NLL Week 4 Team Reports: ‘We’ve got to find that hunger and create that sense of urgency.’ – Swarm coach Joe Sullivan
The first 2 weeks of the National Lacrosse League’s 2014 season saw abbreviated schedules, perhaps to whet our appetites for what was to come. And what was to come was an all-out lacrosse festival as Week 3 featured 6 tilts and Week 4 — the impending set — featuring 7. Of note for this weekend, however, is that 5 NLL teams are playing twice and even though there are 2 extra regular-season games this season, this weekend could have a large say in the direction of some teams. Will Colorado be 1-5 or 2-4 or 3-3? Will Minnesota be 0-4, 1-3 or 2-2? There are, of course, 3 other NLL clubs with doubleheaders this weekend but Colorado and Minnesota are perhaps feeling the urgency more than others as they look to climb out of the early holes they’ve dug. We can’t predict the future, at least not in this post, but what we can do is get a feel for what the teams are thinking and preparing for as ILIndoor presents its Week 4 Team Reports.
|Calgary Roughnecks at Edmonton Rush|
|Friday, Jan. 17 - Rexall Place - 9:30 p.m. EST|
Records: Calgary 1-1; Edmonton 2-0.
Last week: Calgary defeated Colorado, 13-11; Edmonton defeated Colorado, 17-6.
History: Calgary leads all-time series, 23-5 (14-2 in Edmonton).
Goals for: Calgary 24 (7th); Edmonton 30 (4th).
Goals against: Calgary 27 (6th); Edmonton 16 (tied 2nd).
Calgary coach Curt Malawsky is aware of how well the Rush are playing this season, and that’s why Calgary’s dominant history vs. Edmonton means nothing heading into this weekend. “They run their systems very effectively, they’re hot right now,” said Malawsky. “We’re going to need to be at our best … Their intensity and their work ethic is very strong.” … F Dane Dobbie said he’s proud of the way his team rebounded for last week’s win following a lackluster opener in Toronto. “Our compete level was way better,” he said. “This weekend is going to be a real test for our team. It’s a tough building to play in and they have a great defense. Physical and fast. A good battle for Alberta, for sure.” … That wasn’t always the case, of course, and that’s what explains Calgary’s 23-5 lifetime record against the Rush. But Malawsky and the Roughnecks understand that this is a different Rush team than years past. “We can’t focus so much on what they’re doing,” Malawsky said. “We need to be disciplined. Their power play is very, very good with Matthews up top, and they run a lot of good set pieces. Offensively, we have to move the ball a little bit more. They’re going to have their matchups on our guys and we’ve been stale with the ball at times. They play a pressure defense so we know where the slides are coming from … so it’s going to be up to our guys. It’s going to come down to the offense and the guys who are willing to get to those dirty areas.”
The Rush are 2-13 against Calgary over the last 3 regular seasons and their last home win against Calgary came in 2010 … The Rush, however, are 2-0 against Calgary in the playoffs over that same span, winning at Calgary in 2012 and 2010 … It’s Jimmy Quinland night for the Rush, who will retire the jersey of their former captain, who retired in the offseason … The dominant start to the season doesn’t mean much right now, said coach and GM Derek Keenan. “It’s a long season with 18 games,” he said. “We’re real happy with the start and played really well last weekend but we know this weekend is gonna be real difficult with Calgary coming to town because it’s always a pretty tough battle with those guys.” … F Jarrett Davis said he’s looking forward to honoring Quinlan. “What he’s done for Edmonton lacrosse and Alberta lacrosse is huge,” he said. “It’s tough to not have him on the team this year but having him on the bench is just as valuable, it not more for rounding up the guys and he’s done a great job these first 2 games.” … Getting home wins, after going 2-6 in Edmonton last winter, has been a focus for the team this year and beating Colorado last weekend was a positive step, said Keenan. “Having watched the game the night before against Calgary, it was a real fast-paced, physical up-and-down game. I think we caught a real tired team and took advantage of that.” … The Rush have plenty of stars on the back end, but there are a few who get lost in that limelight and one of them is Jeff Cornwall. “We’re getting out of him what we expect and probably a little bit more,” said Keenan. “He seems to be a little bit quicker this year. He dropped a little bit of weight, not that he was out of shape or anything. But he just got a little bit faster and his gap closure is real fast now and he’s doing a real good job of pressuring the ball … He’s getting to learn our system better and better every week. In our minds, he’s a premiere athlete.” … Keenan said one area of focus is Geoff Snider and not only the work he does on faceoffs, but what he can do after he wins the ball. “They create offense out of faceoffs, which is a real weapon for them,” said Keenan. “We need to defend and not give up goals because they can be real momentum-swing goals.”
|Colorado Mammoth at Vancouver Stealth|
|Friday, Jan. 17 - Langley Events Centre - 11 p.m. EST|
Records: Colorado 1-3; Vancouver 1-1.
