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!
Things slowed their roll in Week 12 as the NLL gears up for the final stretch of the 2016 regular season. Although we only had 3 games to check out last weekend, there was definitely some weird stuff going on around the league. Georgia only scored 4 goals, Vancouver and Saskatchewan combined for 40 goals and Adam Jones’ epic goal streak has been broken. But why am I telling you here, if Ryan Conwell can tell you about Rochester vs. Georgia and I can write about the two Western Conference games below?
Roc. Knighthawks (6-5) @ Georgia Swarm (4-7)
- Matt Vinc was stellar
- Rochester’s defense was stifling
- Georgia’s rookie magic might have officially worn off
When looking at a lacrosse game, you would generally think that the team who had fewer penalties, more shots, more loose balls, more faceoff wins, and more powerplay goals would be the winner right? While that does seem to make sense, if you were talking about this game, you’d be wrong. Georgia led Rochester in every single one of the categories but still was not able to come close to claiming victory.
This game starts and ends with Matt Vinc. Had his save percentage been closer to his season average of 79.4%, the Swarm would have scored 12 goals and come away with the win. Despite seeing 57 shots (and another 31 off goal), Vinc saved an astonishing 93% of the shots he faced. That now puts him in second place in the league in both goals against average and save percentage while also leading the league in total saves. The defense did little in the way of forcing turnovers, they lost the loose ball battle, and were not a big factor in the transition game.
Offensively, the Knighthawks did not have a great showing, but it was what they needed. They did get a huge night from Joe Walters, whose three goals were a huge step up since he only had six heading into the game. He was followed by a trio of four point performances from Dan Dawson, Joe Resetarits, and Cody Jamieson. Scoring 11 goals seems to be right about where the Knighthawks like to be as it turns out. Looking back on their season, with the exception of their season opener against the Mammoth, every time the Knighthawks gave score 10 goals or more, they win.
What this game does start to show me though is something that the entire Eastern division should be worried about. This is the first major glimpse of the Knighthawks of two plus years ago that went on to dominate the NLL playoffs and win three straight NLL championships. If Vinc has more games like this and the offense can be efficient, if not high scoring, we could be seeing lots of more lacrosse out of the Knighthawks this year.
The defensive performance for the Swarm was actually not too bad. Even though Brodie MacDonald had a decent showing in his three quarters of play saving just under 80% of the shots he saw, Zach Higgins would finish the game, only seeing eight shots, savings six of them. These numbers are right around the average in the league, so I wouldn’t place much blame on defense for the loss. The other thing that is a big plus for the Swarm from their defenders was the pair of goals from rookie Chad Tutton and another from Joel White.
Unfortunately, if you can put two and two together (or three and one in this case), you’ll notice that if the defense scored three goals, that leaves just one for the offense for the rest of the game. That solitary goal was a Lyle Thompson shot on a powerplay. In this entire game, not a single offensive set with even numbers produced a goal for the Swarm. There is essentially no optimism that can be generated from such a performance. The talent the Swarm have on the offensive end has produced some fantastic games which has let them compete with the best in the league. After a performance like this, we now know the low-end of what they’re capable of. Hopefully for the budding fan base in Georgia, whatever went wrong in this game never happens again.
Colorado Mammoth (8-3) @ Calgary Roughnecks (5-7)
- This Calgary squad ain’t nuthin to mess wit
- Adam Jones broke his 56 game goal-streak
- Mike Poulin is the man!
Over ten-thousand lacrosse fans left the Saddledome happy on Saturday night as their home side came out swinging, throwing everything they had at Colorado to keep the season on course for the playoffs. It wasn’t the typical night any of us would have expected out the insanely talented Mammoth offense, especially when it ends a streak that took 4 seasons to build.
