NLL West Hosts East for Fisticuffs, Broken Records and a Sock Trick
Editor’s Note: Thanks to the help of the innovative team at SISU Guard, the Official Mouthguard of the NLL, we’ve beefing up our National Lacrosse League coverage! We hope you enjoy our look at the 2016 NLL season through a new lens with the aid of our partner SISU!
Last weekend it was Western Conference teams playing host to their rivals from the East and two of the three showdowns were decided by just a a single score.
Things calmed down a little (sort of) with only three games going down in Week 10. Despite the non-conference matches, fists still flew, socks came off and overtime was forced so do yourself a favor and look back at the weekend with us. Ryan Conwell is covering the Black Wolves at Mammoth and I’ll handle the Knighthawks at Roughnecks and Bandits at Stealth responsibilities.
Roc. Knighthawks (5-4) @ Calgary Roughnecks (4-3)
- The goaltending put on an absolute clinic
- At some point Curtis Dickson deserves a championship
- Congrats to Vitarelli and Walters on 200 points each
- Berg couldn’t buy a goal from the Hawks
Over nine-thousand predominantly Alberta-based lacrosse fans filled out the Saddledome for a 2 hours and 21 minute defensive struggle that resulted in their club’s THIRD STRAIGHT OVERTIME LOSS! Yes, it’s so crazy that I hit caps lock. Three weeks in a row the Roughnecks drew the short straw and fell in extra-minutes. Lucky for the fans back in New York, this was the second time the Knighthawks went into overtime and brought home the W this season.
Dan Dawson, you rascal. You tried to let the team have all the glory, handing out those 5 assists. We know you just had to score that 3rd quarter goal, but you really took the game upon yourself in OT, working the give and go with Joe Resatarits, and crashing in to dunk the ball on the crease, winning the game.
Resetarits hooked up Dawson on his both his goals, a returned favor from Joe’s 2nd quarter score assisted by who else by Dan. He would finish with 4 points, his third assist came on one of Cody Jamieson‘s 4 goals. Jammer stayed consistent through the game, creating a ton of havoc on offense. His 2, 1st quarter goals gave the Hawks their first lead of the night before a pair from Dickson would take it away. He would strike again in the 3rd quarter before the Necks would tie the score up once more. Jamieson would score his 4th goal of the game, the only Rochester point in the 4th quarter to extend the final lead of the game before Dickson would retaliate once more.
From here you know the story, Dan Dawson buckled up his chin strap and took the rock to the house. On the backend Matt Vinc faced a lion’s share of shots from Dickson and Berg and although Dickson beat him 4 times, Berg never got a piece of the net all night. All together Vinc posted 46 saves in all 5 periods to bring his record to 3-4. The defense was did their best to get the shots coming from low risk areas and did their best to minimize risk, only giving up 4 minutes in aggressive penalties and another each for a hold and an illegal sub. The only real danger was the hold coming at the end of the 4th, starting OT on the penalty-kill.
At the draw circle, Dylan Evans had one of his most successful nights of the season, winning an impressive 14 of 21 takes. It was a monumental team win for the Knighthawks, one where both Joe Walters and Cody Vitarelli hit their 200th career point milestones, each coming on an assist. Having Scott Self back and Mike Manley now with the unit, the defense is coming into stride. Along with Vinc’s clinic in the crease, rookie Graeme Hossack even sold out for a save showing how hard the defense is willing to work for the team’s success. Their physical defense was charged for only 3 goals in the first half, the offense desperately needs to match the 60-minute effort if they want to make capture the 4th Champion’s Cup in 5 years.
If you’re lucky, you can still probably find Wes Berg‘s stick in a dumpster somewhere around the Saddledome. Although he was able to lead the team in points with 5, Berg was never able to find the back of the net after 16 shot attempts. Team-leader Curtis Dickson fired off 21 shots on Saturday, nailing down 4 of them for his only points of the night. Dickson’s first two goals ended the 1st quarter, his second closed the 3rd quarter on the powerplay and his last tally fell with 5 minutes remaining to push for overtime. At this pace, he’s set to finish just shy of a hundred points by the season’s end.
In OT, Tyler Digby and Jeff Shattler both put shots on goal in attempt to end it but the Knighthawks would make the most of their only touch in extra minutes with Dawson dunking it in to steal the game in Calgary.
