March 21, 2012

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NLL Notebook: Tavares Steps Onto 1,600-Point Plateau

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

John Tavares scored a breakaway goal for his 1,600th point on Saturday against Minnesota.
© Larry Palumbo (file)

John Tavares continues to go where no other lacrosse player has ventured.

The 43-year-old Buffalo Bandits attacker increased his National Lacrosse League career points total to 1,601 during the weekend. That is 436 points more than the next-best total of 1,165 by Hall of Famer Gary Gait.

Tavares, who has spent all of his 21 NLL seasons with the Bandits, helped them break out of a six-game losing streak with four goals and three assists in a 21-14 victory in Toronto on Friday night.

''It was nice to get back on the winning track, that's for sure,'' he said afterwards.

It was a relieved group.

''It was just a matter of getting our confidence back,'' said Tavares. ''We talked about coming out for this one with more emotion and not worrying about the outcome and just playing hard. It's a lot of fun that way.''

Tavares had more fun Saturday when he contributed three goals and an assist in a 13-10 home win over Minnesota. He scored a breakaway goal for his 1,600th point.

The big weekend earned Tavares the weekly NLL award for offensive player of the week.

Buffalo and Toronto both have 4-6 records but the Bandits are third and the Rock fourth in the East Division on the basis of owning the standings tiebreaker after clinching the upper hand in the season series.

The Bandits are back.

Rock Slump Not All Roik's Fault

It seems like yesterday that Toronto was first in the East. The Rock now find themselves in the cellar after three straight losses, which prompted GM Terry Sanderson to release goaltender Matt Roik and to acquire Calgary backup Nick Rose for the first-round Rock entry draft pick in 2014 on Monday.

The 21 goals allowed Saturday, most of them by Roik, were the most given up at home in franchise history. At the time of the trade, a scan of save percentages of NLL goalies with at least 180 minutes of action showed Roik at .725, which put him 10th among 10.

Roik was good early in the season. Back on Feb. 4, he allowed only six goals _ none in the second half _ in a win in Philadelphia in which he was sensational. He pulled on the pads for the all-star game.

Roik is not solely to blame for things turning sour. His teammates' checking against the Bandits was abysmal. The Bandits scored four short-handed goals including one in the closing minutes by Mark Steenhuis, who shed two Rock players to dive across the crease and tuck the ball behind Roik.

As well, there have been a lot of injuries on the back end. Ryan Sharp's career is over after repeated knee injuries, Drew Petkoff has hardly played this year at all and a neck injury has kept Phil Sanderson out of the last four games.

The Toronto players sat at a row of tables signing autographs for two hours after the lopsided loss to Buffalo because it was the annual night to do so. Little did Roik know it would be his last Rock function.

The franchise record for most goals allowed at home or away was set in a 25-10 Bandits win over the Rock in Buffalo on Feb. 14, 2009. Second worst is 21 and that now has happened three times: 21-14 last Saturday; Jan. 9, 1999, a 21-10 loss in Baltimore; and March 27, 1998, a 22-21 OT win in Syracuse in the season the team was known as the Ontario Raiders and based in Hamilton.

Enter Rose.

The 24-year-old goalie was expendable in Calgary where Mike Poulin plays most of the minutes and where Frankie Scigliano also was on the roster. He'd been acquired by the Roughnecks in the dispersal draft of Boston players last year after two years backing up Anthony Cosmo with the Blazers. Rock forwards Josh Sanderson and Jamie Rooney were teammates.

Rose had an impressive junior career winning two Canadian titles with Ontario's Orangeville Northmen, and now he'll get his shot at earning a No. 1 NLL job. Rock defensemen Glen Bryan, Damon Edwards and Jesse Gamble were Orangeville teammates.

Five of Toronto's last six games are on the road starting with bus rides to Rochester this Saturday and to Buffalo on March 31. After a home date April 7 with Edmonton, there are games April 14 at the Colorado Mammoth, April 20 at the Washington Stealth and April 28 at Edmonton.

