0-1.
Last week: Mammoth defeated Stealth 13-12; Roughnecks lost to Rock 16-11.
History: Mammoth lead series, 15-14 (8-8 in Calgary).
Goals for: Mammoth 23 (1st); Roughnecks 11 (7th).
Goals against: Mammoth 25 (9th); Roughnecks 16 (7th).
Last year was last year, sure. But this year — specifically this weekend — offers a chance at redemption for the Mammoth. “They’re the team that put us out of the playoffs last year,” coach Bob Hamley said of the motivation for Colorado against a Calgary team that notched a 15-10 first-round win last spring. … Starting G Tye Belanger made way for backup Dillon Ward for the second straight game but Hamley said who gets the start against Calgary will be a game-time decision. “It was more of momentum thing than it was Tye playing bad,” said Hamley of the switch against Vancouver. “We’re very happy with both guys.” … One of the questions heading into this season with smaller rosters was fitness, but Hamley doesn’t think it’s an issue so far, saying the new generation has a bigger emphasis on conditioning. “I don’t think it’s affected anything,” he said. “This generation of athletes is so fit, I think they relish it. They take pride in it, and fitness isn’t even an issue for our squad.”
Much like the boat the Mammoth were in last week, the Roughnecks are eager to get back on the floor to redeem themselves following a loss in their first game. The game being the home opener is added incentive. “We’re really looking forward to getting back at it, no matter where we’re playing,” coach Curt Malawsky said. “It was a tough go for us in Toronto. They taught us a lesson out there and our guys are pretty disappointed.” … Although the Riggers are dealing with some injury issues on the back end, the loss to Toronto was frustrating because Calgary believes it still has the talent to compete at an elite level. “It comes down to compete,” he said. “Toronto out-competed us all over the floor and then it comes down to controlling momentum in the NLL. They out-ground balled us all over the floor. Their offensive guys out-ground balled our defensive guys by 16 and that tells the story because typically your D guys get the ball … but that’s 16 more possessions so there’s no question they’re going to put up 16, 17 goals. So we have to compete. A lot of times, you take all the Xs and Os and all the technical stuff out of it and it’s just man against man. You just have beat that guy to the ball and want it more than he did.” … T Geoff Snider said the Riggers are amped to get their home portion of the 2014 season started. “There’s a lot of buzz around the city and it’s going to be a real test for us against Colorado.”
|Philadelphia Wings at Rochester Knighthawks|
|Saturday, Jan. 11 - Blue Cross Arena - 7:30 p.m. EST|
Records: Wings 1-0; Knighthawks 1-0.
Last week: Both teams did not play.
History: Knighthawks lead series, 28-16 (16-6 in Rochester).
Goals for: Wings 17 (2nd); Knighthawks 8 (8th).
Goals against: Wings 13 (tied 5th); Knighthawks 6 (1st).
The defense of Rochester is no secret, and the Wings said they know how to crack it. But saying it and doing it are 2 different things. “They play pretty tight and have great goaltending,” said F Jordan Hall. “You just hope shots go in because otherwise, it’s very frustrating to play against a team like that. We have to play an up-tempo style and spread them out. It’s hard to score when you’re looking at nothing but 20-foot shots … We just have to keep moving our feet and the ball. We can’t be stationary or they start dictating to you what they want you to do on offense.” … Coach Blane Harrison said that while the Wings must respect the talent that’s taken Rochester to 2 straight championships, they also can’t be awed by it. “It’s obviously a huge test for us,” he said. “They’re the 2-time defending champions and they have a wealth of talent and experience. So we’re looking forward to the challenge … We’re a young team and hopefully we can rise to the challenge and put our best foot forward.”
