Toronto Rock (0-0) at Albany Attack (0-0)
Fri, Dec 27, 7:30 PM - Pepsi Arena
The NLL season opens Friday night, as the Albany Attack host the Toronto Rock in a rematch of the 2002 Champions Cup Final. Toronto defeated Albany last April, 13-12, in a nail biter in front of 9,289. Although each team has some new faces, they both want to make a statement to start the season.
Toronto has been plagued with injuries in the offseason, with Kim Squire & Ken Millin both possibly out for the year. Star forward Dan Stroup is also holding out, requesting a trade to his hometown Vancouver Ravens. Rock Coach & GM Les Bartley acquired Kevin Finneran from the Wings, and activated Tom Montour, who played impressive in Toronto's 20-10 preseason win over the Ottawa Rebel. Toronto hopes the NLL Rookie of the Year, Blaine Manning, can contribute on offense as well. If Bob Watson & the Toronto defense can match their goals-against-average of 12.13 this season, they should be in good shape.
Albany will look to continue their success from their 14-2 season in 2002, hoping to start the season with a win. NLL Coach of the Year, Bob McMahon, comes back for his second year as an NLL Head Coach. Also returning for the Attack on offense include Josh Sanderson, who broke the single-season assist record last year with 68, Nick Trudeau, Gary Rosyski, and Albany-native Mike Regan. Albany also picked up Josh Coffman with their first round pick in the 2002 Entry Draft, who should contribute on offense. Key defenseman for the Attack include Steve Fannel, Jim Moss, and Dan Teat. More importantly for Albany, however, is the NLL Goaltender of the Year, Rob Blasdell, between the pipes.
TV: Time Warner Cable, tape delay TBA
Radio: FAN 590 AM
New York Saints (0-0) at Columbus Landsharks (0-0)
Fri, Dec 27, 7:30 PM - Nationwide Arena
Two teams with rookie head coaches hope to get their season off on the right foot Friday night, when the New York Saints travel to Ohio to take on the Columbus Landsharks. Columbus has never defeated the Saints in three tries; however, a revamped coaching staff and roster may yield a different result in this battle of two young teams.
New York looks to rebound from a 5-11 record in 2002, with new Head Coach Pat McCabe calling the shots. McCabe's offense is led by Gavin Prout, Chris Driscoll, and newly-acquired Ben Prepchuk. The trio combined for 229 points last season. New York also added Nick Carlson, with their first draft pick, who is sure to make an impact on the offense. Brian Spallina is questionable for New York on the defensive end, recovering from a leg injury. Gee Nash will start for the Saints in goal.
The Columbus Landsharks hope to have a successful season as well, with Bob Hamley coming over from Albany to coach the young team. The Landsharks are led on offense by Gewas Schindler, Kasey Beirnes, and Neal Powless. Rookie defenseman Travis Gillespie, Rodney Tapp, and Pat Maddalena are a few of the many new names on the 'Sharks roster for 2002-03. Mike Miron and Ken Montour are the two top goaltenders for Columbus.
Calgary Roughnecks (0-0) at Ottawa Rebel (0-0)
Sat, Dec 28, 3:30 PM - Ottawa Civic Centre
Two very improved teams meet on Saturday, when the Calgary Roughnecks take on the Ottawa Rebel. The division rivals both finished at the bottom of the NLL standings at 4-12 last year, however, they have playoff hopes coming into this season with many lineup changes.
Chris Hall returns as Head Coach of the Calgary Roughnecks, starting his second season behind the bench. The Calgary offense, which scored nearly 14 goals per game last season, has added Tracey Kelusky on offense in the Montreal dispersal draft. Kelusky tallied 44 goals and 50 assists last year, and should help fill the void left by Chris Panos and Ben Prepchuk. Calgary has plenty of other firepower, with Kaleb Toth, and draft pick Lewis Ratcliffe on offense as well. Calgary has also solidified their defense, adding veterans Brad MacArthur, Tyson Leies, and Rob Kirkby. Matt King returns in net for his sophomore season, with support from Curtis Palidwor.
After two seasons at the bottom of the NLL standings, the Ottawa Rebel may have finally found the winning formula. That formula starts with Terry Sanderson as Head Coach. Sanderson, along with his brother Lindsay (GM, Assistant coach of Rebel), has landed behind his third bench in that many years, after near-playoff seasons with Albany and Montreal. Ryan Painter returns to lead the offense, after an outstanding rookie season. Matt Giles and Jason Clark also join the Rebel, as well as Shane Sanderson, who is coming off of an outstanding summer. Team captain Bruce Codd could beat out Jim Veltman this year for the loose ball title, while young Andrew Leyshon may be the starting goalie over Matt Disher.
TV: SportsNet, LIVE
New Jersey Storm (0-0) at Rochester Knighthawks (0-0)
Sat, Dec 28, 7:35 PM - Blue Cross Arena
A brand new turf rug and jumbotron scoreboard will be unveiled Saturday night, when the Rochester Knighthawks meet the New Jersey Storm for the first time in league history; but the Knighthawks won't be meeting the 5-11 Storm teams looked forward to facing last year.
The Storm have added some serious firepower to their exceptional defense. The team that won four of their last six games to close the 2001-02 season acquired Roy Colsey, and Mike Benedict; two of the best offensive players in lacrosse. Jim Brady's squad also has Cam Bomberry, and Brian Bendig on the offensive end. Gordon Purdie and Paul Talmo are stars on the defense as well. With Derek General, who had an outstanding preseason, and a healthy Matt Roik in goal, New Jersey is a team to be reckoned with this year.
Rochester may have a new carpet, but if they play as well on it as the old one, New Jersey is in trouble. The Knighthawks have won their last 15 home games -- and will break the record for a home winning streak with a win on Saturday. With an offense that includes John Grant, Derek and Curt Malawsky, Shawn Williams, and Cory Bomberry, they have no problem putting points on the board. Coach Paul Day's defense is solid as well, with Casey Zaph and Mike Hasen in front of goaltender Pat O'Toole.
TV: WB-16, LIVE
Radio: WROC 950 AM, JBN Media NJ