Two scintillating lacrosse games. Two overtimes. Two worthy teams eliminated and two moving on to the division finals. It was a glorious weekend in the National Lacrosse League. And it sets the stage for a wild ride to the Champions Cup with Calgary and Saskatchewan meeting for the West Division crown while New England and Buffalo face off for the East Division title starting next weekend. But first, let’s get to the 3 Stars of division semifinals weekend.
Curtis Dickson, Calgary Roughnecks
5 goals, 4 assists
This was about as easy a pick as I have had in selecting my 3 Stars. Dickson was dominant and he was the difference in the game. Yes, he took a ton of shots, but that’s the way the Calgary offence was going on Saturday. All five of Dickson’s goals and two of his four assists came in the second half. The goals were classic Dickson including a pair of shorthanded markers in the third quarter.
It wasn’t just about the shooting, though. Granted, two of his assists were simply basic passes he made that other players did the work on to score—one to Tyler Digby directly and the other to Wesley Berg who set Digby up. The other assists were beauties, though. One was a smooth behind the back to Berg who one-touched it over to Dane Dobbie for a quick release strike. The other was a brilliantly executed entry pass on the overtime winner by Dobbie, as I wrote about in my article yesterday.
Mike Poulin, Calgary Roughnecks
56 saves on 66 shots, .848 save percentage
Selecting the three stars for a game isn’t as easy as it may seem on the surface, if you want to take it seriously and do a conscientious job. I’ve done it for several NLL games and I like to give it plenty of thought about who have really been the outstanding performers. Even so, sometimes you just miss a player that should have been included.
That’s what happened with Poulin Saturday night. He was sublime in the Calgary net, facing 66 shots and never getting flustered en route to stopping 56 of them. As good as his .848 save percentage looks, he may actually have played better than the number. Poulin faced loads of high-quality chances by the Mammoth, including a handful of breakaways, and stoned them when his team absolutely needed him to.
Shawn Evans, New England Black Wolves
4 goals, 2 assists, 9 loose balls
What a great story. After leading a stunning turnaround season in New England, Evans was questionable to play Friday after being knocked out of a game the previous weekend by a blow to the head. His teammates were preparing to play without him against the Swarm but you just know how excited they were when the decision came that he could suit up. Evans only knows one way to play the game and that is all out, so once he hit the turf he was ready to roll.
He was his usual dynamic force for the Wolves, snagging loose rebounds to earn resets and whipping in three goals with a pair of assists during regulation. It could have come as no surprise that he was the one to finish things off on the second shot of the extra frame.
Jeremy Noble & Adam Jones (Colorado): 4g each. Noble added an assist as the pair scored 8 of Colorado’s 10 goals in the game, including three power play markers and a couple from unsettled situations…Joel White (Georgia): 1g, 1a, 7LB, 5CTO. While he was guilty of the holding penalty that gave New England it’s overtime power play that led to the winning goal, White was instrumental in the Swarm getting to overtime in the first place with his solid defence, transition pressure and leadership…Kevin Crowley (New England): 4g, 4a, 4LB, 2CTO. Crowley was his usual jack of all trades—scoring, creating space, forechecking, backchecking…Tyler Burton (Calgary): 1a, 9LB, 2CTO, 15/26 faceoffs. Burton was a terrific addition to the Roughnecks partway through the season. He provides an injection of energy along with solid defence and key faceoff wins…Evan Kirk (New England): 53/66, .803 save percentage. Faced a ton of shots and, while his D helped limit many of them to where he wanted to see them coming from, Kirk had to handle plenty of high-quality chances on his own and did what he needed to for the win…Lyle Thompson (Georgia): 4g, 1a, 8LB. You don’t generally think of Thompson as a loose ball guy but he is dogged in pursuit of second-chance possessions and his incredible hands give him an advantage on any ball he goes after…Jeff Shattler (Calgary): 5a, 7LB. Set up the game winner along with four other goals…Brett Manney (New England): 1a, 4LB, 2CTO. Set the physical tone the Black Wolves’ defence needs to adopt early to have success…Dane Dobbie (Calgary): 2g, 3a. Had a goal and 3 assists in first half then nothing in the second. He made up for his quiet half with the overtime winner, though… Dillon Ward (Colorado): 47/58, .810 save percentage. Ward was his usual steady self backing the Mammoth D, as usual making several difficult saves look easy…Kevin Buchanan (New England): 2g, 1a. Georgia had all the momentum after scoring 4 goals in the final two minutes of the third quarter. Buchanan swung it around with a pair 33 seconds apart early in the fourth.