March 19, 2014

NLL Notebook: Tavares Close to Unprecedented 800th

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

Buffalo's John Tavares is just shy of an unprecedented 800th career goal.

John Tavares is about to score his 800th pro indoor goal and it can't happen soon enough to please the Buffalo Bandits' ageless wonder.

He scored his 796th and 797th goals during a 12-9 home win over the Colorado Mammoth last Saturday night.

''Milestones are hard for me,'' he says. ''When I get close to one, it usually takes me a while to reach it.

''I don't know what it is about milestones, maybe just the added pressure of scoring. Sometimes you overthink or try a little bit too hard. So, I really don't care for them but, obviously, it's a huge achievement to score 800 in the league. It's a tribute to my career and a lot of the guys I played with over the years.''

The Bandits play their next three games on the road so Tavares will likely hit 800 in Edmonton on Friday night, in Minnesota on Sunday afternoon or at Vancouver the following Saturday.

Who were the goalies the NLL's all-time leading scorer has had the most trouble beating over the years? He mentions Dallas Eliuk, Pat O'Toole, Steve Dietrich, Bob Watson and a few others, and he emphasizes one stopper in particular _ Dwight Maechte, who won a pro indoor title in 1990 with the Philadelphia Wings.

''I played with him on the (WLA) Vancouver Burrards at one time,'' said Tavares. ''There was just something about him. I thought he was a really good goalie. I never wanted to shoot the ball on him. He was making the save before I ever shot the ball.''

He doesn't want the goalies he faces now getting into his head so he doesn't mention any of them.

JAMIESON SCORES FOUR IN A ROW

It is not uncommon for a forward to score three consecutive goals but four in a row is a rare feat, and Cody Jamieson did it in Toronto. It took him only four minutes 42 seconds early in the second half Saturday.

Toronto was up 9-5 at halftime.

''Our coaches came in and told us just to stick to the game plan,'' said Jamieson. ''We had confidence in each other that if we just stuck to the game plan and did what we were supposed to do that we could claw our way back into the game. It happened faster than we thought but we went on a run.''

Jamieson scored 49 seconds in. Johnny Powless intercepted a pass in Toronto's end, quickly turned and fed Jamieson for another goal at 3:13. Jamieson beat Nick Rose on long shots at 5:04 and 5:31 to tie it 9-9.

''I thrive on being at my best when the game is on the line,'' he said afterwards. ''I'd had a bad first half, didn't shoot well. I refocused myself and I wanted to come out and get the team going and get myself going. I took that first shot and it went in. The second one we got lucky. Johnny picked off a pass and I was standing in front of the net all by myself. The whole team got rolling after that.''

Jamieson proceeded to set up Stephen Keogh for the go-ahead goal and then goals by Joey Walters and Powless made it eight in a row for the 'Hawks, who pulled away to win 17-12.

''Lacrosse is a game of runs and we found ours,'' said Jamieson. ''We just kept going as far as we could with it.''

On top of his four goals, Jamieson picked up seven assists.

There was a time not long ago when Rochester couldn't buy a win in Toronto.

''I think I went 0-for-7 or 0-for-8 against Toronto at the start of my career,'' said Jamieson. ''Recently, we've found some success here. Most of our guys are from the Toronto area so it's nice playing in front of families.''

GOODLEAF GETS A WIN

Angus Goodleaf does not often get to play. He is Rochester's backup goalie and Matt Vinc is so good that Vinc gets most of the floor time. But when Vinc had an uncharacteristically off night in Toronto, with the Rock scoring eight times on their first 18 shots, coach Mike Hasen had no hesitation in asking Goodleaf to take over.

The 27-year-old backup was outstanding. He went in 4:35 into the second quarter with his team down 8-4. Toronto went up 9-4 eight minutes later but the Knighthawks scored the next eight. Goodleaf did not allow the next Rock goal until the last minute of the third quarter. He wound up stopping 27 of the 31 shots he faced.

It was one of the most impressive come-from-behind wins by any team this season, and Goodleaf was happy to have been a big part of it. He got credit for the win. His only previous NLL win was in his 2010 rookie season when he played for Buffalo.

''I waited a long time for that one,'' he said of win No. 2. ''Getting that second W really felt great. The defense really stepped up when I went in. That made my job a lot easier. I had a lot of fun.''

He works diligently in practises to stay as sharp as he can.

''As long as we're winning and Vino is playing well, I'm happy,'' said the six-foot-one, 299-pound member of the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation. ''As long as the wins keep piling up, I'm happy.''

His first win was in Buffalo against Philadelphia.

''Now I've finally got my second W. I'll remember this one for sure.''

To win after being so far behind, well, that made things special for all the players.

''That was awesome,'' said Goodleaf.

He capped his performance by stopping Stephan Leblanc on a penalty shot with 78 seconds remaining. Leblanc, who shoots from his left side, trotted to the front of the crease and tried to bury the ball over Goodleaf's right shoulder. Goodleaf raised his shoulder and made the save.

''I got lucky on that one,'' he said. ''I jumped pretty early and I think if he came back short side he would have had me.''

No such luck for Leblanc.

Goodleaf was back on the end of the bench when Rochester played in Philadelphia on Sunday and coach Mike Hasen was content in the knowledge he had a top-flight backup goalie ready to pull on the helmet.

''Gussy is one of the best backups in this league,'' says Hasen. ''We know what he's got.''

JAMIESON MOVES UP

Jamieson followed his 11-point (4-7) game in Toronto with a six-point (1-5) effort as Rochester won 11-7, with Vinc back in the nets, in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. Jamieson's 17-point weekend moved him into second place in the league scoring race with 71 points, two ahead off Colorado's John Grant Jr. Toronto's Garrett Billings is first with 81.

