London player has double duty

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Forget the officials.

If anybody needs eyes in the back of his head at this week's world lacrosse championships, it's London's Jason Jankowski.

Organizer of the top local entry -- Molly Bloom's -- in the men's open division of the world lacrosse festival tournament, the 32-year-old attacker is balancing his on-field playing responsibilities with his duties as a member of the International Lacrosse Federation's awards committee.

"I've been running back and forth (from North London fields and TD Waterhouse Stadium) to play and to watch as many games as I can," Jankowski said. "With the awards committee, our job is to select the top 10 players in the tournament and it's been tough because there's so much talent here."

Jankowski has picked up on some of the most impressive players in the top flight of the championships so far. He should know ability, having played for Germany at the 1998 tournament in Baltimore.

"For Canada, John Grant, Jr. is an incredible scorer, but the guy I can't believe is (defender) Brodie Merrill," Jankowski said. "He's so big and he wants that ball -- no one's going to stop him from getting it. I like that.

"The Americans, I like Mikey Powell and Scott Urick -- they have a lot of amazing players.

"But it's not just the top teams. I've seen games from Finland and Scotland and in these lower divisions, you have guys facing 45 shots a game and making 33 saves."

Jankowski's Molly Bloom's squad could have used one of those all-world ball-stoppers yesterday in picking up their first loss in three games, a 6-4 defeat to Champions Lacrosse, a travel team from Michigan. Molly's terrific starter, Jesse Cracknell, got beaned, forcing him to sit out the second half.

Cracknell was replaced by New England's Andrew Szurley, who had stopped by just to watch.

"On another day, we probably beat that team," Jankowski said. "Our defence has been great. We just have to get everyone else going. We came in as one of the favourites and are expected to win our division. If we don't, we're not out of it and we still have a chance to win the whole thing (on Friday)."

Jankowski has assembled a dedicated collection of friends, Western players and even a couple of London junior B box lacrosse Blue Devils, where he's an assistant coach. Andrew Earnshaw took a lunch break from his job so he could play yesterday.

"Molly's does a great job of supporting us and lacrosse here and this team is put together from guys I know because I've basically played everywhere," Jankowski said.

"Baltimore (in 1998) was crazy. There were 60,000 people walking around and you couldn't find a seat. This will be a real eye-opener for London with field lacrosse and I hope a lot of people come out for the (final) weekend."

Jankowski's Blue Devils players have been sticking around as much as they can, taking in the atmosphere and learning the field game.

There is talk of the Blue Devils, who have struggled to win at the junior B level, moving up to junior A to keep some of the top talent in the city. Jankowski feels it would be a good move -- one year from now.

"I think we should play one more year of Junior B -- we have some great midget players coming up -- and then make that leap," he said. "The way we played at the end of this year, we competed with the best teams in the league. You want to go into a higher level as the champions of the lower level. So I think we should have a great year next year and go from there."


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