by Quint Kessenich……
You all know the big names: Gary and Paul Gait, John Tavares, Tom Carmean, and Dallas Eliuk. All are legendary, but who will inherit their legacy? Last year, a few young guns showed their “caliber” as potential superstars. Here are some newcomers who soon may be taking aim at the top.
Long hair is no measure of the Tom Ryan’s dreadlocks man. draw whistles, boos and threats from opposition fans, but don’t faze or affect his performance one bit. Says Boston coach Ron Fraser: “Tom tried out four years ago and was cut. He was a skinny kid with dreadlocks and at the time he didn’t have sufficient skills. We told him to get some box experience in Canada, thinking we’d never see him again.” “A year later, he walked into tryouts a little bigger and good enough to make the team. He played in only four games that year, (1995) but showed improvement (2g, 1a). Last year we lost Ted Dowling to Buffalo and needed someone to become our left- handed finisher. Tom was the guy. He had a tough start, but finished up the season very strong (17g, 15a),” said Fraser.
Praising Ryan’s work ethic, Fraser says: “Tom has progressed each year. He could have hung it up a long time ago, but with hard work and dedication he has become one of the better lefty scorers in the MILL.”
According to Rochester coach Barry Powless, surprise and speed are Cam Bomberry’s specialities. You never know where he’s coming from, or how hard he will shoot.
The powerplay is Cam’s forte’. If the opposing defense sags inside, his 100-mile-an-hour stealth rocket is likely to scorch the twine. Blazer goalie Marty O’Neill has been singed by “the Stealth”, and lived to tell the tale. “It’s like David Copperfield, now you see it, now you don’t. You just hope he misses the net or hits you where the padding is strong.”
If the defense steps out to silence his cannon, Cam switches gears and unleashes his look-away seam-pass, which splits the defense and finds a teammate alone in front of the goal. Baltimore goalie J.J. Pearl knows what happens when Bomberry sets his sites on you. “If you inch out to cut down the angle, he’ll jam the ball down low and you’re way out of position. Either way you play it, you’re a dead man.”
Baltimore’s Dan Radebaugh knows that goal scorers attract all of the hype, but defense wins championships. “For the Thunder to improve this year, we’ve got to play some serious defense,” says the 200-pound defender. Teammate Brian Kroneberger defines Radebaughs role, “Radar’s size and strength are downright intimidating. He’s as important to this team as any offensive weapon we have.” First year coach John Tucker is throwing Radebaugh to the wolves this season. “Dan’s our stopper, he’ll be matched up with the top guns each week.” Rochester’s Paul Gait has absorbed Radar’s wrath. “Dan is a great kid off the floor, but on it he’s nasty. If you’re tired late in the game and he’s covering you, you’re not a happy camper. He enjoys banging on you, and finds the spots that hurt, the hips, arms and neck.”
Pound for pound, Buffalo’s Tom Phair could be the toughest competitor in the league. Bandits coach Les Bartley is glad of that. “Tommy delivers the big hit when you least expect it. He keeps people honest and he won’t back down from anyone, regardless of their size.” Phair’s 22 penalties in 1996 are potent evidence of his combativeness, but his impact is more varied than just his punch, says Bartley. “His work ethic in practice is terrific. He’s the type of guy who’s always encouraging people to achieve peak performance. He’s our smartest defensive player. He’s the glue that holds our specialty defensive unit together.”
Ryan Wade has handled high expectations throughout his lacrosse career. This season will be no different. Baltimore Thunder coach John Tucker anticipates a banner performance from Wade. “Ryan is going to have a big year for us, he’s one of the most well rounded, two-end players in the MILL. He’s tenacious for his size and enthusiastic. He wants to win and is used to winning.” Teammate Bobby Martino has seen seven years of quality players and compares Ryan favorably to the best in the game. ‘Ryan has the innate natural skills. He’s unselfish and a leader. We expect him to score two goals a game.” Ryan, a former member of the Charlotte Cobras last season, got a taste of what life in the MILL is. As an All-American at North Carolina and a member of the 1994 USA Team, Wade is accustomed to meeting the challenges others toss his way. He should do so again.
Philadelphia drafted Peter Jacobs out of Johns Hopkins thinking he’d be a role player, a guy who could control face- offs and play defense. Instead, what the Wings got is a faceoff machine (63%); a defensive goliath; and a goal-a-game producer. Jacobs is as amazed by his performance as the Wings are. “To be honest with you, I was surprised with my offensive production last year (8g, 10a in 8 games). I shot the ball better (in indoor) than I did in college on the big goal.” Some critics wondered if Jacobs elongated frame (6’s 2201bs) would be suited to the quick draws of the MILL. “Jakes has taken the faceoff textbook and burned it. He’s not the conventional faceoff man,” says teammate Steve Govett, “But he gets the job done.” Jacobs’ defensive abilities have been apparent from day one. Superstar Gary Gait says, “He’s so big and lanky, you’d think his foot- work would be clumsy. But it isn’t. You’ve got to go around him, plus he’s rugged. His crosschecks are powerful and usually high, which can be tough to deal with.”
What’s the antidote to aging? For Philadelphia, it’s Matt Ogelsby. After a year in Charlotte, ESPN’s Leif Elsmo thinks Ogelsby will adapt well to his new surroundings in Philadelphia. “Matt learned the indoor game the hard way in Charlotte. With specific assignments, a proven team system, and less pressure to score, his overall game should blossom.” Wings coach Tony Resch is delighted to add Ogelsby to the roster. “Matt will compliment our top scorers (Gary Gait, Tom Marechek, Kevin Finneran). He’s a super ground ball guy with the speed and the tools to be a goal scorer in this league.” Teammate Brian Voelker is hoping the addition of Ogelsby will return the Cup to Philadelphia. “He’s a super athlete, and he’s confident. Last year we lacked speed and Matt gives us the ability to get up and down the floor. He does the little things well. He’s a legitimate two-end player.” Look for Ogelsby to add a youthful dash to an aging but championship caliber team.
What time is it? TOOL TIME! Last season, Buffalo goalie Pat O’Toole (78%) proved he could play in the MILL. Now he’s out to show the world that he’s the premiere goalie in the game, “I have two goals: to win another championship and to be a First Team All-Pro.” For the past four seasons, Philadelphia’s Dallas Eliuk has set the standard for goalies. O’Toole observes, “Style-wise we’re very different. He moves so well, I’m bigger and more of a stay-at-home type of goalie. ” O’Toole is making a name for himself outside the crease as well, with 16 assists last year. “l like to think that our offense starts with a save, then an aggressive and accurate outlet pass gets our transition game going.’ O’ Toole, who played in 1995 as a back-up to Sal LoCascio in New York, was an unknown quantity in 1996. This season, the shooters’ cross-hairs are planted squarely on his forehead, Philadelphia’s Tom Marechek says: “We know his game now. Hopefully we’ll learn from last year, work harder to generate quality shots, and find a way to beat him.”