Last week: Colorado lost to Calgary, 13-11, and lost to Edmonton, 17-6; Vancouver defeated Minnesota, 8-5.
History: Stealth lead all-time series, 21-12 (13-3 at home).
Goals for: Colorado 40 (1st); Vancouver (20 (8th).
Goals against: Colorado 55 (9th); Vancouver 18 (4th).
It goes without saying that the 0-2 weekend was disappointing for the Mammoth, but coach Bob Hamley talked about it anyway. “We thought we had a pretty good game against Calgary but came up short and obviously we came out flat Saturday in Edmonton,” he said. “It’s in the past but now it’s up to us to respond.” … The signing of free agent F Athan Iannucci gives the Mammoth an experienced threat from the right side and, hopefully, an offensive boost, said Hamley. “He’s got good size, good footwork and knows how to score goals. We’re going to be asking him to bring that to our offense.” … Veteran F John Grant Jr. said the Mammoth didn’t play well in any facet in the the 17-6 loss to the Rush. “We just fell flat on our face in Edmonton,” he said. “It’s a good thing we have a short week so we don’t have to think about it too much.” … Grant said he hasn’t played lacrosse in B.C. since the 2007 Mann Cup. “I’m excited to get out there,” he said. “The fans that show up really enjoy the game and know the game.” … But no matter where the Mammoth are playing, a 1-3 start isn’t what they wanted and getting back on track is the priority now. “We just have to stick to our game plan,” said Grant. “We have certain goals and expectations going into a game and sometimes … those kinda go away and you lose focus and it feels like you’re swimming upstream. We just have to focus on what our good coaches tell us to do and trust in the process. We have to stick with what we’ve been taught.”
The NLL’s parity makes every weekend a challenge, but gearing up for a Mammoth team that was outscored 30-17 in a 0-2 weekend makes them a dangerous foe eager for redemption. “They’ve got a big offense that can beat you anytime and now add Nooch there on the right side, it gives them a little bit of a different look, a different dimension,” said coach Chris Hall. … More than that, though, it’s a division game and the early matchups have a way of coming back to haunt a team if you’re not careful. “We play them 4 times early in the season here and it’s an important series for the standings,” he said. “If you lose games early in this league it’s hard later in the season trying to work around to find those wins. It’s an important game in this series and important in terms of playoff standings looking down the road.” … F Ilija Gajic understands the type of motivation Iannucci will bring this weekend. “He’ll come out guns a blazin’, that’s for sure.” … The Stealth scored just 8 goals in beating Minnesota, but Hall isn’t concerned about the unit, saying that a game’s style is unpredictable. “I thought our offense got good looks and I’m sure if you talk with Minnesota, they thought they got some good looks too but sometimes goaltenders are so good in this league and if they’re having a good night it’s tough to beat them,” he said. “I think our offense is working well, the ball is moving well. I like the mix, I like the chemistry but sometimes the ball is dropping and sometimes it’s not … If you run into a hot goaltender, there’s not a lot you can do about it.” … If there’s room for improvement, said Hall, it’s the power play that’s next-to-last in the league at 42.9%. “I think we can be a little more dangerous on that,” he said. “If that starts operating at a little better clip then more goals are going to come as well.” … F Lewis Ratcliff has just 2 goals on 23 shots and Hall said he had talk with the veteran about shot selection. “The last game, he only got the 1 goal, but it was a big goal,” said Hall. “He was far more selective with his shots and blended in a little better with the offense. We’re not looking for Lewis to lead the offense or be the kingpin. We want to share the ball.”
