Yeah, it’s getting to be that time of the season.
Last week, Saskatchewan and Colorado locked up the home floor for at least 1 National Lacrosse League playoff game this season. This weekend, with 5 games on tap, Buffalo and New England may join the party by punching their postseason tickets.
Making Week 15 even juicier is the Buffalo scenario, which is hosting rival Rochester with the opportunity to clinch a berth.
In what’s been a thrilling regular season so far, it’s only going to get better as we head down the stretch of the season so let’s take a look at what’s up with our Week 15 team reports.
Saskatchewan Rush (10-3) at New England Black Wolves (7-5), 7 p.m.
The Rush have won 6 straight and 7 of their last 8 and are just a 1-goal loss away from being on an 8 game-win streak … Saskatchewan will have at least 1 home playoff game after last week’s win over Calgary … F Mark Matthews scored 3 goals in Saturday’s win over Calgary, his first game with 3 or more goals since March 12. He’s scored in every game this season and is on pace to clear 100 points for a second straight season … T Jeremy Thompson leads the NLL with 134 loose balls and is second with 206 faceoff wins, just 2 behind leader Jay Thorimbert of Buffalo … D Ryan Dilks leads the NLL with 41 caused turnovers and teammate Kyle Rubisch is second with 28 … F Curtis Knight remains on injured reserve … G Aaron Bold leads the league with a 10.42 goals-against … Chris Corbeil is tied for the scoring lead (16 points) among NLL defensemen … The Rush power play continues to languish, ranking 8th in the league at 44.4%. The Rush have scored 36 extra-man goals, second-most in the league, but they’ve also had a league-high 81 chances … The Rush lead the NLL with 14 short-handed goals.
The Black Wolves can clinch a playoff berth by winning both games this weekend and a Georgia loss to Colorado … F Shawn Evans scored 4 goals in last week’s loss to Colorado but he has 38 for the season and is on pace to score a career-best 57 after scoring 47 last season. Evans also leads the team in loose balls (88) and well on his way to surpassing his career-high of 121 (2007) … F Kevin Crowley had a season-low 3 points (1-2) last week but remains on course for a career-best in overall points and could break 100 for the first time in his career … F Pat Saunders has scored 2 or more goals in 4 straight games and is on pace for a career-high 45 … Second-year D Sheldon Burns leads the team with 14 caused turnovers … D Bill O’Brien has 29 loose balls and is 2 caused turnovers from surpassing last year’s rookie total, helped no doubt by having just 24 PIM this season. Last year, he had 68 … New England is 1-3 against West Division teams.
New England Black Wolves (7-5) at Toronto Rock (4-9), 7 p.m.
G Evan Kirk has a league-best .788 save percentage and has made 438 saves, second-most in the NLL … The Black Wolves are averaging 13 goals-for per game, third-best in the NLL and the 11.67 goals-against ranks fifth, which isn’t bad considering the team is allowing an average of 55 shots per game, most in the league … New England has outshot opponents in a league-low 2 games, but it’s 2-0 in those games this season … The Black Wolves have allowed just 4 short-handed goals, tied with Colorado for fewest in the league … The power play ranks 7th in the league at 47.3% with a league-low 55 chances … The penalty killers also rank 7th at 45.5% and the 36 goals allowed is third-most in the league (on 66 chances) … The Wolves are 4-2 in games they’ve scored the first goal.
It’s essentially playoff season right now for the Rock, who are 2 games out of a playoff berth with 5 games on their schedule … Toronto plays its next 2 games at home, then finishes with 3 straight on the road with 2 of those games against teams that currently are in first place in their divisions … F Rob Hellyer had a season-best 4 goals in last week’s win over Vancouver and has 3 or more goals in 7 of his last 9 games. The right-hander is at 33 goals, already a career-best and his 84 points is 6 shy of last year’s career-best 90 … D Sandy Chapman has been activated from the IR … F Colin Doyle remains day to day with an upper body injury … F Brett Hickey missed last week’s win over Vancouver, his third missed game of the season. In 10 games, he’s got 18 goals after scoring 50 last season … F Kasey Beirnes had 2 goals against Vancouver last week, but the 1 assist was his first since March 13. The veteran has just 6 assists this season and his 25 points puts him on pace to finish with around 35, which would be his lowest production since scoring 30 in 2010 (12 games) … The Rock have scored the game’s first goal 8 times but are just 2-6 in those games … Toronto has scored a league-high 44 power-play goals and 30 of those goals have been scored at home … The Rock have allowed 10 short-handed goals, second-most in the NLL.
Rochester Knighthawks (6-7) at Buffalo Bandits (9-4), 7:30 p.m.
Rochester has had 2 weeks to stew after its weekend sweep by New England … The 7 losses are the most in a season, so far, since Rochester was 8-8 in 2013 … F Cody Jamieson had 2-3 his last game out and has 73 points to put him on a pace to clear 100 points for the second time in 3 seasons … F Dan Dawson has just 34 assists and is on pace to finish with 47, which would be his lowest output for helpers since having 43 with Portland in 2008 … The Rochester offense is averaging 11.15 goals-for per game, third-worst in the NLL … The Knighthawks have had the lead after 1 quarter in just 2 games this season, tied with Georgia for fewest in the league … But Rochester has won 4 times in games it has trailed after the first quarter, second-most in the league … The Knighthawks are 2-0 in games decided by 1 goal, but 0-5 in games decided by 2 or 3 goals … The penalty kill continues to struggle at 44.9%, second-worst in the league by percentage. Rochester has allowed 38 extra-man goals, tied with Toronto for most in the league.