Defenseman Tyler Burton got the call again and was given 100% of the face-off responsibility. He finished 33%, only winning 7 draws, but was able to push in his first goal of the season unassisted in the 3rd quarter. The scoring was mostly stagnant for the home team, Shattler scored the first goal of the evening and assisted on the 2nd score, finishing with 3 points. Rookie Reilly O’Connor rallied for his 5th goal of the season matching a lone, unassisted strike from Karsen Leung in transition. Digby ended the night without a single scratch in either column, his first 0 point game in a Roughnecks jersey.
Rightfully so, Mike Poulin got the start for Calgary on Saturday and held out until Dawson’s final dagger. The defense did their part to slow down the Rochester offense, but a fruitless 2nd quarter really shot them in the foot. Poulin saved 85% of what he faced and together they killed off 4 of 5 penalties, the two real positives from the loss.
NE Black Wolves (3-5) @ Colorado Mammoth (7-2)
- Colorado stays on top of the league-wide standings
- Adam Jones can score goals
- New England can stay close to anyone
In a matchup between division leaders, it was the Mammoth at home who won out, but they did not do so easily. New England started out very slow, letting Colorado get off to a quick lead in the first quarter. Once they had their legs under them, the Black Wolves got back on track to take the lead into halftime. This game more than most really proved that lacrosse is a game of runs. Colorado scored the first four, followed by New England’s three, the Colorado had three more, then New England had four…you get the idea. The teams traded runs all the way until the end when New England scored the final two, including their last with 46 seconds left. Unfortunately for the Black Wolves, they would have no last second heroics this time around and travelled back home with a loss.
New England Notes
At first glance, New England’s goal output was not far off from their season average. While Kevin Crowley and Shawn Evans did not score much themselves, New England had solid production out of Jordan Hall and Kevin Buchanan. What is unusual is they had three goals from their defenders. You do have to credit Colorado’s defense and goalies for some excellent work, but New England cannot have too many nights where Evans and Crowley combine for two goals on 28 shots. Usually on their off days, Kyle Buchanan can chip in a little more on the righty side, but even he only had four shots all night.
Perhaps it was the addition of Andrew Suitor back into the lineup, but the defenders really pushed the ball up the floor much more than in weeks past. Suitor himself only took two shots, but he was not afraid to hang out in the offensive end after bringing the ball up. Derek Suddons recording two goals was a total oddity as he had only taken a single shot all season leading up to this game. Evan Kirk did pretty well in goal and saved 42 of the 56 shots fired his way, but this game finally dropped him from the top spot in the league in terms of save percentage. What is slightly concerning for the Black Wolves D is that Kirk now leads the league in total saves, averaging 40 a game. They are letting a ton of shots go in his direction, which is usually not a formula for long-term success. If they can get back to their early season form, they should dominate the eastern division.
It is difficult to be too hard on the Black Wolves as they scored a good number of goals while not letting the game get out of hand defensively. They still lead the East and handling their next three games, all against Rochester, should do wonders for their position in those standings. They also get a rematch with Colorado in a few weeks at home, which will without a doubt be another fantastic game.
In what is becoming a trend, Adam Jones had no problems finding the back of the net. He recorded a hat trick before the first quarter and finished with seven goals (half of Colorado’s total output). No other Mammoth player scored more than two. John Grant Jr. and Jeremy Noble each had four assists to go with their pair of goals while Callum Crawford had 8 helpers to go with his two goals, leading the team in total points. What’s really amazing with Jones’ goal totals is that he is alarmingly accurate. Over 80% of his shots were on net, and scored on nearly 40% of those.
Defensively, the Mammoth did not push transition much as all but one of their assists from a defender came in the first two goals of the game. They also did a good job limiting Shawn Evans’ opportunities, and they also held Kevin Crowley scoreless. In net, Dillon Ward and Alex Buque had nearly identical performances, each recording 20 saves in their 30 minutes of action. Ward allowed in only one additional goal than Buque.
This was a great win for a Mammoth who held of a late rally from a team that has been specializing in late rallies. As good as Dhane Smith has been for Buffalo, Adam Jones’ scoring ability will not go unnoticed in the league. Jones sits just four goals behind Smith for tops in the NLL despite playing one fewer game. If he continues to shoot like he has been, he might put up an alarming total this season. Oh yeah, and did I mention he set a new NLL record with his first notch on Saturday, now boasting at least 1 goal in his last 56 games! Any guesses as to when the streak will break?