Saturday and Sunday
|Minnesota Swarm at Philadelphia Wings|
|Saturday, Jan. 18 at Philadelphia, noon; Sunday, Jan. 19 at Minnesota, 3 p.m. - Wells Fargo Center|
Records: Minnesota 0-2; Philadelphia 1-2.
Last week: Minnesota lost to Vancouver, 8-5; Philadelphia lost to Rochester, 13-9, and lost to Buffalo, 12-11 (OT).
History: Swarm lead all-time series, 11-8 (Swarm are 4-5 in Philadelphia; 7-3 in Minnesota).
Goals for: Minnesota 11 (9th); Philadelphia 37 (tied 2nd).
Goals against: Minnesota 16 (tied 2nd); Philadelphia 38 (tied 7th).
Swarm coach Joe Sullivan didn’t expect to start 0-2, but considering their first 2 games were against last season’s NLL finalists, he knew it wasn’t an easy start. “Both are equally balanced teams, offensively and defensively,” he said. “Our defense got the job done for us, limiting (Vancouver) to 8 goals but our offense just didn’t catch fire.” … Sullivan believes the Swarm will bounce back because he said the team executed the game plan, but didn’t work hard enough on offense. “It really is only a matter of time before we roll though this thing,” he said. … Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, Sunday will bring the Swarm their first home game of the season after playing 3 straight on the road. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve had a great record at home,” said Sullivan. “Playing back in the Twin Cities is a big thing and it’ll be key for us to get back to .500.” … The bigger concern for the Swarm on offense, beyond the number of goals scored, is where they’re coming from. Three of the 11 have come from the power play along with a handful of transition goals, leaving the 5-on-5 set pieces a lot of room for improvement. “We’ve got some issues,” said Sullivan. “All you can do is go back and reiterate, keeping the focus on the game plan and get the guys to work not only harder, but smarter … We’ve got to find that hunger and create that sense of urgency.”
Assistant coach Jim Milligan said the Wings obviously are disappointed with the 2 losses last weekend, but there is a silver lining. “We’re happy with the way we competed,” he said. “We had a couple of lapses in both games and we fought back against Buffalo and came up short. We just need to find out why we’re having those lapses and clean them up.” … The Wings are planning to do what many teams hope to do against the Swarm and that’s match the intensity as both clubs find themselves in positions to work their way back to .500. “We need to have 2 wins this weekend,” he said. “We’re happy with the way the team’s playing. The offense is starting to gel, our defense is working really hard and our goaltending is giving us a chance to win.” … G Evan Kirk is playing against the Swarm for the first time since they traded him last summer. “He’s a competitor and he’s done a great job for us,” said Milligan. “He’ll want to come in and prove that he’s a good goalie and show Minnesota that he can get the job done.” … As for the Swarm youth, if there’s any team in the NLL equipped with the same type of youth, it’s Philadelphia. But matching intensity alone won’t get the job done. “We need to be smart,” said Milligan. “We need to do what’s necessary to keep the ball smart, keep the floor position smart and don’t allow them to take advantage of that … they’re looking to run and push the tempo. We need to match that and maybe try to control it.”
|Toronto Rock at Rochester Knighthawks|
|Saturday, Jan. 18- Blue Cross Arena- 7:30 p.m. EST|
Records: Toronto 1-1; Rochester 2-0.
Last week: Toronto lost to Buffalo, 12-10; Rochester defeated Philadelphia 13-9.
History: Rochester leads all-time series, 22-19 (17-4 in Rochester).
Goals for: Toronto 26 (5th); Rochester 21 (6th).
Goals against: Toronto 23 (5th); Rochester 15 (1st).
Toronto’s 4-0 lead in Buffalo disappeared when it was outscored 12-6 in the final 3 quarters, obviously a disappointing development for the Rock and coach John Lovell. “We didn’t manage the ball very well at any time during that game,” he said. “Yes, we did have a good first quarter, but I think we dodged several bullets because of good goaltending and our poor play caught up with us. This weekend, we have to manage the ball better, manage the clock better and manage the game better than we did against Buffalo.” … A 1-1 start to the season is OK, but putting yourself up against the 2-time defending champ will give the Rock a good idea of where they are, and where they need to get to, said G Nick Rose. “Every time we play Rochester, it’s a good way to see where we stand,” he said. “We know it’s not going to be easy because Rochester does everything well … We just have to be ready with the game plan and it’ll be a great game for the fans.” … Lovell’s sarcasm meter nearly broke when he talked about facing Rochester G Matt Vinc. “Yeah, I’m really happy about going against Vino this weekend, the best offense, the best defense and I’m really glad that Dan Dawson is starting to shoot the ball now,” he joked. “It just gives us another thing that we’ll have to deal with. Rochester’s a tough team. It’s going to be a good measuring stick just to see where we are. What I’m excited about is Nick had a great game for us last week and if he can follow that up, it gives us a chance.”
