There were six games in the National Lacrosse League for Week 13. Usually at this time of the year, trade deadline time, you have a very good idea who is going to be in or out of the playoffs and it’s often pretty clear who is going to take first place.
That’s not the case after Week 13 and the league has just tightened up. In both divisions, the first-place team was defeated by the second-place team this weekend.
The Toronto Rock defeated Georgia Swarm, 12-11 in OT on Friday, and the Colorado Mammoth defeated the Saskatchewan Rush, 14-11 on Saturday.
The last place teams from each division also won this weekend. For the second time in their last two contests, the last-place Rochester Knighthawks came back to defeat their hated rival the Buffalo Bandits – this time by a score of 11-10. In the West division, the Calgary Roughnecks lost a close one 13-10 in Saskatchewan on Friday but came back with a vengeance to defeat the New England Black Wolves 18-13 the next night.
In the other game this weekend, the Toronto Rock took care of business by defeating the Vancouver Stealth 13-7 on Saturday night.
So to summarize the weekend: we now have a battle for first in each division as well as a tighter battle for the last playoff spot. And with trade deadline being today, there is no team in the NLL that has given up on the 2017 playoff race.
Last week’s Power Rankings originally showed Colorado and Toronto tied for third spot. That was a typo by me and it was corrected. I’ll never put teams in a tie. However, if I ever was going to, this would be the week as you could throw the bottom 4 teams in a hat and make an argument for any order. I won’t do that but feel free to argue with my order.
Before I get to the Power Rankins I want to congratulate Tracey Kelusky and commend the Calgary Roughnecks for honouring him when he and his New England Black Wolves came to town on Saturday. I was lucky enough to cover very many Roughnecks games when the Roger’s Sportsnet was televising dozens of Canadian games every season. I was there when the Roughnecks lost their first ever game to Tracey Kelusky’s Montreal Express (32-17) and when he came to Calgary the next season I got to watch Tracey help turn the Roughnecks into a competitive team who hoisted the Champion’s Cup just two seasons later.
Not only was Kelusky one of the most talented players in the NLL but he was the heart and soul of that franchise and the epitome of a Captain. Congrats on a well-deserved honour. Now, let’s check out this week’s Power Rankings.
No. 1 (1 last week) Saskatchewan (8-4). After defeating the Calgary Roughnecks 13-10 on Friday, the Rush got a taste of what Colorado went through two weeks ago in making the difficult and indirect trek from Saskatoon to Denver. While fatigue may have been a factor in the Rush’s 14-11 loss on Saturday, it was the third time this season that the Mammoth played well enough to defeat the defending champs and it might be foreshadowing a great playoff battle. Next week Saskatchewan travels to Buffalo.
No. 2 (2) Georgia (8-4). I tuned into the Georgia vs. Toronto Rock game late in the third quarter Friday night and even though the Swarm were leading by a few goals you just got the feeling that the Rock were not going away. In the fourth quarter it was apparent that Mike Poulin was the only reason the Swarm were still leading. However it was Toronto that got the overtime victory this time and suddenly the Georgia Swarm has lost three of their last four games. Also concerning is that Lyle Thompson, who looked like the runaway league MVP a few weeks ago, has fallen back to earth. Thompson was held to 0 goals and 3 assists on Friday. In his last 4 games, he has 3 goals and 11 assists. Things won’t get any easier for the Swarm next week when they host the hot Colorado Mammoth.
