Whether it be the highest rated team or the underdog, a winner must eventually emerge from the pack. The National Lacrosse League begins its quest to crown their world champion this Saturday evening when the 2002 NLL Champions Cup Playoffs officially gets underway.
After falling one game shy of tying Albany for the League's top spot this season, the Rochester Knighthawks look to return to championship form for the first time since 1997. Standing in their way however is the only expansion team to reach the second season this year, the Vancouver Ravens. The Ravens also found themselves falling one game shy of winning their division as well. The team looks to become the first expansion team to claim a world title since the 1992 Buffalo Bandits. All the action, which will be shown live on CNN/SI and on Sportsnet tape delay, is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night from the Blue Cross Arena. The winner of this game will travel to Albany and the Pepsi Arena next Saturday to take on the Attack at 7:30 p.m.
After splitting the season series between one and other this year, the Washington Power and Philadelphia Wings square off for a third and final time this Saturday night at 8 p.m. from the First Union Center. Although finishing as a higher seed, the Power have deferred any home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and as a result will travel to the City of Brotherly Love for this contest. The Wings, who won last year's title, hope to become the first team since the Toronto Rock squads in 1999 and 2000 to repeat as NLL champions. Standing in their way however is the explosive offense of the Washington Power, who also have their sights set on claiming the Champions Cup. Washington won the Eastern Division title this season by one game over Philadelphia. The winner of this contest will square off against the Toronto Rock at the Air Canada Centre next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Below are this week's game capsules.
Saturday March 30, 2002 # 5 Vancouver Ravens at # 4 Rochester Knighthawks, Blue Cross Arena 7:30 p.m.
TV: CNN/SI; Sportsnet (Tape Delay)
Radio: Vancouver- The Team (1040-AM); Rochester- WYSL (1040-AM)
Record: Vancouver 10-6 (2nd NLL Northern Division); Rochester (13-3, 2nd NLL Central Division)
Key Players for Vancouver: Forward Chris Gill (Tied for 1st in NLL goals with 53); Goaltender Dwight Maetche (2nd in NLL Goals Against Average with 11.77); Forward Chris Prat (1st in team assists with 49)
Head Coach: Paul Dal Monte
Key Players for Rochester: Forward John Grant (3rd in NLL scoring with 105 points); Forward Shawn Williams (Tied for 16th in NLL scoring with 75 points); Forward Derek Malawsky (3rd in team scoring with 72 points)
Head Coach: Paul Day
Notable: Rochester was tied for the Leagues best home record at 8-0...Vancouver finished tied for second in NLL Power Plays with a 57.3 percentageThe Knighthawks scored the most goals per game with a 16.1 average while the Ravens allowed the second least with an average of 11.9
Last Meeting: First meeting this season
Tickets: At the Blue Cross Arena Box Office, through Ticketmaster, or on the web at www.knighthawks.com. For more information, call the Knighthawks at (585) 454-5335.
Saturday March 30, 2002 # 3 Washington Power at # 6 Philadelphia Wings, 8 p.m., First Union Center
Record: Washington (9-7, 1st NLL Eastern Division); Philadelphia (8-8, 2nd NLL Eastern Division)
Key Players for Washington: Forward Paul Gait (1st in NLL scoring with 114 points); Forward Gary Gait (2nd in NLL scoring with 112 points); Forward Del Halladay (Tied for 16th in NLL scoring with 75 points)
Head Coach: Darris Kilgour
Key Players for Philadelphia: Forward Tom Marechek (5th in NLL scoring with 98 points); Forward Jeff Ratcliffe (1st in team goals with 47 goals); Forward Kevin Finneran (Tied for 13th in NLL scoring with 79 points)
Head Coach: Adam Mueller
Notable: Washington ranked first in NLL Power Plays with a 70.8 percentagePhiladelphia allowed the least amount of shots per game with a 66.1 averageThe Wings ranked second in NLL average attendance this season while the Power scored the second most amount of goals per game with a 15.8 average
Last Meetings: March 9 2002 Philadelphia 12 at Washington 19
March 16, 2002 Washington 11 at Philadelphia 12
Tickets: At the First Union Center Box Office, or through Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com