Authors’ Notes: Welcome back to another NLL Media Poll. We got fed up with lacrosse’s lack of polls that tie together multiple media sources, so we made one ourselves. This poll features votes from Inside Lacrosse, the Lax Power computer, and Tyson Geick of the NLL, along with our own Mark Donahue and Ryan Conwell. The bulk of the articles are tag-teamed by Mark and Ryan.
Just like how the results of last weekend’s games shook things up, this NLL media poll is growing and getting even more crazy! Welcome the NLL’s new talent, Tyson Geick! Obviously the guy has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on around the league, how could he not get a vote?
Anyway, it’s time to get down to it. We learned the Swarm aren’t invincible, Toronto can score a lot of goals in a lot of ways, there’s a clear hierarchy in the West, and a whole lot more. We got an above average performance from all of the league’s goaltenders this weekend, making for some really tight finishes. All but one of the teams moved in the media poll this week, so let’s get to that!
Read on, friend.
9. Buffalo Bandits (-1)
Next Game: vs. New England – Friday, February 17th 7:30pm ET
Goals: Ryan Benesch – 12 (10th)
Assists: Ryan Benesch – 17 (T-7th)
Points: Ryan Benesch – 29 (T-7th)
Oh how the great have fallen! 2016 MVP Dhane Smith returned to the lineup this week, but it was not the return he, nor Bandits fans, were hoping for. Scoring just two goals is bad enough for their former do-it-all. Getting beaten by 8 against Toronto, a divisional rival, is an even worse look. The defending East Champs are now sitting at the bottom of the entire league with just a single win. I don’t think there’s panic in the locker room just yet, but they sure are not confident at the moment.
Yet, no one is stepping up. Ryan Benesch is trying to take the leader’s role. Unfortunately not many are following in terms of points. 6 guys were able to bury a goal in last week’s loss, but no one could put away more than 2. Anthony Cosmo just saw way too many shots in the early part of the game, calling for the services of DiRuscio again. They got outworked in nearly every single stat line that reflects hustle. They’ll get the weekend off to regroup and look to build the right scoring lines before hosting New England on the 17th.
8. Vancouver Stealth (-2)
Next Game: vs. Colorado – Sunday, February 12th 10:00pm ET
Goals: Corey Small & Rhys Duch – 16 (T-1st)
Assists: Corey Small – 28 (1st)
Points: Corey Small – 44 (1st)
It’s can be a slap in the face to fall two positions when you didn’t even play a game, but that’s the reality here. Although the Stealth didn’t compete last weekend, they did move a little because of what happened around them. After that exciting 2-0 start, they’ve quickly dropped 4 straight and have spun their tires while the rest of the West look to have things all figured out.
Their Sunday night showdown against Colorado is next. The Stealth got the best of them in the first meeting, 15-9, but a lot has changed for both sides since. We can only hope to just see consistency for Vancouver for all four quarters.
7. New England (+2)
Next Game: @ Georgia – Saturday, February 11th 7:05pm ET
Goals: Kevin Crowley – 11 (T-11th)
Assists: Shawn Evans – 17 (T-7th)
Points: Shawn Evans – 26 (9th)
Look who’s rising from the ashes! Home game number two for New England proved to be another defining performance. Talking with Coach Glenn Clark, we know he is not a fan of all these nail biters at home, but there’s no doubt it is great for this budding fan base. When there’s a winner in OT against an East Division opponent in front of a raucous crowd, you know you’ve got something special brewing in New England.
Defenseman Brett Manney said after the game how they could not wait to play at home again after starting the season on the road. It’s apparent why. This team’s turnaround has been in their home digs. They have a few on the road now once again, so we’ll see if this chemistry is able to stick. Unfortunately for them, they won’t get that 7th man boost for a third game in a row. The next time they’re on the floor will be in Georgia and staring down the Swarm hot off their first loss. This is a game you should keep your eyes on.
6. Rochester Knighthawks (-1)
Next Game: @ Saskatchewan – Saturday, February 11th 7:30pm ET
Goals: Several tied at 6
Assists: Kyle Jackson – 14 (T-14th)
Points: Kyle Jackson – 20 (21st)
Neither Rochester nor New England were looking good at all at the start of this game. Matt Vinc made some amazing stops between the irons to keep them in it, but eventually New England was able to string some goals together. Rochester chipped away at the lead, eventually pulling Vinc and forcing overtime with the extra man on offense. They had their chances in overtime as well, but the Black Wolves pulled out the win.