Coach Mike Hasen sees the 2-0 record, but it’s his job to also find flaws and fix them. He saw a few last weekend against Philadelphia. “We’re happy with the result we did get, but there are issues that we need to get better at,” he said. “Going through a span of the third quarter of not getting any goals and them being on the back of our heels is something we’re looking to improve on.” … Saturday will pit Toronto’s Nick Rose against Rochester’s Vinc, so Hasen expects defense to be the order of the day. “I would say so,” he said. “That’s one thing we’re hanging out hat on right now. The D has a good, solid gameplan for us and we know Rose is an elite goaltender. He makes it very tough for us to put anything by him.” … Rochester’s 2 wins have come against teams loaded with youth in Minnesota and Philadelphia, but don’t mistake Toronto’s veteran leadership for a lack of youth. “Toronto’s got a lot of youth out there, young legs that push the ball every chance they have,” said Hasen. “It’s about managing our floor position and game-clock awareness that’s the biggest thing for us. We have to be smart with the ball.” … For the Knighthawks, Vinc is being Vinc, leading the NLL witih a 7.50 goals-against average. “He gives our guys a lot of confidence to make mistakes and know he’s going to bail them out,” said Hasen. “Our defense does a very good job of getting in lanes and putting people in spots that may not be the best spots to shoot … but he’s always there to back us up if things break down.”
|Vancouver Stealth at Calgary Roughnecks|
|Saturday, Jan. 18- Scotiabank Saddledome- 9 p.m. EST|
Records: Vancouver 1-1; Calgary 1-1.
Last week: Vancouver defeated Minnesota, 8-5; Calgary defeated Colorado, 13-11.
History: Calgary leads all-time series, 16-13 (4-9 in Calgary).
Goals for: Vancouver 20 (8th); Calgary 24 (7th).
Goals against: Vancouver 18 (4th); Calgary 27 (6th).
The Stealth are happy but a bit relieved as well to have their home opener in a new home behind them. “We probably had a bit of pressure on us even moreso than the opponents even though we were playing in our home rink … a lot of anticipation in the area and so there were so early game jitters but we managed to get through those,” said coach Chris Hall. … Against Calgary, T Ilija Gajic says the Vancouver back end is up for a real challenge. “They have a tremendous amount of talent and their offensive players are some of the highest-quality players in the league plus you have Curt over there who will be dissecting the defense so you have to make sure you’re ready to play those guys every time you step on the floor.” … G Tyler Richards so far has been as strong as ever with a goals-against of 9.00 and a sparkling save percentage of .814. “We’ve been fortunate to have Tyler anchoring our defense for the past few years,” said Hall. “It allows you to stay competitive … We got outshot last weekend by Minnesota, 20-4 in the fourth quarter, and Tyler was just rock solid. Nothing was getting by him. He was a little disappointed with his opener down in Denver … we let that one slip away so he was determined to have a great outing last week and he certainly had that.” … Hall said there’s no word on the status of D Kyle Sorensen, who may serve a 1-game suspension for a match penalty incurred in Week 2. If Sorensen does not go, Hall said he’ll more than likely elevate a defender from the practice squad to replace Sorensen and stick with the 6-man rotation up top rather than drop a runner to the back end. … After playing Minnesota’s transition scheme last weekend, the Stealth forwards got a good test in getting off the floor in a hurry, something that will come in handy against a Calgary team that has an even deeper transition squad with the addition of rookies Karsen Leung and Tor Reinholdt. “Obviously, an area of interest for us, to focus on that,” said Hall.