Rochester assistant coach Paul Day said the Knighthawks were fortunate to pull off a win in its opener against Minnesota. “We were lucky enough to get a win against Minnesota. It was a pretty back-and-forth game,” he said. … The Knighthawks will induct original team owner Steve Donner into the team’s Hall of Fame before the game … Fs Cory Vitarelli and Craig Point are expected back after missing the opener with minor injuries sustained in preseason games. “If it were the playoffs, they would have played,” said Day. “But we knew we had the extra week between Game 1 and Game 2, so really it gave them 3 extra weeks’ rest.” …. F Cody Jamieson has seen enough of the Wings to know that they’re a different team than the ones he’s faced in the past. “Philadelphia has a lot of changes on the offensive end so we’re expecting a totally new outlook on their philosophies.” … Day said the focus of a team that’s trying to 3-peat is on course, adding that many fans don’t realize how much roster turnover there was the last 2 seasons and how long that took to gel. “It really took us 8 to 10 games to get comfortable with each other,” he said. “This year, we really feel like we just picked up and been able to build on what we want to do … getting comfortable with chemistry. We’re in a spot we really like to be at.”
|Colorado Mammoth at Edmonton Rush|
|Saturday, Jan. 11 - Rexall Place - 9 p.m. EST|
Records: Mammoth 1-1; Rush 1-0.
Last week: Mammoth defeated Stealth 13-12; Rush did not play.
History: Mammoth lead series, 14-7 (7-2 in Edmonton).
Goals for: Mammoth 23 (1st); Rush 13 (tied 4th).
Goals against: Mammoth 25 (9th); Rush 10 (3rd).
The Mammoth are familiar with the 2014 Rush, having lost 13-10 at home in Week 1, and coach Bob Hamley obviously is hoping for a better result this time around. “Full marks for their win here in Denver and obviously, we’re going to have to be better up in their building than we were here,” he said. … A tough loss opened the season, but that was followed by a thrilling win that showed some real moxie with a 3rd-quarter rally. “We’re in the business to win games and … we were a lot more resilient in the second game than we were in the first game. It’s very encouraging. But like a lot of teams in this league, we’ve got a lot of things we need to clean up and get better at but it was encouraging to see us bounce back.” … As much as the Mammoth offense came alive against Vancouver, facing the Edmonton defense is a tall, tall order. “That’s going to be hard,” said Hamley. “They play that system very well and you have to be patient. You have to stick with the plan. You can’t get off the plan because if you do, they’ll take it to you even more.”
Coach and GM Derek Keenan would have preferred to be back on the floor last week to continue the momentum of the Week 1 win, especially after watching Colorado play last weekend. “Based on what I saw, they’re going to be a handful,” he said. “But I think it’s a little too early for anyone to get too excited or too upset about this early part of the season. It’s 1 or 2 games in for most teams and that’s pretty early in an 18-game schedule.” … The Rush were a league-best 7-1 on the road last winter but just 2-6 at home. “We’ve had our struggles at home and we need to change that. No better time to start that than this weekend,” he said. … Keenan said his offense looked a bit too tentative in the Week 1 win, passing up good looks instead of shooting, and is hoping he can chalk that up to opening jitters. “I thought we were really rusty and sloppy at times,” he said. “I think we can be a whole lot better. The mindset was good and our principles were good … but our execution and fundamental things were not the best. We passed up shots, we dropped balls and our passing wasn’t great. I think that’s a product of it being our first game and hopefully we’ll get better.” … F Mark Matthews took just 3 shots and was goal-less for the game. “Two were real quality shots but the goalie made great saves on … but he was one of those guys who passed up on great shots. We want him shooting the ball when he has it in a good scoring area.”
|Minnesota Swarm at Vancouver Stealth|
|Saturday, Jan. 11 - Langley Events Centre - 10 p.m. EST|
Records: Swarm 0-1; Stealth 0-1.
Last week: Swarm did not play; Stealth lost to Mammoth 13-12.
History: Swarm leads series, 5-11 (Stealth are 5-4 at home all-time against Swarm).
Goals for: Swarm 6 (9th); Stealth 12 (6th).
Goals against: Swarm 8 (2nd); Stealth 13 (tied 5th).
