Week 5 was a huge weekend for a number of teams in the National Lacrosse League, starting with the Colorado Mammoth and Calgary Roughnecks, who played the second game of a home and home in which Calgary drew first blood in Colorado last weekend.
Well, Calgary swept the series, and won its third straight game by defeating Colorado 12-8 in Calgary. In New England, the Black Wolves were playing their first home game of the season after starting out with a disappointing three straight losses on the road. Their opposition was the Buffalo Bandits, who won their first game of the season last week. When the dust had settled, the Black Wolves had their first victory in a very entertaining 13-12 game in front of over 7,000 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
In Saskatchewan things look like they are back to normal for the defending champs as they defeated Vancouver 16-12 for their second straight win after starting the season with 2 straight losses on the road. Vancouver didn’t get any breaks this weekend as it travelled home to meet the hottest team in the NLL, the Georgia Swarm. Despite a valiant effort, the Stealth lost by a score of 14-12. Not only was it the Swarm’s fourth straight win but it was the Stealth’s fourth straight loss after starting the season with two impressive road wins.
In the only other game of the weekend, the Rochester Knighthawks defeated the Toronto Rock 9-8 at the ACC in Toronto. The Knighthawks caught everyone by surprise when they announced late last week that Andrew Suitor, Dan Dawson and Cody Jamieson would all be suiting up for the Knighthawks. The return of Jamieson was especially shocking since he suffered an ACL injury late last summer and most observers assumed he would miss most, if not all, of the 2017 season. Jamieson set up two quick goals for Rochester before leaving the game and the Knighthawks hung on for an impressive victory. Let’s check out this week’s Power Rankings.
No. 1. (1 last week) Georgia (4-0). It wasn’t easy but the Georgia Swarm won their fourth game in a row by defeating the Vancouver Stealth 14-12 in Langley British Columbia. Last season’s rookie of the year, Randy Staats, led the way offensively with 3 goals and 6 assists but the MVP of the game was veteran goalie Mike Poulin, who faced 57 shots for Georgia and saved his best for late in the game when it looked like there was a good chance of overtime. Next week Georgia plays in Colorado.
No. 2 (3) Calgary (3-1). For the second game in a row the Calgary Roughnecks defeated the Colorado Mammoth, this time by a score 12-8 in front of over 11,000 fans in Calgary. Like last week, the Roughnecks got off to a good start, scoring the first three goals and they and never allowed the Mammoth to pull even the rest of the game. Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbie scored 4 and 3 goals respectively while Jeff Shattler became the all-time leading point getter for the Calgary Roughnecks with 1 goal and 5 assists, surpassing Kaleb Toth. I remember having a conversation with the late HOF coach Chris Hall in the summer of 2006 who told me he was upset that his general manager had traded Kevin Dostie to Buffalo for the a relatively unknown kid named Jeff Shattler. I promised Hall that he wouldn’t be disappointed with the kid who I had coached as a tyke in Mimico. It didn’t take Hall long to appreciate the versatile Shattler who has been everything and more than I thought he would be. Calgary hosts the Saskatchewan Rush next week in what will be a first-place battle.
No. 3 (2) Toronto Rock (2-1). The Toronto Rock lost to the Rochester Knighthawks 9-8 on Saturday at the ACC. Toronto outshot Rochester 57-32 and while it might sound like they were dominant, the truth is that Toronto’s 5 on 5 offense did nothing for the first three quarters. And while 9 goals against is pretty decent, Nick Rose had his weakest performance thus far this season allowing Rochester to score 3 goals on their first 4 shots. While you would think that Toronto would get a boost from the return of Brett Hickey and Steph Leblanc, it was obvious that the offensive chemistry was not there for the Rock. Next week the Rock have a huge game against the desperate Buffalo Bandits.
No. 4 (5) Saskatchewan (2-2). Saskatchewan played its second straight game at home and for the second straight game it got a relatively easy win for the 14,500 rabid fans as it defeated the Vancouver Stealth 16-12. Even though Mark Matthews didn’t score a goal, he led all point getters with 8 assists. Next Saturday the Rush will travel to Calgary to battle the Roughnecks for first place in the West division.
No. 5 (8) Rochester (2-2). Last week I said that there is no way that the Rochester Knighthawks could win with their depleted lineup. Suddenly Dawson, Suitor and Jamieson were back and that was a game changer as they got a well-earned win by defeating the Toronto Rock 9-8 in Toronto. The report was that Cory Vitarelli could also be back as soon as next week. Rochester’s defence and the goaltending of Matt Vinc reminded me of the days when they were winning three straight championships. The win may have come at a steep price as Cody Jamieson only last a few shifts before he headed back to the dressing room. There was no report on his condition when I was writing this but let’s hope that it’s not a serious setback for their leader. Next week the Knighthawks travel to New England.
No. 6 (4) Colorado (2-3). The Calgary Roughnecks continue to be the nemesis of the Colorado mammoth as the visiting Mammoth fell by a score of 12-8. Colorado scored 5 of its 8 goals with its specialty teams as the 5 on 5 offense sputtered. Next week Colorado hosts the 4-0 Georgia Swarm.
No. 7 (6) Buffalo (1-3). In a game where the goal spread was never more than 2 goals, the Buffalo Bandits came out on the wrong end of very exciting 13-12 game against the previously winless New England Black Wolves. For the second week in a row, Davide DiRuscio got the start for Buffalo as he faced 61 shots. The Bandits were still without superstar Dhane Smith, who suffered an ankle sprain a few weeks ago. The Bandits next game is on Friday in Toronto.
No. 8 (9) New England (1-3). New England finally won a game as it defeated the Buffalo Bandits in front of a sold out home opening crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The offence responded after being publically called out by coach Glenn Clark as Shawn Evans and Kevin Crowley both had strong performances. Evans had 3 goals, 5 assists while Crowley had 3 and 4, including the game-winner in the last minute. Next week the Black Wolves will be home again as they host the Rochester Knighthawks.
No. 9 (7) Vancouver (2-4). The Vancouver Stealth lost both games this weekend by scores of 16-12 against Saskatchewan and 14-12 against Georgia. After 6 games, it has become apparent that the Stealth can score goals (Corey Small, Rhys Duch and Logan Schuss are all shooting the lights out), but they not doing so well at preventing goals. Only the Buffalo Bandits have allowed more goals against per game than Vancouver. Next week the Stealth will have the weekend off but will be back at the Langley Events Centre to host the Colorado Mammoth on Sunday Feb. 12.