I always like to keep the defenders and goalies in mind when selecting my IL Indoor National Lacrosse League 3 stars. Sometimes, though, you’ve just got to give it up for the the guys putting the ball in the net, especially when they’re doing it with the regularity and flair this week’s top honourees demonstrate. So I apologize to Chris Corbeil, Evan Kirk and Brett Manney, any of whom would do the 3 Stars proud—this week it’s all about the scorers at the top of the charts.
First Star

Shawn Evans, New England Black Wolves
8 goals, 10 assists, 16 loose balls, 1 caused turnover

When Evans was traded to the Black Wolves, it seemed clear that he would still be productive and that New England would improve. But no one—including the coaching and management team in Uncasville—could have anticipated just how productive he’d be and how quickly he would help the team get better. The Wolves looked like they were for real before the weekend; now there’s no question. You don’t simply fluke into beating Rochester in back to back games. You don’t reach 7-4 and lead the league in fewest total goals allowed two-thirds of the way through the season by luck. This is a team that has a very real chance to compete for a Champions Cup right now, way ahead of schedule. And Evans is quite simply by far the biggest reason. This weekend was a perfect example of how he impacts a team with both his immense talent and his intense drive to win. Evans is, stunningly, on pace to break the single-season scoring record he set last year. More importantly is the turnaround he has helped engender in the Black Wolves.
Second Star

Curtis Dickson, Calgary Roughnecks
10 goals, 6 assists, 12 loose balls, 1 caused turnover

Dickson was an absolute beast in Calgary’s win over Georgia and he did almost enough on Saturday to earn the Roughnecks a weekend sweep with a tone-setting win over Colorado. The Buque Brouhaha overshadowed what Dickson did, but he continued to be an immense presence for the Riggers, largely taking over the leadership and go-to roles that Evans used to play for Calgary. Dickson moved into a tie with Dhane Smith for the league’s goal-scoring lead and sits second, one point ahead of Evans, in the points race.
Third Star

Dhane Smith, Buffalo Bandits
6 goals, 6 assists, 2 loose balls, 2 caused turnovers

The only thing Smith failed to do in Week 13 was play twice. His 12-point game was remarkable, further evidence that he is showing no signs of slowing down en route to the single-season scoring record that is almost looking inevitable at this point. But with Dickson and Evans putting up 11 apiece Friday night then following those performances with stellar outings Saturday, the Great Dhane just didn’t stand a chance. He’s full value for one of the best third-star performances ever, though.
Honourable Mentions

Chris Corbeil (Saskatchewan): 1a, 18LB, 5CTO. With both Toronto goalies forcing the Rush to work hard for their goals, Saskatchewan’s defence needed to play well to help the team earn the sweep of the Rock. It did so and it was led by Corbeil, who was the best of an excellent group on the weekend…Evan Kirk(New England): 45/53, .849 save percentage. How great must it feel for the Black Wolves to see Kirk rounding back into top form? Kirk came out of the gates last season like gangbusters but tailed off badly behind an inconsistent defence. He started even better this year then waned but is showing it was temporary. Excellent news for a team with its sights set on a serious playoff run this spring…Brett Manney (New England): 2a, 13LB, 5CTO. The whole Black Wolves defensive group has stepped up its game this year but no one has been better than Manney. He was a dominating presence for New England again as they swept the Knighthawks…John Grant Jr (Colorado): 4g, 1a. Junior is so strong: he scored the tying goal while Scott Carnegie was D-ing him up hard—eventually planting Grant on his backside—by flicking a shortarm shot inside the far post. On the overtime winner, Grant hesitated just long enough to let Mike Poulin—who is lightning from post to post—open a spot between his legs for Grant to rifle the ball through…Stephen Keogh (Rochester): 6g, 2a. Keogh has been money of late; his 5-goal night Friday almost allowed the Knighthawks to come all the way back from a large deficit…Mark Matthews (Saskatchewan): 3g, 7a. Matthews is first among equals in an unselfish Rush offence that gets contributions from up and down the lineup but always looks to the big man to set the tone…Rob Hellyer (Toronto): 3g, 7a. Toronto’s overall struggles and the fact that the four men ahead of him in the scoring race are all also righty forwards disguises just how good of a year Hellyer is having. He’s taken over the leadership of the Rock offence so seamlessly that you might not even notice the torch has been passed, but make no mistake: he now holds it…Jeff Shattler (Calgary): 4g, 11a. Has quietly crept into a tie for a top ten spot in league scoring…Anthony Cosmo (Buffalo): 44/54, .815 save percentage. Cosmo is looking calm and composed in his net, the way he does when he’s playing his best lacrosse. It’s working—he’s second in the league in save percentage…Chad Tutton (Georgia): 3g, 5LB. The offence may be hitting a bit of a collective rookie wall, but Tutton is still firing on all cylinders and scored his three goals on five shots Friday…Rhys Duch (Vancouver): 6g, 1a. Because the Stealth are having such a tough season again, Duch’s consistency can get overlooked. He’s eighth in the league in scoring, fifth in goals, and just keeps working away whatever is happening around him…Kevin Crowley (New England): 3g, 12a. Nine assists Friday and another three Saturday, with just enough goals sprinkled in to keep defenders honest. Crowley is thriving as a complement to Evans with the Black Wolves… Robert Church (Saskatchewan): 1g, 10a. The points were great but Church’s best play of the weekend was a rebound loose ball he snagged while surrounded by three Rock defenders that led to a critical second-chance possession goal…Nick Rose (Toronto): 40/50, .800 save percentage. His numbers were good but they look even better when you consider how many of the shots he faced against Saskatchewan Friday were high-quality chances. Rose shone and kept Toronto closer than they deserved to be in the game…Greg Downing (Colorado): 1g, 1a, 6LB, 4CTO. A candidate for the league’s top unsung hero, Downing contributes every game but made more of a dent on the scoreboard as the Mammoth edged Calgary… Patrick Saunders (New England): 6g, 3a. Another solid week for the former 76th overall pick…Kyle Buchanan(New England): 2g, 9a. Another late pick (48th overall) who has proved the doubters wrong…Dane Dobbie (Vancouver): 4g, 7a. He would have liked to produce more than a pair of assists Saturday but Dobbie was on target with nine points Friday…Adam Jones (Colorado): 3g, 3a. He’s become seen as the go-to guy on Colorado’s left side but was more than happy to move the ball quickly back to Grant for the game winner Saturday.

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