CRAIG POINT'S DYNAMIC RETURN

After missing most of the season with an injury, Rochester forward Craig Point returned to score three goals in the first 17 minutes in starting the Knighthawks on their way to victory in Philadelphia. His sidearm bounce shots from 30 feet handcuff most goaltenders.

''Getting right into the flow of the offense and scoring some goals felt great,'' said Point. ''It gave me some confidence and I took the shots when I had them.''

It was as if he was never absent from the lineup.

''He was our best player at training camp,'' said Dan Dawson, who works in close quarters with Point on the offense's right side. ''It was devastating to see him work so hard and get injured and go on the shelf.

''The way he's come back, it goes to show that when you stick with it and keep working hard it pays off. Craig came back with a vengeance. There was no rust because he never put the stick down while he was out of the lineup. We couldn't be happier to have him back.''

DOYLE SAVES ROCK WEEKEND

Toronto nearly blew a game for the second time in 24 hours. Leading 8-4 in the fourth quarter in Minnesota on Sunday, they allowed the Swarm to tie it 8-8. In overtime, captain Colin Doyle took a nifty Josh Sanderson pass to beat Tyler Carlson high for the winning goal at 1:33, giving the Rock a weekend split. It was the first road win for Toronto, 5-7, in six tries this year. Nick Rose's 50 saves had a lot to do with the win, too.

ROCK WELCOME MILLER

Toronto made a significant upgrade in its goaltending when it acquired Brandon Miller from the Philadelphia Wings at the trading deadline Tuesday. When Nick Rose falters, the Rock can now call upon a 14-year veteran with plenty of games left in him.

''We now have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NLL,'' said Rock GM Terry Sanderson.

Miller's time in Philadelphia appeared to be coming to an end when he and the club could not reach a contract agreement before the season began. A deal finally got done last month after he'd missed the first part of the schedule. He wore a Wings jersey against Rochester last Sunday but he'll wear a Rock jersey in the same arena on Saturday since the schedule sends Toronto to Philadelphia.

Miller rejoins four teammates from the Canadian amateur-champion Six Nations Chiefs as Rock players Colin Doyle, Rob Marshall, Jesse Gamble and Kasey Beirnes also played for the Chiefs last summer.

Miller, Rose and Sanderson are well acquainted since they're all from Orangeville, Ontario, an hour's drive northwest of Toronto _ as are Wings goalie Evan Kirk and Buffalo goalie Anthony Cosmo.

The Wings got 27-year-old transition player Kyle Belton, Toronto's best second-round 2014 entry draft pick and a fourth-round 2014 pick. Belton was a 2012 third-rounder out of Stony Brook.

RUSH UNSTOPPABLE SO FAR

What wowed this observer about Edmonton's 10th straight win, 15-7 over the Roughnecks in Calgary last Friday, was the complete dominance by the Rush, who had a 62-34 advantage in shots on goal. Curt Malawsky stated the obvious.

''They're better than we are right now, simple as that,'' said Calgary's head coach. ''They're at a different level than we are, and it shows. They've set the bar for the whole league.''

The win made Edmonton the first team to clinch a playoff berth. The Rush have allowed 80 goals in 10 games for a league-low 8.0 GAA.

Buffalo, 8-2, is at Edmonton on Friday night. The Bandits haven't beaten the Rush since the teams first met in 2008 but they are red hot and are capable of becoming the first team to beat Edmonton this year. It has all the makings of a must-see game for lacrosse fans.

SWARM STILL WINLESS AT HOME

The Swarm fell to 2-9 with their OT loss to Toronto on Sunday. Toronto is 2-0 against the Swarm so has won the season series. To overtake Toronto for the third and final playoff berth in the East, Minnesota would have to win at least four of its remaining seven games and have Toronto lose all of its remaining six. Fat chance.

''This game and all of our games it seems like we dig ourselves in a heck of a hole to get out of and we manage to get out of it and then it's always kind of all for nothing,'' coach Joe Sullivan said after the OT setback.

Here's what Sullivan and his players are up against in the next three weeks: they are at home against Buffalo this Sunday afternoon, they go to Calgary for a March 29 game, and they play and a home-and-home set with Rochester the April 4-5 weekend. The way the offense is sputtering, they'll be lucky to come out of those four with a single win.

Minnesota has lost all four of its home games, which is the opposite of what owner John Arlotta needed after making a pre-season pitch for fan support to keep the franchise afloat.

WINGS GROUNDED AGAIN

Philadelphia-Rochester games have become a mismatch. In the last 13 meetings, the Knighthawks have won 12. The latest was a 11-7 decision in Philadelphia on Sunday. Seven goals are not enough to win in the NLL. The Wings went down to their sixth consecutive defeat. They haven't won a game since Feb. 7.

''We had the shots but offensively our goals weren't falling,'' coach Blane Harrison said of the loss to the 'Hawks. ''We need to revisit the drawing board to come up with answers.''

With only six games remaining, it might be a little late to be going back to the drawing board. But all is not lost for the 3-9 Wings. They still have a shot at overtaking the 5-7 Rock if they can beat them in Philly this Saturday night. If there ever was a must-win game, this is it for the Wings.

TIME LINE

March 26, 1994: Paul Gait of the Philadelphia Wings broke his own league record of eight goals in a game by scoring 10 against the Boston Blazers at Boston Garden. Gary Gait tied the record with 10 for Baltimore against Toronto on Jan. 9, 1999. The twins continue to share the single-game record.


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