There are 7 games on tap for Week 16 of the National Lacrosse League’s 2016 season and by the time they’re all wrapped up, our playoff field may be all set.
In the East, both Buffalo and New England are in. Rochester can punch its ticket, although that result depends on the outcome of 3 different games. In the West, Saskatchewan and Colorado are in as well, and a simple Calgary win over Vancouver can clinch a berth for the Roughnecks.
That’s all fine and dandy, of course, but that’s not the real highlight of Week 16. The real focus is on what’s going down between Colorado and Saskatchewan. The squads are tied for the West Division lead with identical records and they’re getting ready for a home-and-home weekend series. A sweep by either side will clinch the division title but bigger than that, it’s pride. The Rush want to keep their title and the Mammoth want to establish even more their legitimacy as a Cup contender.
It’s shaping up to be an exciting weekend, so let’s get ready with our Week 16 Team Reports.
New England Black Wolves (9-5) at Georgia Swarm (5-9), 7:35 p.m.
New England clinched a playoff berth last weekend and can lock up at least 1 home playoff game with a win over Georgia … The Black Wolves are 1 victory away from matching the 2001 Philadelphia Wings (10-4) for most regular-season wins for the franchise in a season … Incredibly, it would be just the second time in franchise history for double-digit wins in a season … The Wolves are on pace for 237 goals-for this season, which would set a single-season franchise record … F Shawn Evans had 7 points (2-5) in Saturday’s win at Toronto and 9 (3-6) in Friday’s win against the Rush, giving him 102 points and making him the first player in NLL history to score 100 or more points in 4 straight seasons … F Kevin Crowley scored 3 goals in both wins last weekend and has a career-high 77 points (29-48) with 4 games left … 50 saves on 60 shots in Toronto? That’s part of the explanation for G Evan Kirk and his league-leading .793 save percentage, even more impressive considering New England is allowing 55.14 shots per game, most in the NLL. Kirk also leads the league with 517 saves … Kirk has 8 wins this season and if he gets the win against Georgia, he’ll have as many this season as he has the previous 2 combined … The Wolves are tied with Toronto with 43 power-play goals allowed, most in the NLL.
The Swarm snapped a 5-game losing streak with Sunday’s win over Colorado … A loss to New England will give the Swarm double-digit losses for a third straight season … Georgia is on pace to allow 248 goals, most in franchise history for a season (231 in inaugural 2005 season in Minnesota) and close to the all-time league record of 249 set by the 2002 New York Saints… Rookie F Randy Staats has 15 points (5-10) in his last 2 games, including 3-4 in Sunday’s win over Colorado. With 67 points (28-39), Staats leads all rookies in scoring this season … F Johnny Powless found his stroke with 3 goals against Colorado to break a skid where he had just 1 goal in the previous 4 games combined … F Shayne Jackson has scored 2 or more goals in 3 straight games and 4 of the last 5 … G Brodie MacDonald made 36 saves for his first victory since Jan. 30 … At 45.7% on the power play, the Swarm rank last in the NLL and at 43.7% on the penalty kill, the Swarm rank last in the league there as well.
Buffalo Bandits (10-4) at Toronto Rock (4-10), 8 p.m.
Note: These teams also play Saturday in Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.
Buffalo’s 6-game winning streak is the longest for the Bandits since the 2007 team won 8 straight. Interesting thing about that 2007 streak: Of the 7 teams Buffalo beat during that run, just 1 team (Colorado) still exists) … The Bandits will have a winning record in the regular season for the second straight year but for just the second time in the last 5 seasons … Should Buffalo win out, the 4 losses would be the fewest in a season since the 2000 team was 8-4 … Buffalo is a league-best 8-2 in the last 10 games … The scoring parade continues for F Dhane Smith, who had 5 goals in Saturday’s win over Rochester to set the single-season scoring record for Buffalo and push his league scoring lead to 14 points (116-102) over New England’s Shawn Evans … F Ryan Benesch scored 1 goal against Rochester to extend his streak to 36 straight regular-season games with at least 1 goal. The last time Benny was held to 0 goals in a regular season game was March 29, 2014 … Buffalo’s penalty kill is No. 1 in the league at 59.7%.