The Bandits can clinch a playoff berth by beating Rochester or with losses by both Toronto and Georgia … What more can be said about F Dhane Smith that his numbers can’t say? He had 5 goals and 3 assists in last week’s win over Georgia and has scored 4 or more goals in 8 straight games. He’s on pace for 153 points … Smith also leads the league with 5 game-winning goals … F Ryan Benesch scored 4 goals in last week’s win and has 28 this season, putting him on pace for breaking the 40-goal barrier for a second straight season and for the third time in his career … Getting a bit lost in the shuffle in Buffalo is rookie D Matthew Bennett (he played just 2 games last season). The Brampton native leads the Bandits with 21 caused turnovers … The penalty kill leads the league at 61.5%, allowing just 25 goals on 65 chances … The Bandits are 5-3 when scoring the game’s first goal, which means they’re 4-1 when they don’t, which helps explain why they haven’t trailed after the first quarter of any game this season. Buffalo has either led or been tied after the first in every game this season.
Vancouver Stealth (3-10) at Calgary Roughnecks (6-9), 9 p.m.
The Stealth have lost 6 straight and are a league-worst 2-8 in their last 10 games … Opponents have scored in double digits in 11 of 13 games against Vancouver, which explains the goals-against average of 13.85, second-worst in the league … F Rhys Duch is on a bit of a tear with 15 goals in his last 3 games. He’s on pace to finish with a career-best 106 points … The Stealth haven’t had Fs Logan Schuss and Garrett Billings since March 13, but Schuss has been activated from injured reserve … F Corey Small scored 1 goal in last week’s loss to Toronto, breaking a streak of 4 straight games with 2 goals scored. Still, he’s got 59 points and is on pace to finish with a career-best 81 points … At 11 goals-for per game, the Stealth offense ranks 8th in the league … Vancouver is 1-6 when trailing after the first quarter but even more troubling is the 1-4 record in games it’s led at halftime … The Stealth have played in a league-high 5 games decided by 6 or more goals and they’re 1-4 in those games … Despite all the struggles, Vancouver’s power play ranks No. 1 in the NLL at 56.9%. The Stealth have had 58 tries, second-fewest in the league, but they’ve got 33 extra-man goals, which is fourth-most in the league.
The Roughnecks have scored 10 short-handed goals, second-most in the NLL, and F Curtis Dickson has scored 5 of those goals, which makes him the league’s individual leader … Calgary has allowed 12 shorties, most in the league … The Riggers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to special teams. The power play is No. 5 at 50.7% on 75 chances, third-most in the league, and the penalty kill is No. 4 at 51.3% on 76 opportunities, most in the NLL … After going without a goal on 12 shots in a loss to Colorado 2 weeks ago, F Dane Dobbie rebounded with 3 goals in last week’s loss to the Rush … F Jeff Shattler has 21 goals, giving him a 6th straight season with 20 or more, but he’s also got 47 assists and has 3 more games to pass his career-best of 49 (2014) … Rookie F Wes Berg was without a goal on 11 shots in last week’s loss to Saskatchewan, breaking a streak of 4 straight games with a goal … 2 of Calgary’s final 3 games are at home, where it is 3-4 this season.
Colorado Mammoth (10-3) at Georgia Swarm (4-9), 2:05 p.m.
The Mammoth will have at least 1 home playoff game after last week’s win over New England … All 3 losses have come on the road this season … Much was said about F Adam Jones and his hot start to the season, where he scored 17 goals in his first 6 games. But he may be setting up an even hotter finish as he’s scored 21 goals in his last 6 games … F Callum Crawford scored a season-high 5 goals in last week’s win over New England and he’s scored 6 or more points in 6 straight games … With 26 goals and 5 games left, Crawford is well on his way to surpassing his career-best of 32 goals (2013 and 2010) … F John Grant was activated from injured reserve after missing last week’s game against New England … G Dillon Ward remains on IR … The Mammoth remain the league’s least-penalized team, with 10.23 PIM per game. The Mammoth have been assessed a league-low 49 minors, 32 fewer than the next closest team. Oddly, the Mammoth have been called for 2 match penalties, though, most in the league … Colorado is 5-0 against East Division teams this season … The Mammoth rank No. 4 on the power play at 50.9% and No. 6 on the penalty kill at 48.9% … The 11.38 goals-against is second-best in the NLL … Colorado is a league-best 5-0 in games decided by 1 goal.
After consecutive hat tricks, F Randy Staats leads the league rookie scoring race with 60 points (25-35) and has an outside shot at the rookie scoring record of 89 points set by Rhys Duch in 2009 … The Swarm have the league’s worst record on home floor at 1-5 … Georgia is 0-4 against West Division teams this season … F Johnny Powless scored a goal in last week’s loss to Buffalo, taking 15 shots, and it ended a streak of 3 games without a goal. So he’s got 1 goal in his last 4 games (32 shots) after scoring 25 goals in his first 9 games … F Shayne Jackon has scored 7 goals in his last 2 games and he’s 3 goals shy of his career high (30), set last season … Georgia is the only team in the NLL that has not led a game after the first quarter … The Swarm is allowing just 50.85 shots per game, fourth-fewest in the league, but it’s allowing a league-worst 14.08 goals per game … The Swarm is ranked last in both power play (41.5%) and penalty kill (43.8%) … The Swarm have scored the game’s first goal in just 4 games, tied with Rochester for fewest in the league, and are 1-3 in those games.