There were six games in the National Lacrosse League for Week 10 and it was a weekend full of upsets and surprises.
On Friday it might not have been a huge upset that the Toronto Rock lost 10-9 in overtime to the visiting New England Black Wolves but given that the Black Wolves were without their superstar Shawn Evans (ankle injury), it was very surprising. Also on Friday, the Buffalo Bandits defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 13-9 in their first of a home and home series. Any relatively close game should come as no surprise as these teams historically are even in Buffalo (14-14).
In the third game Friday night, the Colorado Mammoth manhandled the Calgary Roughnecks by a score of 18-9. Not a surprise that Colorado wins this game — the Mammoth are playing well and Calgary has struggled lately – but it was surprising that the Mammoth, who had averaged under 11 goals per game, scored 18 goals. And 17 of those goals came five on five while they are still without Grant, Noble and Greer. Those were Friday’s games.
If any of Friday’s results were surprising, Saturday’s were shocking. Calgary stumbled home to meet the No. 1 team in the league, the powerful Georgia Swarm, who arrived Thursday night so they could have plenty of time to practice and rest for the game. Well, Calgary jumped out to quick 5-0 lead that turned into a 13-3 first-half lead, eventually cruising to an 18-11 victory. Dane Dobbie had 7 goals and 4 assists for the Roughnecks. In Vancouver, the winless-at-home Stealth held Mark Matthews scoreless (for the second time this season) and scored the only 3 goals of the fourth quarter to defeat the red hot Saskatchewan Rush 13-9 despite being outshot 64-40. Goaltender Tye Belanger was the star for Vancouver making 53 saves.
And finally, in the only other game of the weekend, the Rochester Knighthawks defeated the Buffalo Bandits 9-8 in OT Saturday afternoon. Do yourself a favour here and check out the last 12 seconds of this game on NLLTV because the game sheet does not tell the story. Leading 8-7, the Buffalo Bandits had the ball with 12 seconds remaining. After calling a timeout, the Bandits choose their MVP Dhane Smith to start with the ball to run out the clock. Smith ran up the side boards and seemed to be getting clear of checkers Graeme Hossack and Scotty Campbell when suddenly Campbell’s desperate stick check popped the ball out of Smith’s stick.
Hossack quickly grabbed the loosie and threw it up the floor to rookie Josh Currier, who put it past DiRuscio with 3 seconds remaining. Dan Dawson then gave Rochester the amazing victory with an outside shot in overtime. If Rochester somehow makes the playoffs this season, or Buffalo doesn’t, look to those 12 seconds as the turning point of the season.
Let’s check out the Power Rankings.
No. 1 (1 last week) Georgia (7-2). Georgia laid an egg as it came up flat against a very desperate Calgary Roughnecks team, losing by a final score of 18-11. Although it’s counter intuitive, every coach I’ve talked to says that you’d be surprised how many times the “tired” team wins the game against the “rested” team. I am not going to go through the historical NLL stats but if the “NLL Fact of Day” statisticians looked this up, I’ll bet the results surprise you. Next week Georgia travels to New England.
No. 2 (2) Saskatchewan (6-3). The Saskatchewan Rush didn’t play a bad game on Saturday. They outshot Vancouver badly (64-40), out loose balled them 70-50 and also won 18 of 26 faceoffs. Uncharacteristically, they were not the better team in the fourth quarter and Mark Matthews didn’t score a goal on his 9 shots. I’m sure the Rush will just turn the page on this game and take it out on next week’s opponents when Colorado visits Saskatchewan.
No. 3 (4) Colorado (6-4). I’ve been saying the same thing for a few weeks now. The Colorado Mammoth, who are missing 3 key players, are continuing to impress everyone with their game. They beat the Calgary Roughnecks 18-9 on Friday. Stephen Keogh, who looks like a great acquisition for the Mammoth, scored 3 goals and 2 assists while Eli McLaughlin continues his breakout season (4 and 3) and their MVP from last year, Callum Crawford , had 6 goals and 3 assists. Next week is a big weekend for the Mammoth as they will attempt to get their first ever win in Saskatchewan before hosting Vancouver on Sunday.
No. 4 (3) Toronto Rock (5-4). For the second time in their last two home games, the Toronto Rock lost in overtime at home, this time to the New England Black Wolves 10-9. Despite the fact the Toronto only allowed 9 goals, it lost one-on-one defensive matchups too many times against a team that was without its MVP, Shawn Evans. You can also give credit to New England goalie Evan Kirk. Last year’s goalie of the year played a very strong game (47 saves) and seemed to get better as the game went on. Next week the Toronto Rock host the Calgary Roughnecks.
No. 5 (6) Buffalo (4-6). The Buffalo Bandits were 3 seconds away from sweeping the weekend, winning their fourth in a row, moving to .500 lacrosse and eliminating the Rochester Knighthawks as a threat to their playoff aspirations. As we already know, the Bandits lost Saturday’s game 9-8 in OT to the Rochester Knighthawks after defeating them 13-9 in Buffalo on Friday. Sadly for the Bandits they have two weeks to mull over this loss before they play again, in Vancouver, on March 17.
No. 6 (7) New England (4-6). The New England Black Wolves played a very gutsy game without their leader Shawn Evans (ankle injury) as they defeated the Toronto Rock 10-9 in OT on Friday. It was New England’s fourth overtime game of the year and second OT win. Kevin Buchanan was the most dangerous shooter for New England as the 8-year veteran who has made a career against the Toronto Rock scored 4 goals for the winners. The native of Cockeysville, Maryland, who has averaged just over a goal a game throughout his career has now had two 5-goal games and one 4-goal game against the Rock. Next week New England will host the Georgia Swarm.
No. 7 (5) Calgary (4-6). Calgary lost 18-9 in Colorado on Saturday and then beat the Georgia Swarm 18-11 in Calgary on Saturday. Will the real Calgary Roughnecks please show yourself? Maybe they did on Saturday and it’s a pretty scary thing as the Roughnecks showed the explosiveness that we know they have. Maybe Calgary doesn’t have the goaltending it was hoping for this season but a team with Curtis Dickson, Dane Dobbie, Tyler Digby, Jeff Shattler and Wes Berg should not be in the middle of the pack offensively. Next week the Roughnecks travel to Toronto to play the Toronto Rock.
No. 8 (9) Vancouver (4-6). The Vancouver Stealth won at home for the first time this season and did it against the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush by a final score of 13-9. Seven different players scored goals for Vancouver, which managed to keep pace with the Calgary Roughnecks for the last playoff spot in the West division. The Stealth play in Colorado next Sunday.
No. 9 (9) Rochester (4-7). Rochester split the weekend series with the Buffalo Bandits losing 13-9 on Friday and winning 9-8 on Saturday when their late game miracle saved the Knighthawks from dropping to 3-8. With Saturday’s victory, the Knghthawks are still very much alive in the Eastern playoff race. Rochester has next weekend off but will host the New England Black Wolves on St. Patrick’s Day.