Buffalo Bandits (3-4) @ Vancouver Stealth (2-6)
- Dhane Smith is a GOAT in the making
- Why, oh why, did T Rich not start?
- Cosmo was a brick house
- The teams combined for 57 total penalty minutes
Just when you thought they would get their footing back, the Stealth went and got their doors blown off by the 1st place Bandits in front of slightly over three-thousand lacrosse faithful in British Columbia. There was clearly no love lost between the two squads, but it came as a surprise that score turned out so lopsided.
It’s becoming the norm to see 8 point nights out of Dhane Smith and that’s absolutely absurd! After scoring 2 goals in both the 1st and 2nd quarters, Smith closed his night of scoring at 5 total in the 3rd, adding a trio of assists along the way. Having doubts that this guy is making a run for the NLL MVP title? The numbers can’t lie, don’t ignore them!
The first to score in the game, Daryl Veltman was also the first Bandit to register a hat trick in the game followed minutes later by Smith’s 3rd of the game in the 2nd quarter. Mitch Wilde and Ryan Benesch both scored their only goals of the night to help build the 6 to 1 first quarter. Adding to the total, Kevin Brownell came up with a transition goal in the 2nd quarter. Although it isn’t likely that he imagined it that way, Mitch De Snoo scored his 1st career goal on an empty-net to finalize the Buffalo lead at 13.
Boy, oh boy, Steve Priolo was fired up Saturday night. An illegal body check, two fights, an instigator minor and eventually the game misconduct added up to 24 total PIM, rocketing him to the 4th spots on the total penalty leaders list. It probably won’t come as a surprise that his first scrap came against the overall penalty leader in the NLL, Matt Beers. The tempo stayed chippy until the end of the 3rd quarter, which likely wasn’t all around necessary as they had the game in the bag in since the 6 to 1 start. Luckily for them, the Stealth’s potent powerplay offense was shutout 4 times by Cosmo to keep the lead at a safe distance.
Goaltender Anthony Cosmo was exceptional along with the rest of the Bandits defense, not backing down for the full 60 minutes. Cosmo went 84% on the night, keeping 42 shots from crossing the goal line to capture his 3rd win of 2016. Cosmo also picked up an assist, hooking up defenseman David Brock with his 3rd goal of 2016.
After Tyler Richards returned to the crease two weeks ago, the veteran blocked 78 of 98 shots he faced, secured a comeback victory and only lost to the Mammoth by a single goal. The immediate impact made it even more surprising to see Eric Penney back between the pipes to start the contest. It turned out to be a big mistake on the Stealth’s behalf, Penney was a sieve allowing 4 goals on the first 7 shots he faced. Subtract those 4 and the 1 empty-net goal scored during a desperation attack by the Stealth and we’re tied. We spend a lot of time speculating on what could have been, but it seems obvious that Richards has to be the main man until Vancouver can fix these issues behind the scenes.
No one was particularly stellar on the offense Saturday night but a hint of positivity came along with a hat trick from the big, left-handed rookie Jordan Durston. Corey Small contributed to his stats with 2 goals and 2 assists, matching a 4 point night from Rhys Duch, all coming from assists, and Logan Schuss, earning 1 goal and 3 helpers. The team points leader for the night was Garrett Billings, earning 1 goal and 4 assists, despite missing the net 9 of the 14 times he shot the ball. The only other goal for the Stealth would be rang up by Joel McCready, scoring the only other points of the game along with his single assist. Although the offense was everything but special, credit still must go to Anthony Cosmo for keeping out 42 attempts by his opposition, including 13 in the final frame to halt any sort of comeback.
Considering he was grinding with the top face-off man in the NLL, you could call Mitch McMichael‘s night at the draw circle a success, taking home 11 of 24 attempts. The powerplay unit had one of their least effective performances, only scoring on 2 of 6 attempts while the defense went 1 for 2 on penalty kills. Their now staring down a Toronto squad that will be coming out swinging for their 2nd game of the weekend in attempt to find traction in the playoff hunt. For their sake, I hope the shooters can dial it back in and the goaltending woes start to settle.