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Sports Interaction Game of the Week Preview – PC at VAN

NLL rookie Patrick Dodds is about to have the shortest trip of his young professional lacrosse career, and it’s to a road game.

Usually Panther City Lacrosse Club’s leading scorer has to travel from the Canadian Pacific Northwest to Dallas for home games at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth. The 2,215-mile trip (that’s 3,564 kilometres eh) to Texas takes more than nine hours, and that’s if everything goes smoothly.

“Travel is a pretty big adjustment,” says Dodds from Victoria BC, also hometown of NLL legends Kevin Alexander, Gary and Paul Gait, Tom Marechek and numerous other pro players from current Calgary star Jesse King to Toronto forward Zach Manns. “Just getting to the game is a little different. It has taken a little getting used to for sure.”

This weekend, however, Dodds will only have to travel from Victoria to Vancouver, a seemingly short 1.5-hour ferryboat ride or quick 30-minute seaplane flight, for expansion Panther City’s meeting with the favored Vancouver Warriors (-1.5, O/U 21.5) at Rogers Arena on Saturday night in the Sports Interaction Game of the Week on TSN (10 p.m. ET).

And Dodds, who bested the BC junior league with 53 points and a league-high 31 assists in just 10 games during a pandemic-shortened 2021 season, is surely looking forward to finally playing a “home” road game in front of family, friends and former Junior Shamrocks teammates.

“It is pretty surreal,” says the 6-foot-3, 212-pound, 20-year-old who is second among NLL rookies with 24 points (8 goals, 16 assists in 6 games) and which also puts him in the league’s top 25 tied with veteran scorers such as Philadelphia’s Ben McIntosh and Rochester’s Shawn Evans.

Dodds’ journey to the NLL took a bit of a circuitous route that included committing to NCAA Manhattan in 2019, renouncing his eligibility and then being drafted by one team before finally hitting the floor with another.

“Just getting drafted was pretty awesome,” says Dodds, who was selected 21st overall by Calgary in 2020 and picked up by Panther City in the 2021 expansion draft. “Obviously took a while to play my first game, but I feel pretty lucky to be among some pretty awesome names in the league points-wise.”

Panther City is 1-5 so far in their inaugural season. The lone win, Panther City’s first-ever, came in overtime at New York on Jan. 15. Dodds exploded for 8 points (3-goal hat trick, 5 assists) and notched the OT winner in the 13-12 victory. Last week Panther City lost 16-7 at Saskatchewan and failed to cover the spread of 2.5 goals. Dodds had 1 goal and 3 assists.

Saturday is the second meeting between Panther City and Vancouver. The teams met earlier this season in Fort Worth. The Warriors led 7-1 in the second quarter and 10-3 in the third en route to a 14-8 win.

Dodds will be lining up on the floor this weekend across from a familiar foe and another of the NLL’s top rookies, Vancouver’s Reid Bowering.

Bowering had a big game in that Dec. 10 win at Panther City, netting 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist) to go along with 15 loose balls. Dodds recorded 1 goal in the loss. The two had previously crossed paths in junior lacrosse.

“He was always a stud,” Dodds says of the 23-year-old Warriors defenceman. “He is a couple years older than me. I only played him a few times and in the Minto Cup before he graduated. He is an awesome player and great defenceman.”

Bowering recalls that meeting in the 2019 Minto Cup Canadian junior championship.

“I remember that game fairly well because it was the last game of my junior career,” says the 6-foot, 190-pound Bowering. “I remember [Dodds] being a shooting threat. Our defence always had to be aware of his position whenever he stepped on the floor. It’s always great to see a guy have success at the next level.”

Vancouver is 2-3 this season and coming off three straight losses, including last week’s low-scoring 9-4 setback at Colorado. At home this season, the Warriors are 1-1 against the spread and have split the over/under totals in each game. Their most recent win was that one against Panther City in December.

Unlike Dodds, Bowering’s route to the NLL was more straight forward (drafted 2nd overall by Vancouver in 2020 from NCAA Drexel) and his commute to home games is a bit easier (he’s from nearby suburban Coquitlam where he won Minto Cups in 2016 and ’18 with the Junior Adanacs).

“It’s been an amazing experience,” says Bowering. “Being able to play against unreal players and learn from veterans on my own team has been crucial for my growth as a lacrosse player. I always want to compete against the best so it’s exciting to finally have the opportunity to do that.”

The Warriors defender leads all NLL rookies with 59 loose balls and is tops in the league among non-faceoff players (Philadelphia’s Trevor Baptiste leads with 89 LB).

“I think I developed a knack for picking up LBs from playing wall ball against uneven surfaces so that I am familiar with how the ball bounces on the floor,” says Bowering, who has also been chipping in offensively this season with 4 goals, including a short-handed tally, and 7 points.

“To be blunt, a team can’t score without the ball and if you look at most stat sheets the team that got more LBs tends to win the game.”

For both Bowering and Dodds there have been adjustments as NLL rookies.

“Transitioning to one practice a week has made me really prioritize doing extra work on my own time,” says Bowering. “In college we would practice 5-6 times a week and in junior we would practice at least twice.

“The players in the NLL have top-notch lacrosse IQ. These guys have so much more experience. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in the mental aspect of the game.”

For Dodds it also has to do with pro-level preparation: “It is an all-week affair leading up to the weekend. You can’t just walk in and expect to have a good game or expect to win.

“Obviously it is pretty hard to win in this league. Everyone can play. There is no one guy on any team that can’t play or can’t put the ball in the back of the net. Everyone is just bigger, stronger and faster.”

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