Go-to guy dangerous

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Just like the fictional movie character XXX, DDD loves to be the star of the show.

'Dangerous' Dan Dawson -- aptly dubbed by an arena announcer during his rookie campaign -- has become the offensive leader and go-to-guy on an up-and-coming Arizona Sting club.

Dawson will take centre stage in the biggest game of his professional career when the Sting visit the 'Dome Saturday (8 p.m., Ch. 30) to take on the Calgary Roughnecks in the National Lacrosse League West Division final.

The 24-year-old Oakville, Ont., native wouldn't have it any other way.

"I thrive on it," said Dawson. "I've always wanted to be a big-time player in this league. When I have the whole team relying on me, I love that pressure."

Case in point: Last Friday's West semifinal win against the Colorado Mammoth. After being quiet most of the night, Dawson scored back-to-back goals late in the fourth quarter to break a 13-13 tie en route to a 16-13 win.

"Guys were looking down the bench at me," said Dawson. "It was time to step up."

Big No. 6 finished second in NLL goals this season with 48, only one behind Rochester's John Grant Jr. and three ahead of Roughnecks captain Tracey Kelusky.

Dawson chipped in 36 helpers for a career-best 84 points, good for seventh in league scoring.

However, the 6-ft. 5-in., 218-lb. righty insists while his numbers this year were great, the real prize was leading Arizona to its first playoff appearance.

"I knew I was going to put up some numbers," said Dawson.

"But my main goal was to be a big part of getting us into the playoffs. That's what great players do. Points are always nice but getting into the playoffs is the big thing for me."

In his three previous seasons in the NLL, Dawson had amassed 57 goals and 132 points in 43 games. Last year, he bulged the twine 26 times. Not too shabby but hardly upper echelon.

Arizona coach Bob Hamley said Dawson's hard work off the floor was likely the biggest contributor to his jump in goals this year.

"I commend him for the way he works off the floor," said Hamley. "He's worked very hard the last year to become the player he's become. I think he's in the best shape he's ever been and that's been the biggest key for him."

Dawson, one of the best one-on-one players in the league, agreed his off-floor regimen has been pivotal to his success.

"I've been working out with the same guy for the last two years, he's a strength and conditioning coach who works with a lot of NHL players," said Dawson. "I've noticed a big difference. My first step is so much quicker, it's my best asset right now. I'm always going to be tall and lanky but I'm the quickest I've ever been.

"And my core stability is great. Two guys hanging off me going to the net is no big deal."

In a two-game series against the Anaheim Storm to finish out the regular season, Dawson was held to only three goals in two games, partly because of 6-ft. 8-in. defender Richard Morgan.

Calgary assistant coach Jeff Dowling said his club plans to take a page from the Storm's playbook in an effort to contain Dawson.

"Whenever possible, we're going to match size up on him," said Dowling, citing Taylor Wray (6-ft. 2-in.), Craig Gelsvik (6-ft. 3-in.) and Rob Williams (6-ft. 2-in.) as the top candidates. "Anaheim did a good job against him. So, I think if you match size up on him he's still really dangerous but not as dangerous."

Of course, Dawson has a different script in mind.

"We've been the underdogs for most of the year, nobody really believed in us," said Dawson. "That's fine. We have 23 guys in this organization that believe in us. That's all we need."


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