6/28/10 12:00 AM
Each week, the Toronto Nationals are starting to resemble their championship winning form from a season ago more and more. After a miserable 0-5 start, it was easy to forget that Toronto had won the title just last season. The Nationals suffered blowout losses and endured last second heartbreaking losses, but regardless of how they’ve happened, all those losses were starting to pile up. Just when it seemed all the losing would sink the Nationals’ ship, they have started to turn it around.
“Let’s just try to play better than we did last time out as individuals and collectively if we do, we’ll let the chips fall where they may,” said Toronto head coach Dave Huntley.
Last week Toronto defeated the Bayhawks 17-14, for its second straight win. Chesapeake had previously owned Toronto this year, winning both head-to-head matchups. In week two the Bayhawks dropped 25 points on Toronto. Their second meeting was much closer though with Toronto falling 10-9 despite a late comeback effort. Last week was different though, Toronto had recorded its first win the weekend before and was looking like a team firing on all cylinders, and they played like it. The Nationals opened the game on a 3-0 run kicked off by veteran attackman John Grant Jr. and never once trailed Chesapeake in the victory. Attackmen Garrett Billings and Kevin Huntley led the way for the Nationals with four points apiece in the win.
On defense, rookie goalie Scott Rodgers continues to be a force in the cage for Toronto as he stopped 11 of 17 shots Thursday night. Rodgers has been a revelation for Toronto, since replacing Doc Schneider in the Nationals’ goalie rotation. Rodgers and Brett Queener have teamed up to provide rock solid play in between the pipes thus far. In the second half against Chesapeake Queener made seven saves on 14 shots.
The Nationals remain in last place, but are just two games out of the playoffs, and with a bit of luck and some outside help they could still make a return trip to Championship Weekend. The Nationals will need to play near perfect lacrosse, but their season is still alive thanks to the recent winning streak.
“Well its only two games, I don’t think it’s a hot streak. We happened to win two games,” he said. “We weren’t all that bothered that we lost a bunch of games in a row because our effort for the last five games has been real good.”
Up next for Toronto is a home game against the first place Boston Cannons on Thursday July 1. The Cannons are 5-2 and have sole possession of first place in the league, so the Nationals will need to be at the top of their game if they want to keep their winning streak alive.
Boston comes into the game on a three-game winning streak of its own, with victories over Denver, Chicago and Long Island. The Cannons are a deadly team offensively, featuring some of the best sticks in the game, including the league’s leading scorer, attackman Matt Poskay. Poskay leads all of MLL with 34 points, totaling 29 goals and four assists. Poskay is on pace to smash his career high in points of 41, which he set back in 2008. Boston also features Ryan Boyle, who has been an absolute feeder for the Cannons at attack, totaling eight goals and a league leading 21 assists for a total of 29 points.
All of this is before even mentioning midfielder Paul Rabil, the defending Bud Light MLL MVP. Rabil hasn’t been the scoring machine he was last season when he totaled 53 points, but he hasn’t had to be. With his 21 points he has provided an invaluable balance to the midfield and is still one of the most dangerous players in the league when on the field.
Even with all the star power in Boston, Huntley remains firm in his stance of not defending certain players differently than others.
“I think if we worry about one or two guys on any team, there are plenty of guys that if you don’t pay them the proper amount of respect then they’re just as capable of scoring as anyone else on their team,” Huntley said.
Toronto hosts the first place Cannons Thursday July 1 at Lamport Stadium. The Nationals will be looking to ride their current hot streak and a win over league leading Boston would only help to cement their status as a team on the rise.
Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game can be seen live on ESPN3, Comcast Sports Net New England, TSN 2, Cox Sports Rhode Island, and Cox Sports New Orleans. The matchup will also be aired on a tape delay Friday July 2 at 3:30 p.m. on Brighthouse Sports and at midnight on Universal Sports.
Major League Lacrosse will also have a live blog for the game on its official Web site starting 15 minutes prior to faceoff.
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com