New Jax Matt Disher brings versatility, stays calm under pressure
He has served every goaltender role in the National Lacrosse League - first string, backup, splitting time. So, being anointed the starter for the Portland LumberJax doesn't faze Matt Disher.
'I try not to let perceived pressure became a big factor for me,' says Disher, 31, whom the Jax acquired from Edmonton last week and who will be in action this weekend in games against San Jose. 'I'm here to do a job.'
General Manager-coach Derek Keenan calls Disher's acquisition one of the most significant moves in the Jax three-year history. He expects Disher to be solid, whereas previous starter Matt King, sent to Edmonton, struggled with his consistency.
Disher has played in the NLL for nine seasons, and he had played less than Curtis Palidwor in Edmonton before the trade. Disher had an 0-3 record, 11.65 goals against average and .750 save percentage with Edmonton, after making the NLL playoffs with Minnesota the previous two seasons.
'When you get older, you become more accepting of whichever role the team wants for you,' says Disher, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with his wife and daughter and works as an insurance underwriter. 'You're able to slip into that role easily. As long as the team does well, it's hard to complain; we hadn't found our groove in Edmonton.'
Disher welcomed the move to Portland. He has played summer lacrosse with the Morgan brothers - Richard, Peter, David - and Disher also knows Jax players Spencer Martin and Mike Kilby. In lacrosse circles, he has met most of the other Jax.
Disher knows backup Dallas Eliuk, although not well. Eliuk is a great reactionary goalie. Disher is a mobile goalie, as well, even being 6-3, 240 pounds.
'I like to move around; I'm not much for standing and playing angles,' Disher says. 'I'm not quite as reactionary as Dallas, but I base a lot of what I do on reaction and timing. Sometimes you have to protect angles because shooters are so good in this league.'
Keenan says Disher will like the defense he sees in front of him, notably star Brodie Merrill.
'There's a lot of big guys,' Disher says. 'It helps keeping guys out of the middle. You have to be aggressive on the ball but also hold your fort and keep guys out of the middle.
'Defense is key to winning games in this league nowadays; it used to not be this way, but styles have changed. It used to be a lot of 'last goal wins' games.'
Originally from Ontario, Disher moved to Vancouver about 10 years ago.
Now playing lacrosse in Portland, Disher doesn't look forward to waiting in customs lines at the U.S-Canada border.
'But, it's an easy trip from Vancouver,' he says.
Next: The LumberJax (4-7) play host to San Jose (6-5) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Rose Garden. Portland plays the Stealth at San Jose on Sunday.
• 'They've surprised a lot of people this year,' new Portland goalie Matt Disher says of the Stealth. 'They're playing such a hard-nosed style of lacrosse, not giving up many goals. They don't get into too many shootouts.'
The Stealth are led by Colin Doyle, Jeff Zywicki and Luke Wiles. 'Doyle can do it all,' Disher says. 'The other guys like to shoot the ball.'
Portland GM-coach Derek Keenan says: 'They have a formidable offense and solid goaltending. Doyle's a fearless player; you think he's going to be just a feeder, but he can score. Zywicki's a really good one-on-one guy who we need to get Brodie (Merrill) on as much as possible.'
• Disher's former team, Edmonton, beat San Jose 12-5 on Saturday, with Zywicki scoring three goals.
The Stealth gave up two goals while on the power play, and only Toronto has scored fewer goals (four) in a game this season.
- Jason Vondersmith