Coach Curt Malawsky said the Roughnecks have a lot of confidence after winning their home opener but the Stealth will certainly test that confidence. “Tyler Richards might be the top goaltender in the NLL,” he said. “He’s the backbone and they have a real big, physical defense and you have to earn everything you get. We talked about our offense being a little stagnant and if it’s stagnant against these guys, you’re laying on the turf.” … D Dane Dobbie said playing the Stealth is always a battle. “Every game you play, you’re hurting after the game,” he said. “We’ll have to be at our best. It’s plain and simple.” … Also plain and simple is a bit of revenge since it was the Stealth who knocked the Roughnecks out of the playoffs in last winter’s West Division final. “If I want to win a championship and they get in the way and beat us, we’re going to come out fired up. But then again, every week in this league you have to come out with that jam … it’s another game, but it’s always in the back of my head, who beats us.” … Malawsky said he’s more than pleased so far with the play of G Mike Poulin. “He held us in that Toronto game and he came up with some big saves late last week against Junior and Adam Jones. With us, it’s not how many you make, it’s when you make them and that’s been Mike’s focus. He’ll be the first one to tell you that (last year ) may not have been his best in the NLL so he’s got something to prove.”
|Buffalo Bandits at Colorado Mammoth|
|Saturday, Jan. 18- Scotiabank Saddledome- 9 p.m. EST|
Records: Buffalo 2-1; Colorado 1-3.
Broadcast: YouTube.com/TLN, Altitude2 (DirectTV 682, Dish 410).
Last week: Buffalo defeated Toronto, 12-10, and defeated Philadelphia, 12-11 (OT); Colorado lost to Calgary, 13-11, and lost to Edmonton, 17-6.
History: Buffalo leads all-time series, 13-10 (5-4 at Colorado).
Goals for: Buffalo 37 (tied 2nd); Colorado 40 (1st).
Goals against: Buffalo 38 (tied 7th); Colorado 55 (9th).
Winning 2 games in 1 weekend can do a lot for a team, and Buffalo is no exception. “Obviously, we’re happy. Playing 2 games in a weekend and coming out with 2 wins, we’ll take it,” Bandits GM Steve Dietrich said. “But I think in both games, we only played about 30-35 minutes of the way we want to play. So we were lucky to come back against Toronto and we were lucky Philadelphia didn’t have 5 more minutes in regulation.” … It’s that lack of consistency that has Dietrich on guard against the Mammoth, even if it’s a team that’s struggling early. “Bob’s (Hamley) gonna have that team ready to go,” said Dietrich. “They basically knocked us out of the playoffs last year when they beat us back-to-back so we have some motivation going.” … F Joe Resetarits said the 2 wins are nice, but that’s behind the Bandits as they head to Colorado. “We have to focus on Colorado,” he said. “Any team can beat each other on any day. We just have to go out and stick with our gameplan.” … The trend for transition in the NLL is what led the Bandits to pursue Andrew Watt in a trade, and Dietrich said Watt gives Buffalo more speed than it had out of the back end. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do so far,” said Dietrich. “We just knew that we wanted to get a little more youth and a little more speed.” … But as the Bandits move toward youth, they discovered they can still count on the 45-year-old John Tavares to produce. He scored 6 goals in the 2 weekend games, 5 of them coming on Sunday in Philadelphia, including the OT winner. “It was great,” said Dietrich. “The guys love JT. He’s so much more than what you see on the floor. He’s a tremendous leader and he’s so good in the locker room … The guys were pumped for John to be able to do that, and I know emotionally, JT was struggling a little bit. I don’t think he felt that he played as good as he could have the first 2 games so that was a big one for his confidence.”
Coach Bob Hamley holds up Buffalo as an example how quickly fortunes can change in the balanced world of the NLL. “It’s amazing how we change from week to week,” Hamley said. “Everybody had Buffalo down and out after their first week and obviously Troy and their organization made same adjustments and had a great weekend.” … Yes, the Mammoth beat Buffalo in back-to-back games last season, but F John Grant Jr. knows the 2014 Bandits are different. “It seems like that team we played last year doesn’t exist,” he said. “They’re a new bunch over there. New coach, new philosophies so … they’re going to be riding some momentum.” … F Adam Jones has 11 goals in 4 games and is on pace for close to 50, which doesn’t surprise the Mammoth. “We expect a lot of Jonesey,” said Hamley. “He’s an elite player who has raised the bar off his rookie year. He does a lot of things for us. He’s a goal-scorer, he’s a playmaker, I think he’s up there in forced turnovers as well. He does a lot of good things for us.”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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