The Rock have lost 10 games in a season for the first time since 2009 and the third time in franchise history … A loss to Buffalo on Friday will set a franchise record for most losses in a season … This season also is the first losing season for the Rock since the 2009 team was 6-10 … F Rob Hellyer scored 4 points in Saturday’s loss to New England and has 88 for the season. He’s 2 points shy of matching last season’s career-best of 90 points and is on pace to finish with 113 points … The single-season scoring record for the franchise is 114 points, set by Garrett Billings in 2012 … T Brodie Merrill is on pace for 178 loose balls, which would be the most for him since scooping 189 in 2014 with Philadelphia … Toronto’s power play continues to be among the best in the NLL, ranked No. 2 at 54.7% with a league-best 47 goals on a league-high 86 chances … The Rock have just 5 short-handed goals this season, the latest coming from Merrill on April 2. It was the first for Toronto since Kasey Beirnes’ shortie on Feb. 27 … Friday’s game against Buffalo is the home finale for 2016 as the Rock play their final 3 games on the road, where they are 1-5 this season after going 7-2 away from Toronto last season.
Saskatchewan Rush (10-4) at Colorado Mammoth (10-4), 9:30 p.m.
Note: These teams also play Saturday in Saskatchewan, 9:30 p.m.
Saskatchewan can clinch the West Division title with 2 wins over Colorado … The Rush are a league-best, by percentage, 4-2 on the road this season and 1 of those losses came in Denver on Feb. 11 … The Rush power play is ranked No. 8 in the league by percentage at 46.5% but the penalty kill is doing much better, ranked No. 2 at 51.4% … Saskatchewan has scored a league-high 14 short-handed goals, but the Mammoth have allowed a league-low 4 … At 11 goals-against per game, the Rush are ranked No. 1 in the NLL … The Rush are 6-2 in games they lead after the first quarter … F Robert Church leads the league with 14 power-play goals … F Zack Greer scored 3 goals in Friday’s loss to New England and has scored at least 1 goal in every game this season … F Mark Matthews has 87 points, putting him on pace for 111 and clearing 100 for the second straight season after scoring a career-best 115 last season. With 32 goals, he’s scored 30 or more in each of his 4 NLL seasons … D Ryan Dilks leads the NLL with 42 caused turnovers … The Rush have double-digit wins for a third straight season … The Rush have 39 regular-season wins over the last 3 seasons, which equals the total they had the previous 6 seasons (2008 through 2013).
Colorado can clinch the West Division title with 2 wins over Saskatchewan … The Mammoth have double-digit wins for the first time since the 2012 team was 11-5 … It’s just the second time in 9 seasons that Colorado has had double digits for wins in a season after reaching that mark 3 times in its first 5 seasons … The Mammoth are on pace to allow 212 goals this season, which would be their lowest total in 3 seasons … F Callum Crawford had 8 points (1-7) in Sunday’s surprising loss to Georgia, giving him six games this season with 8 or more points. With 94 points, he’s 2 shy of his career-best 96 (Minnesota, 2010) … F Adam Jones scored 4 goals in the loss to Georgia and has 4 this season. He’s on pace to finish with a career-best 55, which would put him over 50 goals in a season for the second straight season … F John Grant was activated from injured reserve … With 103 loose balls, D Robert Hope ranks No. 5 in the league … The Mammoth are the only unbeaten team in the league at home (6-0) but are just 4-4 on the road … Colorado is 6-2 in games it scores the first goal, but is just 4-3 when leading after the first quarter.
Georgia Swarm (5-9) at Rochester Knighthawks (6-8), 7:30 p.m.