The defense was solid in the opener, holding Rochester to 8 goals. But the offense produced just 6 goals and that’s a concern that was addressed, said assistant coach Aime Caines. “We had a goal to keep Rochester under 10 and we kept them to 8, but we struggled on the offensive side,” he said. “We have some new pieces to our offense but I thought in preseason we played well together. I thought at times, a few players tried to do too much but what we really need to do is share the ball and keep it hot for our offense to work.”
The Stealth are finally making their debut in their new home of Langley, B.C., and coach Chris Hall is as excited about that as anyone. “It’s been a long time coming for lacrosse to come back to the area,” he said. “We’re excited to get rolling because it’s been such a long wait.” … Regarding the loss last week in Colorado, Hall said the Stealth played well but it was one bad stretch that cost them the game. “We got ourselves a 6-4 lead at halftime … started well in the 3rd quarter and then we kind of imploded there,” he said, referring to a span of 1:18. “A couple of defensive slips and a goal off the faceoff and the next thing you know, that 2-goal lead that we worked pretty hard to earn slipped away too quickly. It was a pretty good effort on our first night, but we let one slip away.” … Rookie F Tyler Digby scored 3 goals in his NLL debut and even though the Stealth lost, there is a silver lining. “Our team is growing. It was a loss that will end up helping us,” said Digby. “There was a lot of ups and downs during that game, a lot of runs, but I think we showed a lot of grit after being down 3-1 and then having that 5-minute major and coming out of that. A tough loss, but a lot of good things to learn out of it.” … The secret to success is no secret after all, said Hall. “We have to make sure we’re playing good, sound fundamental lacrosse and playing with a high level of energy as we continue to polish our systems and build our chemistry,” he said. “We have to be playing hard and playing well.”
|Buffalo Bandits at Philadelphia Wings|
|Sunday, Jan. 12 - Wells Fargo Center - 4 p.m. EST|
Records:Bandits 0-1; Wings 1-0.
Last week: Both teams did not play.
History: Series tied, 24-24 (Wings are 13-10 at home vs. Bandits).
Goals for: Bandits 13 (tied 4th); Wings 17 (2nd).
Goals against: Bandits 17 (8th); Wings 13 (tied 5th).
The Bandits, while not pleased with their first effort against Philadelphia, say credit is due where it’s due. “The easiest out that every coach makes after you lose is that you didn’t play a good game,” said Dietrich. “And I don’t think that’s the case. I think Philadelphia made us play a bad game. It wasn’t that we didn’t play well; they played real well. They did a lot of things to us … that we weren’t ready for and we need to correct those and match or exceed the intensity that they bring to the floor.” … Fs Aaron Wilson and Chad Culp will be available to play this weekend after missing the opener … T Dhane Smith said nerves are obvious for a season-opener, but there’s no reason for them to be a factor anymore. “If they’re not out by now, they will be by Sunday. (The Wings) embarrassed us at home, so we’re hoping for a better outcome.”
Coach Blane Harrison isn’t counting on taking the Bandits by surprise again. “We’re expecting a much different team,” he said of the Bandits. “They’ve got some veteran guys and they’re proud. They’re not happy with how they came out so we’re expecting a battle and we have to be ready for it.” … With 2 games this weekend, and another back-to-back weekend next week, the Wings are aware they’ll need to keep an eye on their roster to keep pace. “It weighs on our minds and we have to manage that accordingly because every game is a battle. I don’t think too many guys walk out of a game without a hiccup in their getalong. So we’ll manage that but it’s also a 1-game-at-a-time thing. We’ll put our best effort out in the games in front of us.” … Harrison is not only coaching NLL rookies, but rookies to the box game itself, so the win in Buffalo did much to boost the confidence. “They’re all confident young men but I think they’re all so young, they don’t know yet,” he said. “We’re probably the least-experienced team so we have to do things a little differently, coach and teach a little differently.” That also affects who the team suits up, because the learning curve is a small one and in addition to ability on the floor, the ability to be coached is a big factor too. “In this league, you have to get out strong and stay strong … we have 12 guys with 2 years or less experience. That’s pretty green so these guys have got to take a lot of information through a fire hose.”Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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