There were 4 games in the National Lacrosse League this weekend as only the Vancouver Stealth had the weekend off.
On Friday, the Toronto Rock got back in the win column by stomping on one of their biggest rivals, the Buffalo Bandits, by a decisive score of 18-10. Rookie Tom Schrieber scored 10 points for the Rock while Buffalo showed no signs of figuring out how to fix all the problems that are ailing the defending Eastern division champs. In New England, the Black Wolves got their second win in a row, after three straight road losses, by edging the Rochester Knighthawks 10-9 in overtime. Chad Culp was the OT hero, scoring his third goal of the game.
In Calgary, the Roughnecks and the Saskatchewan Rush faced off for the first time this season in a first-place battle. It was an epic back and forth tilt for 3 quarters but after the Roughnecks scored two to knot the game at 10 early in fourth, the defending champs went on to score 6 of the last 7 goals to win by a score of 15-11.
And finally, in Denver, the Colorado Mammoth ending their two-game losing streak, as well as Georgia’s four-game winning streak, by defeating the Swarm by a final score of 14-10. Let’s get right to the Power Rankings.
No. 1 last week) Georgia (4-1). After narrowly winning their fourth straight game last week, the Georgia Swarm visited Denver this week and ran into a very determined Colorado Mammoth club, who defeated the Swarm 14-10. Georgia came into the game as the highest scoring team in the NLL with an average of 16 goals a game. The Mammoth wisely stayed out of the penalty box, allowing Georgia just two power play opportunities – both in the first half. Next week the Swarm will be back at home to play the suddenly hot New England Black Wolves.
No. 2 (3) Toronto Rock (3-1). Every coach will tell you that one test of a team’s character is how it rebounds after a bad outing. The Rock were not terrible last week (9-8 loss to Rochester), but it was certainly their worst game of this early season. Well, the Toronto Rock passed this test with flying colours as they dominated the struggling Buffalo Bandits in every facet of the game on route to an 18-10 victory. Playing his second game of the season, Steph Leblanc looked like his old self as he scored 2 goals and 7 assists but even more impressive was the performance of American rookie Tom Schrieber, who had 3 goals and 7 assists for 10 points. With no box lacrosse experience until a few months ago, Schrieber was already exceeding expectations as he entered the game as Toronto’s top scorer. He now has 23 points in 4 games and who knows how high the ceiling is for last summer’s MVP in the MLL (North America’s professional field lacrosse league). Toronto is in Calgary next weekend against the always difficult Calgary Roughnecks.
No. 3 (4) Saskatchewan (3-2). Saskatchewan has now won three straight games after losing its first two games of the season on the road. Is anyone surprised? The 15-11 victory in Calgary puts the Rush in first place, even though the two teams have identical records. It was Saskatchewan’s first road victory this season. Nine players scored goals for the Rush, including Mark Matthews who had 4 goals and Ben McIntosh who had 3. The Rush will stay on the road next weekend as they travel to Rochester to meet the Knighthawks for the second time in 3 weeks.
No. 4 (2) Calgary (3-2). The first-place battle between the Calgary Roughnecks and Saskatchewan Rush lived up to the hype but when it was over the Calgary Roughnecks had lost their 7th straight game to the Rush (if you include last year’s playoffs) by a score of 15-11. As good as the Roughnecks have been this season they are going to have to find a way to beat the Saskatchewan Rush. Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbie each scored 3 goals for the Roughnecks. Calgary will host the Toronto Rock next Saturday.
No. 5 (6) Colorado (3-3). The Colorado Mammoth played one of their best games this year as they defeated the previously undefeated Georgia Swarm 14-10. Even though the scoresheet says the Mammoth outshot Georgia 50-37, Colorado goalie Dillon Ward was at his best, holding the explosive Swarm to 10 goals, their lowest output this season. Callum Crawford had 3 goals and 5 assists for the Mammoth and Zack Greer also had a hat trick. Next week Colorado will travel to British Columbia to play the Vancouver Stealth.
No. 6 (5) Rochester (2-3). I went back and forth on these next two teams but decided to put the Rochester Knighthawks above the New England Black Wolves in the Power Rankings even though New England just beat Rochester 10-9 (OT) this weekend). I’d give you my reasons but I’d rather let you argue about it. However, I will say that Rochester’s victory over New England in Week 2 was much more decisive than the Black Wolves’ win over Rochester on Friday. Unfortunately for Rochester, it will be without superstar Cody Jamieson for the rest of the season. The Hawks did get some good news with the return of both Cory Vitarelli and Stephen Keogh, who produced 3 goals between them. Next Saturday the Knighthawks will play the Saskatchewan Rush for the second time this season, this time in Rochester.
No. 7 (8) New England (2-3). New England got its second win in a row by defeating the Rochester Knighthawks 10-9 in overtime. The Black Wolves built an 8-3 third-quarter lead before Rochester went on a run to take this game to overtime. Next week, New England will hope to get its first road win as it travels to Georgia for the second time this season.
No. 8 (9) Vancouver (2-4). The Vancouver Stealth moved up the Power Rankings despite having the weekend off. Next Sunday, it will be back at the Langley Events Centre to host the Colorado Mammoth.
No. 9 (7) Buffalo (1-4). I can’t really think of anything positive to say about the Buffalo Bandits in their 18-10 loss to the Toronto Rock. The final score was flattering to the Bandits, who went on a four-goal run in the fourth quarter when the game was already 15-6 and essentially over. If I try hard I can point out that Buffalo’s short man team held Toronto to 2 goals on 8 opportunities but Toronto dominated in every other facet of the game. Buffalo will have two weeks to stew over this loss and then they play the Black Wolves twice on the weekend of Feb. 17.