There were five games in the National Lacrosse League for Week 14 and the biggest story of the weekend might have been the statement made by the Georgia Swarm.
Prior to this weekend, the Swarm had lost 3 of their last 4 games. A month ago, Lyle Thompson was the runaway favourite for 2017 MVP but even his play had slipped from amazing to average as he was held to 3 goals and 14 points in those 4 games.
On Saturday, the Swarm were playing the Colorado Mammoth, a team that is challenging for first place in the west despite having played a number of games without some very key players. While 5 of 8 IL staffers picked Georgia to win this home game, I don’t think anyone expected the dominance displayed by the Swarm in their 21-13 victory. They scored 18 5-on-5 goals, 5 players scored 9 or more points and Lyle Thompson was back in form, scoring 4 goals and 11 points.
In other games this weekend, it was the west flexing its muscle against the East. On Friday, the Vancouver Stealth used a 7-goal run to erase a 10-7 Toronto Rock third-quarter lead on their way to a 14-11 Stealth victory. In Rochester, the Calgary Roughnecks defeated the Knighthawks 11-9 and in Buffalo, it was a 17-14 victory for the Saskatchewan Rush over the Bandits.
And finally on Sunday, the New England Black Wolves withstood a late rally by the Toronto Rock to hang on for a 15-14 victory to help make their playoff chances look very bright.
Now, let’s check out this week’s Power Rankings.
No. 1 (1 last week) Saskatchewan (9-4). The Rush got 2 goals and 7 assists from Mark Matthews as they defeated the Buffalo Bandits 17-14 in Buffalo. After Saskatchewan erased Buffalo’s early 2-0 lead, the closest the Rush allowed Buffalo to get was within 1 goal midway through the fourth quarter. Next week Saskatchewan hosts the Vancouver Stealth.
No. 2 (2) Georgia (9-4). Whatever had been ailing Lyle Thompson and the Georgia Swarm the past 4 games was not a factor this weekend as the explosive Swarm easily handled the Colorado Mammoth 21-13. The Swarm looked like the team we were raving about for much of the season. Next week the Swarm play the New England Black Wolves for the fourth and last time in the regular season.
No. 3 (3) Colorado (8-7). The last time Colorado met the Georgia Swarm it was a 14-10 victory for the Mammoth. On Saturday the Mammoth allowed a whopping 21 goals-against in their 21-13 loss to the Swarm. That’s six more goals than their second worst defensive effort, a 15-9 loss to Vancouver on Jan. 9. The Mammoth will have two weeks to shake this one off as they get ready for their next game against the Rochester Knighthawks on April 15.
No. 4. (4) Toronto Rock (8-7). As good as last weekend was for Toronto, this weekend was bad. On Friday in Vancouver, Toronto allowed the Stealth to go on a 7-goal run to erase what looked like a game that Toronto was controlling. On Sunday, the Toronto Rock outshot New England 70-46 yet lost the game 15-14. Brandon Miller saw his first action for Toronto as he came in to relieve a tired-looking Nick Rose when the Rock were down 11-8. He allowed 3 goals on 10 shots and gave his team a chance. Toronto has two weeks off but will host the Buffalo Bandits on April 14 in a game that will likely determine whether the Bandits stay alive in the playoff race.
No. 5 (5) New England (7-7). For the second time, the New England Black Wolves defeated the Toronto Rock by a goal in a game in which they were badly outshot. Not only did Evan Kirk, the Blackwolves goaltender, make 56 saves but only Kevin Crowley and the two Buchanans (all with 5 points) had more points than Kirk who had 4 assists. The win gives the Black Wolves a little bit of a cushion between themselves and the fourth-place Buffalo Bandits – especially considering that they are finished with each other and New England holds the tie breaker. Next week the Black Wolves host the Georgia Swarm.
No. 6 (9) Vancouver (6-8). The Vancouver Stealth got a critical home victory by defeating the Toronto Rock, a team that owned them last weekend, by a final score of 14-11. The Stealth get full marks for their victory as they were clearly the better team in the second half. Corey Small had 4 goals and 3 assists, and Jordan Durston scored three big goals as well. Next week the Stealth travel to Saskatchewan but it’s difficult not to get excited about their game against Calgary in two weeks.
No. 7 (8) Calgary (6-9). For the first time since January, the Calgary Roughnecks have won two straight games. Calgary has a habit of winning or losing big but this was just a very efficient 11-9 road victory against a depleted but determined Rochester Knighthawks. Next week Calgary will host the Buffalo Bandits but will likely play their most important game of the season two weeks from now in Vancouver.
No. 8 (7) Buffalo (5-8). The Buffalo Bandits competed well but came out on the losing end against the team that they met in the finals last year, the Saskatchewan Rush by a final score of 17-14. With each loss it looks more and more difficult for the Bandits to make the playoffs but if there if there is a glimmer of hope it is the fact that they play the Toronto Rock two more times. Next week the Bandits play in Calgary.
No. 9 (6) Rochester (5-9). The depleted Rochester Knighhawks have given a valiant effort this season but I’m not going out on a limb by predicting that for the second straight year the Knighthawks are going to miss the playoffs. Even if they hadn’t lost to the Calgary Roughnecks 11-9 on the weekend their chanced were very slim. But hey if you’re a Knighthawks fan don’t lose hope. My predictions have been pretty terrible this season as evidenced by my terrible record with the ILIndoor staff picks. Rochester’s next game is in two weeks in Colorado.