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Friday, January 8, 2010

Boston Blazers - Good Luck in 2010

Here's to a National Lacrosse league Championship for the upstart Boston Blazers in just their second year.  That's the goal for the season that starts tomorrow, Saturday, January 9, 2010 at the Boston Garden.

The pre-game festivities will start the season at Johnnie's (138 Portland Street, Boston) at about 5pm, before the evening game.  (The Bruins play at 1pm vs the NY Rangers, so it'll be a busy day and night at Johnnie's).  The Blazers front office, coaches, team, players, and fans will be out in full force while the Toronto Rock and their fans will be welcome at the pre and post-game party, as well.

Here's the Boston Globe's season preview, published today: (Photo by T. Peter Lyons)

Blazers return with more fire
Team shoots at goal: NLL title

By Sarina Mathai, Globe Correspondent  |  January 8, 2010

In the Boston Blazers’ first year in the National Lacrosse League, they went 10-6 (after losing their first two games), tied for first place in the East Division, made the playoffs, and their captain, Dan Dawson, was the league’s MVP.

Not bad for an inaugural season.

Now the Blazers are looking for no less than championship gold in their second season after being knocked out of the playoffs by Buffalo. The Bandits, who were the reigning NLL champions at the time, defeated the Blazers, 11-8, in the 2009 East semifinals.

“I think we did exceed expectations by making the playoffs, and we finished the season happy,’’ said coach Tom Ryan. “This year, we won’t be happy with just making the playoffs.’’

They start the season with a home-and-home series against the Toronto Rock that begins tomorrow night at TD Garden. The Rock finished last in the East Division last year (6-10), but they introduced 12 new players to the roster in the offseason.

The Blazers’ roster has not changed much, with 18 returning players, including Dawson. The 6-foot-5-inch forward scored 104 points in 2009 (30 goals, 74 assists), setting a record for assists.

Ironically, his coach wouldn’t mind seeing his assists go down in favor of more goals.

“A lot of our success [last season] can be contributed to Dan’s roles on and off the floor, but we want him to be a little more selfish this year and create his own scoring opportunities,’’ said Ryan.

A player who won’t be returning is Jason Bloom, who was traded over the summer to the Washington Stealth for defenseman Mike Kirk, who played on two championship teams in Canada’s Major Series Lacrosse. Kirk will inject veteran leadership into a young defense.

“The experience from winning a championship is not something you can teach,’’ said Dawson. “He’s definitely going to show the young guys on defense some of the stuff he has learned.’’

The move will take some weight off the shoulders of All-Star goalie Anthony Cosmo. Last year, Cosmo posted a 10.14 goals-against average, third-best in the league. The 168 goals allowed by the Blazers were the fewest in the East Division.

“Much like Dan is the leader on offense, Cosmo is undeniably our defensive leader,’’ said Ryan. “His role as a leader and bringing guys together, setting them straight and talking them through certain scenarios, is important and reflected in his GAA last year.’’

Other key players returning on defense are Bourne-bred Mitch Belisle, Jack Reid, Jon Durno, Kyle Ross, Jon Harnett, and Paul Dawson (Dan’s younger brother). All played a full season together and look to continue their success.

The offense returns the rookie sensation and first overall pick in the 2008 expansion draft, Daryl Veltman, whose 34 goals led the team. Sean Morris, a South Boston native and UMass alum, had a great preseason in 2009 only to sprain his ankle and miss the first half of the season. He was a key contributor on offense (8 goals, 16 assists) in the final six games, so the Blazers expect him to be even better in a full season of play.

“With Morris back, we’re a little bit quicker up front and our offense is going to be more spread out,’’ said Dawson.

The road ahead features their new rivals, the Bandits, as well as three games against the Orlando Titans (formerly the New York Titans), who lost in the finals to Calgary.

“You have to beat the best to be the best,’’ Ryan said. “It’s a good benchmark for where you’re at as a team. The tougher the schedule, the more it will pay off come playoff time.’’

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