Williams Sets Ironman Record

Shawn Williams of the Edmonton Rush played in his league-record 189th consecutive game last Saturday.

Toronto's Colin Doyle played 188 before his streak was ended Jan. 27 by a bruised shoulder and transition speedster Steve Toll had played 188 before sitting out this winter. Williams went one better when he suited up in Philadelphia and scored two goals while assisting on seven.

''It's nice to have,'' he said when asked about owning the NLL Ironman record. ''I'm glad I have been able to be a part of this league for this long. I definitely wouldn't have minded getting a win, too.''

Williams, 37, is a high school phys-ed teacher in Oshawa, Ontario. He won an NLL title in 2007 with the Rochester Knighthawks and he's sixth in all-time NLL points with 1,010.

Dawson Jumps Ahead in Scoring Race

Dan Dawson is now one-point ahead of John Grant Jr. for the league lead in scoring after a 12-point outing against Philadelphia.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Dan Dawson's 12-point binge in Philadelphia's 16-15 home win over Edmonton increased his season's points total to 69, moving him a point ahead of Colorado's John Grant Jr. in the scoring race.

Dawson's 10 assists included his 500th and he now is alone in ninth spot on the all-time list with 503 _ one behind Toronto's Blaine Manning, who has been out since Jan. 14 when he broke a collarbone. Dawson had been tied with Hall of Famer Jim Veltman at 493 going into the game against the Rush.

Dawson has 56 assists and at the pace he's going he should shatter the single-season record of 74 he set in 2009 with Boston and equalled the same year by Josh Sanderson when he was with Calgary.

Schiller Wings It

Chris Schiller wasn't without an NLL team for long. The veteran defenseman, released last week by Rochester, has signed with Philadelphia, and it's a great fit for Schiller because he lives in North Carolina.

Wings GM Johnny Mouradian was Canada's GM at the 2010 world field tournament in Manchester, England, and for the world indoor tournament in Prague last May so he got to see plenty of Schiller, who earned gold in Manchester and who took home silver as captain of Team USA in Prague, so Mouradian didn't hesitate to add the Schiller leadership quotient to his team's second-half run.

Wings forward Dan Dawson likes the move.

''He has won at all levels,'' says Dawson, who played against Schiller in Manchester and Prague and in many NLL games. ''He's a veteran leader who knows what it takes to win. He will be a great addition to our defense and will help our transition game.''

Schiller is reunited with 2011 Team USA teammates Brendan Mundorf, Drew Westervelt and Max Seibald.

Rabil Sits

The trading deadline passed Tuesday afternoon with no mention of Paul Rabil.

Edmonton GM-coach Derek Keenan was on the phone.

''We couldn't get anything done that was going to benefit our team so we left it as is,'' says Keenan.

Keenan has every reason to be bitter, but he's trying hard not to be.

He got Athan Iannucci from Philadelphia in a multiplayer off-season deal that sent Brodie Merrill to the Wings, but Iannucci refused to play for the Rush. Keenan waited until mid-February to send Iannucci to Washington for Rabil, but Rabil also refused to play for the Rush. He apparently wants to be on a team closer to his Maryland residence. I want to win a lottery, too.

It seems odd that a 26-year-old athlete supposedly committed to the sport would throw away an NLL season. Maybe he's just too big for the indoor game.

Another Rookie Joins Swarm

Josh Gillam of Peterborough, Ontario, via Dartmouth College, is the latest rookie to crack the Minnesota Swarm lineup. Gillam, 23, made his NLL debut in Buffalo last Saturday. He was a 2010 draft pick and had recently returned from Europe where he played pro hockey.

''He's a guy that we've kept on our radar to make sure that we were able to do something when the opportunity came up,'' head coach and association GM Joe Sullivan said upon announcing he'd signed Gillam to a one-year contract. ''He brings a lot of energy to the floor, has incredible speed, and has great hands to play both inside and outside. He has the ability to get himself open, which is something every team looks for.''

