It was the busiest weekend of the NLL schedule so far as there were a total of 7 games with every team in the East playing twice. Only the powerful Georgia Swarm won both their games while the Rochester Knighthawks was the only team to lose both. The Buffalo Bandits lost to the New England Blackwolves by a score of 14-11 on Friday but got their first win since January 21st by defeating them 16-15 in OT on Sunday. The Georgia Swarm defeated the Toronto Rock 13-12 in OT on Friday and then easily handled the Rochester Knighthawks by a score of 15-9 on Sunday. Rochester was coming off a Saturday night 10-6 loss to Toronto. In the West Division, the Saskatchewan Rush had their hands full as they defeated Colorado 8-7 at home on Saturday. And in somewhat of a surprise the Vancouver Stealth got their first win since their opening weekend of the season as they defeated the Calgary Roughnecks by a final of 13-10. It was Vancouver’s second win in Calgary this year and it was Calgary’s third straight loss coming after 3 straight wins. Let’s check out the Power Rankings.
1. (1) Georgia (7-1). Georgia’s weekend started with one of the most exciting NLL games this season as they defeated the Toronto Rock 13-12 in OT. Georgia tied the game with only 3 seconds remaining and finished the weekend with an easy 15-9 win over Rochester on Sunday. Friday was the first time I got to see Lyle Thompson playing box lacrosse in person and to say he was impressive would be an understatement. His impact on the game reminded me of the first time I saw the Gaits play in the Ontario Lacrosse Association. Lyle Thompson finished the night with 1 goal and 8 assists and some of his passes were so imaginative, accurate and seemingly impossible that even when Toronto was playing near perfect defence he was making things happen. On Sunday Thompson scored 6 goals and 4 assists to take the lead in NLL scoring. Georgia also went 9 for 12 on the Power play this weekend and lead the NLL in both power play and penalty kill. The Swarm get a well-deserved weekend off and don’t play again until they travel to Calgary in two weeks.
2. (2) Toronto Rock (5-2). The Toronto Rock played an excellent game against the Georgia Swarm on Friday and a questionable late penalty call, along with some unfortunate bounces allowed Georgia to tie up that game with 3 seconds remaining and win 13-12 in overtime. More impressive for the Rock was that they were able to regroup and defeat a rested Rochester Knighthawks team 10-6 the next night without Steph Leblanc and Jeff Gilbert who were suffering from the flu. There’s a lot of talk in Toronto these days about how well the rookies are playing for the rebuilt Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s true but check out the Toronto Rock. On Saturday in Rochester they got 7 of their 10 goals from rookies and 2 goals each from Philip Caputo and Reid Reinholdt, Toronto’s last minute replacements for Leblanc and Gilbert. Toronto’s next game is in Buffalo on Saturday.
3. (3) Saskatchewan (5-2). The Saskatchewan Rush started strong and finished strong and that was good enough to defeat the visiting Colorado Mammoth by a score of 8-7 in Saskatoon on Saturday. The Rush host Calgary next Saturday.
4. (5) Colorado (4-4). The Colorado Mammoth continue to play good defensive lacrosse and it nearly enabled them to steal a victory in Saskatchewan. However when the game ended it was an 8-7 loss to the defending champs. With some key injuries to their offense , ( John Grant Jr, Jeremey Noble and now Zack Greer ) the Mammoth will have to continue to rely on their goaltending and defense to win games. Next week Colorado travels to New England to meet the Blackwolves.
5. (7) New England (3-5). Since losing their first three games of the season the New England Blackwolves have been able to wake up their dormant offence and Shawn Evans is back among the top scorers in the NLL. Unfortunately their goals against is only better than one team in the NLL, this weekend’s opponent, the Buffalo Bandits. On Friday the Blackwolves easily handled the Bandits in Buffalo (final score 14-9) but the Blackwolves were unable to get the sweep as the Bandits narrowly beat them 16-15 in OT on Sunday. New England’s next game is next Sunday at home against the Colorado Mammoth.
6. (8) Vancouver (3-5). I can’t believe I’m doing this but yes I’m putting the Vancouver Stealth up to number 6 (ahead of the Calgary Roughnecks). This is more about how Calgary is playing rather than out of a new-found respect for Vancouver. However, I do like the addition of Cory Conway and Curtis Hodgson is back to help out the D. On Saturday the Stealth built up a 10-3 lead in Calgary and hung on for a 13-10 victory. I caught the game late and I must admit I fully expected Vancouver to blow the lead and lose the game. Next week Vancouver will welcome the struggling Rochester Knighthawks to Langley. Although it’s not a divisional matchup it’s a game that Vancouver needs to win if they expect to be seriously considered for the playoffs.
7. (4) Calgary (3-4). After losing two straight games to two very strong teams (Saskatchewan and Toronto) you would have thought the answer to Calgary’s losing streak would be a home game against the ice cold Vancouver Stealth who had lost 5 straight since the first weekend of the season. It didn’t work out as planned as Calgary allowed Vancouver the opening 5 goals and fell behind 10-3 on their way to a 13-10 loss. It won’t get any easier for the Roughnecks as their next 5 games include 2 against Saskatchewan, one against Georgia and visits to Colorado and Toronto. Next Saturday the Roughnecks play in Saskatoon.
8. (9) Buffalo (2-5). The Buffalo Bandits may have salvaged any chance at making the playoffs by defeating the Blackwolves 16-15 (in OT) on the back end of their home and home weekend. Dhane Smith scored 7 goals for the Bandits over the weekend and if he is anywhere close to being back to 100% healthy it would seriously increase Buffalo’s ability to compete. Next weekend the Bandits will face the Toronto Rock in another critical game for the Bandits.
9. (6) Rochester (2-6). Rochester had a terrible weekend as they lost to both the Toronto Rock and Georgia Swarm by scores of 10-6 and 15-9. Next week the Knighthawks travel to Vancouver to meet the Stealth.