“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk – All Lacrosse All The Time, a Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network
2021-2022 Record: 6-12; 7th place East Division; missed playoffs
F Reilly O’Connor, F Dylan Molloy, T Kevin Brownell, T Jordi Jones-Smith
F Kieran McArdle, F Ty Thompson, T Ryan Fournier, D Cody Radzewicz
Last year, the New York Riptide issued a warning to the rest of the league. It was a bold move, considering that two-thirds of their active roster was overhauled in the offseason. It also appeared to backfire as the team started out 1-7 on their way to a 6-12 finish.
Back in the day, you probably nodded off in physics class during the discussion of wave theory. Yet you know a big wave always starts out as a small ripple. With that knowledge in mind, perhaps the “Warning Issued” last year wasn’t meant to apply to last year. The coaching staff and front office in Long Island instead hope small offseason changes foreshadow a big turnaround in 2023.
Few changes were made to a Riptide offense that scored the second-most goals in the NLL last year. New York also ranked fifth (out of 14) on the power play in 2021-22. Future Hall-of-Famer Callum Crawford, one of only 11 players in NLL history to score 1,000 or more career points, returns to the right side. Joining him are Tyler Digby, Connor Kearnan, a lighter and stronger Jake Fox, and free agent Dylan Molloy. 2020 draft pick Ty Thompson was selected by the Las Vegas Desert Dogs in the Expansion Draft.
The left side saw one of the bigger trades of the offseason. Lefty sniper (and Long Island native) Kieran McArdle was sent to Albany in exchange for Reilly O’Connor. The deal also saw the Riptide and FireWolves swap their first-round picks in the 2022 Entry Draft. O’Connor’s extremely high lacrosse IQ, plus his familiarity with Crawford and Digby (having previously played with them in New England), makes him the perfect fit to quarterback the offensive unit. The rest of the left side includes 2022 Rookie of the Year Jeff Teat, a fully healthy Dan Lomas (who led the team in scoring in 2019-2020), rising star Larson Sundown, and Brine Rice, who has narrowly missed making rosters in Georgia and New England the past several years.
“Uneven” would best describe the Riptide’s performance on the defensive end last year. On the plus side, their #4 ranking in Penalty Minutes and #5 ranking in Loose Balls showed both discipline and grit. Goaltender Steven Orleman also showed promise, setting a new rookie record for saves in a season. However, New York also surrendered the most goals in the league, ranked next-to-last on the penalty kill (49.3%), and were 12th in Caused Turnovers.
Clearly there is room for improvement on the back end, and that’s what the coaching staff and front office targeted in the offseason. Kevin Brownell (signed from Buffalo) and Jordi Jones-Smith (trade with Saskatchewan) will boost the transition play, alongside Scott Dominey, Damon Edwards, and Brent Noseworthy. Returning veterans include captain Dan MacRae, Leo Stouros, Daryl Robertson, and Jay Thorimbert, the NLL’s all-time leader in faceoff wins. Andrew Borgatti, Ron John, and Matt Marinier will each be looking to build on impressive rookie campaigns. 2022 second-round pick Mason Kamminga will also make an immediate impact on the back end.
The new additions, coupled with another year of increasing chemistry, should make the defense much less porous than it was last year. As the Riptide rise through the defensive statistical ranks, so will follow a similar rise in the East Conference standings. I’d say that’s a warning worth heeding.
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“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.