Coach Hasen was not too discouraged about the loss, though. He’s still taking the long view and is aware that it takes time to integrate their younger players. There is plenty of season left for the Knighthawks. Having leaders like Cory Vitarelli, Dan Dawson and Stephen Keogh in the lineup full-time will work wonders for the franchise. The need a strong backbone to hold the pieces together after losing Cody Jamieson for the rest of the season. This team has only cracked double digit goals once this season. They can’t just keep praying that Vinc and their tight defense are going to carry them through the season.
5. Colorado Mammoth (+2)
Next Game: @ Vancouver – Sunday, February 12th 10:00pm ET
Goals: Eli McLaughlin – 13 (T-6th)
Assists: Callum Crawford – 27 (2nd)
Points: Callum Crawford – 38 (3rd)
Welcome to the part of the ride we call “the middle.” Creative, right? Here we find the gradual part of the rollercoaster with the less impressive hills and drops, but nonetheless all add up to the experience and always change with every ride. The Mammoth, with an even 3-3 record, nearly .500 goal ratio, are as far in the middle as they can be right now. A very impressive against the Swarm follows twin losses to the Roughnecks in back to back weeks and their only wins are against teams in the East.
We witnessed a confident game from goaltender Dillon Ward (.729%) against the high-flying, sharpshooting Swarm offense. Our eyes were also treated to, and to no surprise, Callum Crawford continuing to dominate in his role with Colorado, with 3 goals and 5 assists. One thing you’ve got to love about the Mammoth last week, their transition game was more about catching the forwards coming in from the door than having the defenders force a shot. Even if it wasn’t a breakaway, it was highly effective to govern the efficiency of their forwards’ potency from the gate. It’s still strange not seeing Junior out there, but hopefully he’ll be back in the lineup soon, resting after impact to the head.
They’ve got a real chance to make a statement against a Stealth team that has yet to find a real identity. Mammoth fans should feel pretty good heading into the weekend when they watch their boys travel to the Pacific Northwest.
4. Calgary Roughnecks (-1)
Next Game: vs. Toronto – Sunday, February 12th 4:00pm ET
Goals: Curtis Dickson – 17 (1st)
Assists: Wes Berg – 19 (6th)
Points: Curtis Dickson – 32 (5th)
Shutting down Colorado in back to back weeks, and holding a win over Vancouver, the Roughnecks seemed to be in position to slingshot to the top. But if it wasn’t for those meddling Rush.
Calgary really tried fighting their way back into the 15-11 loss, but the Rush were having none of it. Curtis Dickson (3+4) and Wes Berg (1+6) led the charge with 6 points each, followed by 5 from Dan Dobbie (3+2), but it fell off after that. As the Roughnecks started to make a run towards the end of the game, the Rush just kept answering with another goal of their own. The Roughnecks took advantage on the powerplay, registering four goals on four penalties.
This wasn’t perfect, since they scored twice on Jeremy Thompson’s major. What it really means that Calgary finds themselves in familiar territory: chasing the Rush. Frankie Sciggliano was finally handed his first loss of the season, but it can’t come at a whole lot of fault. A .736% is pretty sharp when facing 57 shots on goals. They’ll continue to take shots from trigger happy Toronto and Vancouver, desperate for different reasons, at home in the coming weeks before trying to exact revenge over Saskatchewan on the road. A task much easier said than done.
3. Saskatchewan Rush (0)
Next Game: @ Rochester – Saturday, February 11th 7:30pm ET
Goals: Mark Matthews & Robert Church – 13 (T-6th)
Assists: Mark Matthews – 23 (T-3rd)
Points: Mark Matthews – 36 (4th)
Going on the road, into a tough arena, to play their biggest rival, was another great test for the Rush. We had them hanging around the bottom just two weeks ago, but since have moved them up quickly. The Rush seem to be playing more like the champs they are. Given the consistency they have shown after the past few seasons, it would be shocking to see them waver from this level of play. They might lose a game or two, but they should be competitive every time out.