A loss in this game, or Friday at home against New England, means the Swarm will finish under .500 for a fourth straight season … F Miles Thompson is on pace to finish with 36 points, well below the 62 he scored as a rookie last season. But he’s also taken just 87 shots and will finish with less than half of the 211 he took last season … T Jordan MacIntosh has just 12 goals and may finish with fewer than 20 in a season for the first time in his 5 NLL seasons … T Joel White has tied his career-best for points with 12 and the 4 goals he has this season is a career-best. He’s also got a very good chance to surpass the career best of 128 loose balls he had with the 2014 Philadelphia Wings … F Kiel Matisz has just 8 goals this season and 15 over the last 2 combined after scoring 51 goals in his first 2 NLL seasons … Georgia has had the lead in a game after 1 quarter just twice this season and is 1-1 in those games … Georgia is 0-3 in games decided by 1 goal.
Rochester can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Georgia, a Georgia loss to New England and a Toronto loss to Buffalo … F Dan Dawson has played in 229 consecutive regular-season games and if he plays against Georgia, he’ll tie the all-time record of 230 straight played by former Knighthawks F Shawn Williams. It’s a streak that started for Dawson on March 9, 2002 while he was a rookie with the now-defunct Columbus Landsharks … D Paul Dawson has returned to the active roster and should see his first action in a game since March 11 … The Knighthawks are 1-1 in games they lead after 1 quarter this season, but 5-0 in games they lead at halftime … F Cody Jamieson scored 3 goals in Saturday’s loss to Buffalo, giving him 27 for the season. He’s 3 shy of scoring 30 or more goals for a 3rd straight season and for the 4th time in his career. The weird part? In all 3 seasons he’s scored more than 30 goals, it’s been 36 each time (2015, 2014 and 2012) … F Stephen Keogh had a streak of 7 straight games with at least 1 goal broken in last week’s loss to Buffalo … A loss to Georgia will give Rochester its most losses in a regular season since the 2012 team was 7-9 … F Cory Vitarelli remains on IR and hasn’t played since March 12.
Calgary Roughnecks (7-9) at Vancouver Stealth (3-11), 10 p.m.
Calgary can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Vancouver … A playoff berth will make it 13 straight seasons for the Riggers, longest current streak in the league … Calgary is 2-1 against the Stealth this season … With 12 points in his last 2 games, including 7 goals, F Curts Dickson has a career-best 95 points and is poised to clear 100 for the first time in his career. In 3 games already this season against the Stealth, Dickson has scored a combined 13 goals … A loss against the Stealth would give the Rougnecks back-to-back seasons below .500 for the first time in franchise history, which also would match the total number of seasons below .500 Calgary had in its first 13 seasons (2002, 2008) … The Calgary penalty killers, at 50%, are ranked third-best in the league and they’ll be up against Vancouver’s No. 1 power play (58.3%) … Calgary is allowing 11.63 goals per game, third-fewest in the NLL .. The Roughnecks are 3-6 when leading after 1 quarter, but 4-2 when trailing after 1. The 4 wins when trailing after 1 quarter are tied with Rochester for most in the league.
Vancouver has lost 7 straight, its last win coming at home against Calgary on Feb. 20 … The Stealth are allowing 14 goals per game, most in the NLL, and scoring 11.07 per game, second-fewest … The Stealth have played in a league-high 5 games decided by 6 or more goals and are 1-4 in those games … Through 2-plus seasons in Langley, the Stealth are 12-38 overall, including 11-17 at home … This season is the third straight season the Stealth will finish below .500 … At 82 points, F Rhys Duch is on pace to clear 100 points for a second straight season and score a career-best 48 goals … F Logan Schuss was back in the lineup last weekend for the first time since March 13 and had 6 points (2-4) in the loss to Calgary … F Garrett Billings remains on injured reserve and hasn’t played since March 13 … F Joel McCready has scored 11 goals in his last 4 games after scoring 12 in his first 10 games this season … The Vancouver power play is No. 1 in the NLL at 58.3% … The Stealth are 1-8 when tied or trailing after the first quarter of games this season.