January 30, 2014

NLL Notes: Tavares Closing In on Unprecedented 800

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Buffalo's John Tavares is approaching an unprecedented 800 goals. (NLL.com Photo)

John Tavares, Buffalo's 45-year-old captain, might not be quite as fast as he was 23 years ago when he broke into the NLL with the Bandits but his sense of humor remains quick.

He scored four goals in the Bandits' 11-10 home win over Rochester last Saturday night, putting an exclamation mark on his scintillating performance by slithering around defenseman Mac Allen and diving into the crease to plant a ball behind goalie Matt Vinc.

''I barely got there,'' he said afterwards. ''Vinc came out on me, which made it a little easier to reach around him. But it's tough to get to the other side of the crease now. When I dive, I land on the same side of the crease. It's more like a fall than a dive.''

Tavares has scored 10 goals in the four games in which he has appeared. That's a team-best 2.5 goals a game. Teammate Dhane Smith has also scored 10 but he's played five games.

Tavares is 11 goals shy of 800. The all-time top 10:

1. Tavares, 789
2. Gary Gait, retired, 635
3. John Grant Jr., Colorado, 576
4. Colin Doyle, Toronto, 490
5. Shawn Williams, Buffalo, 437 
6. Lewis Ratcliff, Vancouver, 419
7. Paul Gait, retired, 410
8. Josh Sanderson, Toronto, and Tom Marechek, retired, 399 each
10. Mike Accursi, retired, 386

JONES AND GRANT STEAL THE SHOW

After watching the Colorado-Calgary game, it was difficult to decide whether John Grant Jr. or Adam Jones was the most spectacular forward on the floor.

Jones scored every which way to total seven goals. He was scoring from all over the floor. He was amazing. Grant then shocked everybody by catching a pass with one hand on his stick and, with his back to the net, whipping in an over-the-back shot that gave the Mammoth a 14-13 victory.

Lucky? Not entirely. Junior wasn't looking at the net but he has a knack for scoring those kinds of goals. Nobody else could have ended that game in so dramatic a fashion.

JONES, LEBLANC AND DOBBIE FILLING NETS

There are 16 players with 10 or more goals. Colorado's Adam Jones leads with 23 but has played twice as many games as others. Here's how they stack up on a goals-per-game basis:

1. Adam Jones, Colorado, and Stephan Leblanc, Toronto, 3.3 goals a game;
3. Dane Dobbie, Calgary, 3.2;
4. Jordan Hall, Philadelphia, 3.0;
5. Rhys Duch, Vancouver, and Mark Matthews, Edmonton, 2.8;
7. Cody Jamieson, Rochester, John Tavares, Buffalo, Curtis Knight, Edmonton, and Zack Greer, Edmonton, 2.5;
11. Jeff Shattler, Calgary, 2.4;
12. Drew Westervelt, Colorado, 2.2;
13. John Grant Jr., Colorado, Dhane Smith, Buffalo, Tracey Kelusky, Philadelphia, and Kyle Buchanan, Philadelphia, 2.0.

DAWSON LIMPING AFTER LOSS

Dan Dawson's 183-game consecutive games streak appeared to be in jeopardy when he was spotted limping out of Buffalo's First Niagara Center last Saturday night. Rochester's top playmaker wasn't on the floor or the bench during the second half and the Knighthawks went down to their first loss of the season.

Rochester is at Edmonton to play the 4-0 Rush this Saturday night. Will Dangerous Dan be in uniform?

''He'll be there,'' says head coach Mike Hasen.

HAVE STICK, WILL TRAVEL

Toronto's Colin Doyle is one of many players with long distances to travel for both home and away contests. (Rich Barnes)

Some players are frequent fliers.

Joel McCready of the Rochester Knighthawks piles up the air miles to suit up in Blue Cross Arena. He's a firefighter in Burnaby, British Columbia, and there are 2,188 flight miles to sit through out of Vancouver's international airport.

Colorado star Adam Jones is a teacher in the central Ontario city of Owen Sound. The drive to Toronto plus the 1,300-mile flight to Denver equals a long travel day. Mammoth forward Casey Powell, who is head lacrosse coach at North Broward Prep in Coconut Creek, will be flying 1,700 miles from Florida to make his season debut Saturday.

Mike Poulin and Shawn Evans of the Calgary Roughnecks live in Ontario and fly 1,680 miles to home games. It's a four-hour flight. Poulin lives in Waterloo so he starts out with a 45-minute drive east to Toronto's main airport. He's an executive at a company that shreds documents. Evans lives in Peterborough so starts out with a 90-minute drive steering southwest to the airport. Evans and Rochester defenseman Brad Self conduct youth clinics as co-owners of Nationwide Lacrosse.

Curtis Knight of the Edmonton Rush also flies out of Toronto, in his case after a half hour's drive east from the University of Guelph. Two teammates fly to home games from Los Angeles, where Zack Greer is a marketing consultant and Adrian Sorichetti is a fitness instructor. One way is 1,366 miles.

Tyler Hass of the Minnesota Swarm arrives in St. Paul from the B.C. capital of Victoria, where he spends weekdays working in his family's real estate business. The cities are 1,445 miles apart and flights take three hours. Teammate Callum Crawford lives in Ottawa, where he's a lacrosse instructor, so he's 860 miles from St. Paul.

Toronto and Buffalo have no fly-in players, but that doesn't mean commutes are brief.

Rock captain Colin Doyle and teammate Rob Hellyer have the furthest to go to get to Air Canada Center for home games.

Doyle, a rep for Field Turf artificial surfaces, lives 135 miles to the northwest near Wiarton, where the annual Wiarton Willie Festival will be in high gear come Sunday when media cover a groundhog's prediction on how much longer winter will last. With a game in Buffalo on Saturday night, it's unlikely Doyle will drag himself out of bed in time to see the 7 a.m. fireworks show.

Hellyer, a gas technician, is in Lion's Head which is another 20 miles to the north on a peninsula that extends into Lake Huron. Winter whiteouts can make for difficult driving. It sometimes takes Doyle and Hellyer longer to get to games than opponents arriving by jet.

Shawn Williams has one of the longer commutes for Buffalo's home games. He's a high school phys-ed teacher in Oshawa, Ontario, east of Toronto on the north shore of Lake Ontario and it takes well over two hours to drive to first Niagara Center. He's got teammates he can pick up along the way.

Rochester also draws most of its players from southern Ontario and they usually have driving times of three hours or less although waits at border crossings can sometimes prolong trips.

All teams try to lessen player travel costs by subsidizing housing costs in their cities for players who choose to relocate from their home towns. For instance, John Grant Jr. is from Peterborough but has relocated his family to Denver rather than commute.

FIGHTING FIRES

McCready isn't the only firefighter with the Knighthawks. Brothers Dan and Paul Dawson are both with the department in Brampton, Ontario.

LOOKING BACK: JAN. 31, 2003

The Colorado Mammoth defeated the New York Saints 19-13 in front of a capacity crowd of 18,207. It was the first of two sellouts for the Mammoth during their first NLL season.


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