For Kip Turner, Saturday’s semifinal playoff game against the Cannons is a chance at redemption.
Drafted second overall by Boston in 2007, Turner guarded the net for a little more than five seasons. Despite putting up solid numbers and winning the 2010 Goalkeeper of the Year Award, he saw limited success in the playoffs.
Three games into last season, Turner was leapfrogged on the depth chart by a younger netminder, Jordan Burke.
Turner played the part of a good soldier and watched as his onetime understudy performed at his best when it mattered most. The Cannons claimed the 2011 Major League Lacrosse championship as Burke earned Most Valuable Player honors. Turner, on the other hand, earned a spot on the Cannons’ unprotected list as the league prepared for an expansion draft.
This season, Burke’s first as full-time starter, Boston is 9-5.
“A lot of guys, they probably wouldn’t have acted in a way or showed the kind of character that Kip did for us last year,” said Cannons coach Steve Duffy. “It was a tough situation and [Turner] was the consummate teammate throughout the whole thing. Even as the regular season continued and the writing was on the wall, Kip was outstanding in understanding what his new role on the team was going to be.”
Turner is back to being a starter with Chesapeake, who selected him 13th overall in the expansion draft and is 10-4 this season.
“I’m just excited to get back out there on the field and have an opportunity,” said Turner, whose 10.51 goals-against average led the league. “Coach [Dave] Cottle gave me that chance and I kind of took it and have done my best to lead the defense here in Chesapeake.”
Despite a bittersweet end in Boston, Turner continues to have strong ties with many of the current Cannons, including Burke. Burke also attended Brown University, where Turner now coaches during the MLL offseason.
“I think it’s funny that we ended up playing Boston,” said Turner, who split two games with Boston this season. “On a personal level, I will have gotten to play my old team three times this year. I’ve always felt like Boston’s a very solid team and I expected that if we wanted to win a championship that we would have to go through them.”
Rest assured Boston won’t be going easy on its former backstop when the teams play Saturday at 4 p.m. at Harvard Stadium. The 1 p.m. semifinal pits Long Island (8-6) against Denver (11-3).
The Cannons swept the individual scoring titles this season, with Paul Rabil setting a league record for points (72), Matt Poskay leading the league in goals (38), and Ryan Boyle nabbing the assists crown (39).
“Kip will just be fired up to play in Boston again and be in front of these fans,” said Burke. “I think that’ll be an emotional boost for him. I think that he’s going to have a strong game, but we’re looking to get a few behind him.”
The Bayhawks counter with one of the most balanced teams in the league, led by Kyle Dixon (21 goals, 12 assists) and his deadly two-point shooting.
“I don’t know if there is an advantage anywhere between these two teams,” said Turner, who downplayed the idea that his knowledge of Boston’s shooting tendencies would provide any advantage. “I think it’s honestly evenly matched. It’s two heavyweight-type teams with a lot of talent top to bottom battling it out.”
So, would it feel good to Turner to show his old team that he’s got what it takes to perform on the biggest stage?
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “It’d be a feel-good story for me, absolutely. But I’m not going to think about it until it’s done.”