Following 11 (ROC) and 8 (VAN) point performances, 5 might not seem that exciting from Mark Matthews last weekend. Look again! Matthews scored the go ahead goal three times in the game and put the final nail in the coffin. In the first quarter Aaron Bold let in 5 of 10 shots on goal, before kicking it into high gear making 17, 11 and 13 saves in the following frames.
We haven’t been in the Rush locker room to find out, but it seems Adam Jones’ role has been revised from the all-out goal scorer he was in Colorado into a calculated piece of the offensive machine. For the first time in four seasons he’s putting together more assists than goals (7+11), and his team is carrying the load equally. A total of 9 guys tickled the twine on Saturday night and the powerplay was at 100%, even if it was only 1 of 1. The defense is fully healthy and in near championship form. The Knighthawks have struggled to light up the scoreboards and the Rush defense will come out looking to take advantage to that. If they keep the scoring threats coming from all angles, they can blow the doors off of Rochester this weekend.
2. Georgia Swarm (-1)
Next Game: vs. New England – Saturday, February 11th 7:05pm ET
Goals: Lyle Thompson – 14 (5th)
Assists: Jordan Hall – 20 (5th)
Points: Lyle Thompson – 30 (6th)
Georgia went out to Colorado and scored plenty of their highlight reel goals, but it just was not enough to take the road win. For the first time they showed their vulnerability, unable to put in a goal until the last 30 seconds of the first quarter. On the flip side, they only allowed one up to that point thanks to an impressive start for Mike Poulin (Q1 9 saves).
A nice second quarter run by the Mammoth is what proved to be the difference here. The Swarm never scored more than two goals in a row until it was already 14-8 and the Mammoth had things pretty well under control. There weren’t a lot of each chances and penalties were hardly a factor as well. Each team had four minutes in minors, and each scored a powerplay goal. No goals were scored from the defense or transition team while given opportunities from the Mammoth taking away threats off of the boards.
They can fight their way back to the top, but it’s going to take a more dominant performance in every category. Now they’ll play host to a Black Wolves group firing off of a two game win streak and starting to put something together. It’s going to be no easy task to take back control of the East this weekend.
Speaking of dominating every part of the floor…
1. Toronto Rock (+1)
Next Game: @ Calgary – Sunday, February 12th 4:00pm ET
Goals: Brett Hickey – 10 (T-16th)
Assists: Tom Schreiber – 17 (T-7th)
Points: Tom Schreiber – 23 (T-16th)
Last week we said “Their upcoming border war with Buffalo will give us a better idea of where they stand.”
Well, after dominating the Bandits, already having beaten the Rush, and seeing the Swarm lose, it’s only right to welcome to Rock to the number one spot. Tom Schreiber is leading the team in points and is getting plenty of well deserved attention for his quick transition to the box game. It does make you wonder about the typical path Americans follow to play indoors. Does it make more sense to give players a shot at the NLL after they have proven themselves as a professional outdoors? Moving from college to pro is not easy, but if you have proven yourself (being the reigning MLL MVP doesn’t hurt!) in your primary form of the game at the top level, does that make you more prepared to play indoors?
Anyway, Tom is making a big difference and the Rock offense is reaping the rewards. 18 goals makes a statement when holding the opponent to 10. They were jammed up by the Rochester defense and lost the only game where they were held under double digits. 9 different runner found the back of the net, 6 of them with multi-goal nights. Just shy of 80% on save for the season, Nick Rose at the top of his game and fired up. Out of nowhere Brad Kri has taken over the NLL at the draw circle, leading the league after winning over 71% of his attempts. Kri is also a big body on the defensive end with quick legs and soft hands in transition, not a one-trick pony. With this much energy coming on all sides of the floor, it’s going to be hard for anyone to kill this vibe.
NLL Media Poll #3
1. Toronto (2)
2. Georgia (1)
3. Saskatchewan (T-3)
4. Calgary (T-3)
5. Colorado (7)
6. Rochester (5)
7. New England (9)
8. Vancouver (6)
9. Buffalo (8)
NLL Media Poll Votes
|Voters||Mark Donahue (LAS)||Ryan Conwell (LAS)||Tyson Geick (NLL)||Inside Lacrosse||LaxPower|
|7||New England||New England||Vancouver||New England||Colorado|
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