Gillam was one of 10 rookies among 20 players who dressed in Buffalo. Greg Downing has been placed on injured reserve.

Leaders Clash

East leader Philadelphia (6-4) is in Denver to play West leader Colorado (8-2) at 9 p.m. ET Friday night, and the teams go at it again in Philadelphia at 4 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon.

John Grant Jr. has sat out the last two games with what the club has described as ''an upper body injury'' and it sounds as if he remains unavailable.

''I'm not planning on having John in the lineup,'' head coach Bob Hamley replied when asked during the NLL's weekly coaches' conference call Wednesday if Grant would play this weekend.

Jamie Shewchuk rejoins the Mammoth from Minnesota for a third-round draft pick. Shewchuk lives in Denver so it was an easy move for the Mammoth to make, especially in the light of Grant's continued absence.

''He'll help us with our depth on the left side,'' says Hamley.

Other Games This Weekend

SATURDAY

ROCK-'HAWKS

Toronto (4-6) is at Rochester (5-5) at 7:30 p.m. ET with Nick Rose expected to make his Rock debut.

''We had to do something,'' says GM Terry Sanderson. ''For whatever reason, we weren't playing well enough in front of Matt Roik. We're going to move forward with Nick and hope it's the right move.''

Toronto has a chance to jump back into second place, but that's unlikely given a Rock slide reaching avalanche proportions.

Rochester has acquired faceoff specialist Jamison Koesterer, whose coaching responsibilities at John Hopkins leave in question his availability from week to week. Washington got a third-round pick.

With Chris Schiller gone, Tyler Burton, Dylan Evans and Joel White will get more playing time.

STEALTH-RUSH

Washington (3-7) is at Edmonton (2-7) at 9 p.m. ET with a chance to bury the Rush in the West basement.

A Rush win means the teams trade places and the Stealth drop back into the basement. Confidence remains high despite the loss in Philadelphia.

''We feel pretty good about ourselves moving forward,'' says Rush coach Derek Keenan.

Keenan said he's signed veteran transition player Steve Toll, who had been without a team since Colorado opted not to re-sign him before the season began.

''I think he's going to help us with some veteran leadership down the stretch,'' says Keenan. ''He's a vocal, high-energy guy and we look forward to having him in.''

BANDITS-'NECKS

Buffalo (4-6) is at Calgary (7-3) at 9 p.m. ET and another win for the Roughnecks means they're close to nailing down home floor for a first-round playoff game.

''We've had some torrid affairs with these guys,'' Calgary coach Dave Pym says of facing the Bandits. ''We're going to treat this like a championship game.''

Buffalo-Calgary is always a rough battle.

''They go after our stars, we'll go after their stars,'' says Pym.

Two straight wins can't mask the concern Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour has going into Calgary.

''We still haven't played a 60-minute game,'' says Kilgour. ''Calgary is a really good team that seems to be clicking on all cyclinders so we've got big test coming up.''

Kilgour says he'll continuing rotating goalies so Anthony Cosmo gets the start in Calgary, which is somewhat surprising given how well Mike Thompson played last weekend.

SUNDAY

Minnesota (5-4) is at Washington at 8 p.m. ET to try and rebound from the 13-10 loss in Buffalo.

''We were outgunned there but not outworked,'' said GM-coach Joe Sullivan. ''We'll bounce back.''

Minnesota beat Washington 15-7 on Feb. 24 in Everett but the Stealth didn't have Tyler Richards, Rhys Duch and Jeff Ziwicki for that game.

''They handed to us that first game so we've got a lot of respect for those kids,'' says Stealth coach Chris Hall. ''They run hard all night long and play with a ton of confidence.''

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli -- a longtime Lacrosse Magazine contributor -- are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.


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