No. 3 (3) Colorado (8-6). What was most impressive about Colorado’s 14-11 victory against the Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday was that Dillon Ward and the Mammoth were able to shake off a terrible third quarter where they saw an 8-3 lead turn into an 11-10 deficit, to shut down the Saskatchewan Rush for the last 14 minutes of the fourth quarter. As bad as Ward was in the third quarter, he was sensational in the last few minutes of the game. Earlier in the season we were marvelling at how the Mammoth were holding it together without Jeremy Noble and Zack Greer in the lineup and wondering how good he Mammoth could be when they returned. Last night Noble had 4 goals and 3 assists and Greer had 3 and 3 against his old club. Next week the Mammoth travel to Georgia to play the Swarm
No. 4 (4) Toronto Rock (8-5). The Toronto Rock came into the weekend with a 6-5 record and things could not have gone better for them if it were scripted. Not only did the Rock win both games, 12-11 OT in Georgia and 13-7 at home against Vancouver on Saturday, but the New England Black Wolves and Buffalo Bandits, who were breathing down Toronto’s neck, both lost their games. Rookie Reid Reinholdt scored the tying and winning goals on Friday and followed that with another 2 goals on Saturday. Dan Lintner, who was a healthy scratch on Friday, scored his first career hat trick on Saturday and not only is Nick Rose making a case for NLL Goalie of the Year but he scored his third career goal late in the game against the Stealth. Next week, the Rock travel to Vancouver on Saturday and then play the Black Wolves in New England on Sunday.
No. 5 (5) New England (6-7). You never know what you get when you play the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde Calgary Roughnecks. Is it the team that won 3 in a row or the team that lost 5 in a row? The team that dominated the Georgia Swarm or the team that couldn’t muster any offence against them 2 weeks later? Unfortunately for the New England Black Wolves, they ran into the “good” Calgary squad and despite scoring the last 3 goals of the game, this 18-13 loss was much more one-sided than the final score indicated. Next week the Black Wolves host the Toronto Rock in a game that could be very important to New England’s playoff aspirations.
No. 6 (8) Rochester (5-8). With the injuries this team has faced this season there is no way that Rochester should still be in the playoff race but a second one-goal victory against the Bandits (11-10) is keeping the chances alive. Rochester is the lowest scoring team in the NLL this season but with Matt Vinc and their veteran defence, it has the third-best defensive record. Rookie Kyle Jackson has picked up 15 points in his last 2 games and with 51 points on the season, he is leading his team in scoring and closing the gap on Toronto’s Tom Schreiber (66 points). Next week Rochester hosts the Calgary Roughnecks.
No. 7 (6) Buffalo (5-7). The Buffalo Bandits can’t close the deal against the Rochester Knighthawks as their 6-3 halftime lead turned into an 11-10 loss. Add that to Rochester’s miraculous OT win against the Bandits 3 weeks ago and now Rochester own the tiebreaker against the Bandits. The Bandits were only able to get 33 shots at Matt Vinc while Rochester took 59 on Buffalo goaltender Anthony Cosmo. Rochester also dominated the groundball game 87-65. Ryan Benesch scored 4 goals for Buffalo in his first game after missing four due to a hit from New England’s Bill O’Brien (who was suspended two games). Things won’t get any easier for the Bandits as they host the Saskatchewan Rush next Saturday.
No. 8 (9) Calgary (5-9). Even though they were 1-1 on the weekend the Roughnecks had one of their better weekends of the season. On Friday they lost a tight 13-10 game in Saskatchewan despite falling behind 8-2 in the first half. And on Saturday the Roughnecks dominated the New England Black Wolves by a final score of 18-13. Only twice this season has Calgary played back to back games and both times they lost on the road on Friday and traveled home to meet a waiting and rested team. Calgary won both games 18-11 and 18-13. Next week Calgary plays in Rochester.
No. 9 (7) Vancouver (5-8). The Vancouver Stealth lost some very important ground on the Calgary Roughnecks as the Stealth were defeated by the Toronto Rock 13-7 on Saturday. Vancouver fell behind 8-2 in the first half and despite playing better in the second half the Stealth were never able to score more than 2 straight goals. Vancouver is 0-5 against Eastern opponents, which means that they are 5-3 in their own division which could have positive tie breaking implications. They are also 0-7 all-time against the Toronto Rock, who will be their opponent next Friday in Vancouver.