Roughnecks glad to have Manning back
School will not conflict with forward’s NLL semifinal return
Working a shift a week ago at the B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, on call in the emergency pediatric room, figured to be stressful enough.
“I was following the score on my phone,” says Curtis Manning, “keeping track of it as best I could.
“It’s not a lot of fun to track a game that way. You’re sitting there, wondering what’s going on between updates, not even able to watch on TV. So every time you check back and see the score has changed, it’s kind of like ‘Holy crap ...’
“It’s one thing if you’re injured, just simply unable to go. Then it’s a little easier to tolerate. But when you’re healthy, ready to go, and you can’t, it makes it a little bit harder.
“It’s tough not being able to contribute.”
The Calgary Roughnecks’ fourth-year transition ace doubling as a third-year medical student has the future on his mind as he works his way toward a degree. The immediate present, though, involves his ‘Necks and the visiting Washington Stealth (4:30 p.m., Scotiabank Saddledome) for a shot at the National Lacrosse League’s Champions Cup.
Due to the unavoidable scheduling conflict, Manning missed last weekend’s 15-10 Western Conference semifinal slapdown of the Colorado Mammoth.
But today, schedule cleared, the doc’s making a house call.
Paging Dr. Manning.
Paging Dr. Manning.
“Curtis is a beast, plain and simple,” says tenacious forward Dane Dobbie. “He’s been great for us all year. Just a big, physical athlete. One guy’s not going to win us a game. But he sure helps.”
“The guy’s a freak of nature,” echoes GWG ace Curtis Dickson. “That’s the only way I can put it. He’s such a bruiser on defence and in the transition game he gets the ball up the floor so quickly. He’s a great guy, as well. So it’s a huge boost for us. Huge.”
“Curtis is a big part of our D because he’s a big, strong guy who knows the game well and runs hard all game long,” lauds GM Mike Board. “He can do it on defence, he can check their best player and he can score.
“He’s one of those valuable guys who don’t come along very often.”
At least, given his medical training, not every week.
With the Rochester mauling the chart-topping Toronto Rock 20-11 right inside the Air Canada Centre last week out East, a win this afternoon would set the title game, against either the Knighthawks or Minnesota Swarm, right back at the ‘Dome next Saturday.
These are wondrous, out-of-the-blue type opportunities that should not be allowed to slip by.
“We’re not thinking about that,” promises Roughnecks’ coach Curt Malawsky. “At all. Quote, unquote. Period. (Washington) had a very intense game with Edmonton last week and we’ve seen a lot of film on them this week. We know we’re going to have to be at our best.”
Besides the return of Manning, the ‘Necks should be bolstered by a fitter Dobbie, after another week of work in physio righting his tender left knee.
“I felt good last week. I didn’t feel my knee, it was just adjusting to the new brace. I had limited minutes in the fourth because we had the lead. I’ll be back flying around (tonight). I’ve had a lot of injuries in my day, I’ve come back early for a lot of injuries, but this wasn’t one of those times.
“I’m healthy. And I’m going to be better than I was last week.’’
Maybe Manning wasn’t around to help instigate the lockdown on goal-silly John Grant Jr. last weekend, but league-leading sniper Rhys Duch (four goals, six points, 15 shots on net in the 12-11 victory over the Edmonton Rush in last week’s other Western semi) and a prolific old comrade-in-arms, Lewis Ratcliff, figure to be quite the handful Saturday.
“You’ve got to know where Curtis is when he’s on the floor,” says Malawsky. “If you don’t, if you’re not paying attention to him, he’s going to put you on the seat of your pants. He’s a big part of our transition. He hasn’t put the ball in the net a lot, but he definitely creates a lot of space out there.”
Both teams arrive armed with advantages. The Roughnecks are at home; the Stealth snared two of the three regular-season meetings. So every edge is apt to be imperative Saturday.
The reintroduction of the indefatigable Curtis Manning shapes up as just such an edge.
“That’s just the nature of this league,” says Dickson, shrugging. “Everyone understands. Playing lacrosse isn’t a full-time job for any of us. Guys have other commitments and Curtis is going through med school, which is a pretty important thing in his life.
“He’s the type of player, such a special talent, that we’ll take him whenever we can get him.
“We’re just happy he’s able to play in this one.”
Even better, should things go right Saturday, he’d be able to play in the next one, too.
Which means, after agonizing over the phone updates at B.C. Children’s last Saturday, Curtis Manning owes his buddies, big time, for getting him at least this gig tonight?
“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” he laughs. “When I saw the final score last week, it was like ‘OK, another shot to come in and do what I can for the boys.’
“It’s nice to get that second chance.”
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