He burst open his third NLL season with the best offensive night of his career. 2 goals, 3 assists and 7 shots in Vancouver’s 14-13 OT win in Calgary.
It looked like the 6-foot-4, 230-pound righty James Rahe could be developing into Vancouver’s next meaty power forward.
“Offensively we talked [Head Coach Chris Gill] at the beginning of the year about getting to the inside, being physical and being smart with the ball,” said Rahe, a Langley native.
But as the Warriors dropped their next 3 games and struggled to crack double digits in goals, Gill recognized Rahe’s speed and size and decided to try the big man with the beard out of the back gate as a defender.
“He knew I had played a bit of defense last season” he said. “We had a game where we wanted to play with six offensive guys and he thought it would be a good option to have a defensive guy that could act like a seventh offensive guy if those guys got tired or hurt.”
Nine games later and 2/3 of the way through the season, James Rahe has become a surprise weapon in transition on a team that loves to drive the tempo of a lacrosse game. His 4 goals since moving to full time defense in early January are second only to Justin Salt’s 7 goals by a Warriors defender. Rahe has also snatched a career high 53 loose balls along the way.
“We have a great group back there and our system in working well for us,” beams Rahe about a Warriors defense that has made the switch easy for him. “The biggest part of our system is communication and that feeds into my game. It’s a lot easier to play when you have four other guys out there talking to you and telling you what to do. I’m a fairly loud person and I have a big voice so it’s pretty easy to talk through things.”
And what lacrosse player doesn’t like the chance to dish out punishment to opposing players rather than taking it all time?
“It helps with the frustration, not just taking a beating for 60 minutes.”
Though offence is still what comes most natural for a guy who scored 118 goals in 78 junior games with Langley and Coquitlam, he’s finding pleasure in being Vancouver’s Swiss Army Knife.
“Based on your habits and what you grow up doing, you’re always going to want to be an O guy, but it’s not that I want to be an O guy and I miss it that much, I really like playing D especially with this team,” said Rahe.
An engineering major at Robert Morris University where he played mid-field, Rahe also brings brains to the lacrosse floor. Playing both ends of the floor requires twice the game film to study. It also requires discipline and restraint to decide when to force a play or when to play it safe. The ability to read a play and make smart decisions sets a good player apart from a great player.
“I have to manage my shifts well. You can’t be running up and down the floor constantly and putting us in a bad position,” said Rahe. “I’d like to get to the point where I’m staying up a couple more times and maybe I’m coming out of the O gate and transitioning back on D, but I really enjoy it and can’t really say what I’d prefer more because it’s different.”
Rahe and the Warriors kick off a crucial back-to-back home-and-home series tonight at Rogers Arena against the Colorado Mammoth. With identical 4-8 records, the season series will be determined this weekend, giving one team a tie-breaker and leg up into the NLL post season with just four games remaining for both teams. Vancouver won their first meeting 11-10 in OT in January.
“Last time we did a good job in getting inside on [Mammoth Goalie] Dillon Ward,” said Rahe. “That’s something you have to do because he’s a really good goalie. When he’s on one of his streaks you have to get him moving and get inside and change things up. Once he gets comfortable he gets dangerous.”
Colorado rolls into Vancouver with 30 goal man Eli McLaughlin and a rookie on a scoring tear in Kyle Killen.
“We need to stick to us and our game plan. Every time we sit and talk through film about what we need to do against certain guys specifically, we get to the end of it and it’s just ‘we need to do what we’ve been doing and it’s going to eliminate their chances,’” said Rahe.
“It will be interesting playing the same team back-to-back, and it will come down to who wants it more. Offensively and defensively there will be over 100 opportunities based on possessions to make an impact this weekend.”