The Mammoth offense had plenty of chances, it’s amazing that an offense that potent could rattle off 57 shots on goal and find twine only 9 times. Ball movement was lacking and it was every man for himself on offense. Adam Jones pulled off 15 shots and came up with his first goose egg in both the goals and assists column. Callum Crawford led the team with 3 goals, 3 assists and a ridiculous 11 loose balls. John Grant Jr. was fairly quiet again in the goals column, but chipped in his 3 assists for the team. Oddly enough, only two more goals would just be scored by the forwards, one from Eli McLaughlin and the other for Chris Wardle, before the defensive group would punch in three goals of their own.
Captain Dan Coates, Greg Downing and rookie Jordan Gillles all pushed the rock down the floor to pick up some points for the group. Pretty decent considering the group had to protect two different goalies, only accumulated 8 forced turnovers and played relaxed enough to slip by with only 4 PIM on soft calls. Alex Buque got the start over Dillon Ward, but he was relieved of his duties before the end of the 3rd quarter. The Necks only took 5 shots on goal in the 4th quarter, props to the defense, but 3 of them made it in on Ward, a really tough stat to deal with.
Jeremy Noble never really got the chance to show us much, only taking 1 shot on goal and forward Mike Mallory was back in the lineup despite not really bringing much to the offense yet statistically. Ultimately it was a pretty disappointing showing for an offense that proved to be downright dangerous through the first half of the season. It’s always going to be a bummer to watch a streak like Jones’ get snapped on top of it.
If those three overtime losses would have gone the other way, the Necks would be an 8-3 and contending for the top spot in the Western Conference. If Dhane Smith wasn’t rewriting what is humanly possible in this league, it would be Curtis Dickson‘s MVP award to win. Superman led the charge with 8 points coming from 3 goals and 5 helpers. No defense has figured out how to slow down the fiery 28 year old as of late and he’s only going to continue to surge through the last stretch of the 2016 season. Jeff Shattler also had a big night, picking up the hat trick to go along with a pair of assists, right ahead of a 2 goal, 2 assist performance from the rookie Wes Berg. Dane Dobbie and Tyler Digby also picked up a goal each while Curtis Manning, Karsen Leung and Tyler Burton all picked up a goal in the game.
Since doing without a true face-off specialist by not dressing either Snider brother, former Stealth defenseman Tyler Burton has been a huge piece to the solving of the Roughnecks puzzle. The defense gained a huge body and the big man is coming up with a ton of possessions, winning a passing 15 of 26 this weekend. They’re looking more and more like a championship-caliber program each time they hit the floor.
But before we go any further about the runner let’s talk about my main man! Mike Poulin was lights out, incredible, shutting down Jones for 11 shots on goal and snapping his 56 regular season game goal streak. He stopped 84% of what he stared down, rightfully collecting his 3rd win of 2016. The defense is tightening things up around him every game and the whole unit is playing with obvious confidence. The Roughnecks are always playing with targets on their backs, now that they’re in the playoff hunt, we know some of these Western battles are going to get heated. With a win this Saturday night, they can temporarily block the Mammoth from clinching the first playoff spot, and if they played their cards right the night before at Georgia, the Necks can walk away from the weekend with an even record.
Saskatchewan Rush (7-3) @ Vancouver Stealth (3-8)
- 40 goals later…
- There was only a 1 goal difference at the end of the 3rd
- Wasn’t this supposed to be a defensive struggle?
If the volume of goals counts for anything, the thirty-four hundred British Columbians got their money’s worthy last weekend, and likely would have been happier if they left to beat the traffic and were spared the 8-1 run the Rush threw down in the 4th quarter.
This game looked a lot more like pickup than anything. What happened to the world-class defense? Yeah, they won by 8, but they gave up 15 goals in 3 quarters to the last team in the conference. Aaron Bold got chased from the net in the 3rd quarter after saving only 58%, before Tyler Carlson could make his real 2016 debut. Carlson kept out over 81% of everything thrown at him, capturing his first win of 2016, second in a Rush uniform.
It was Zack Greer having another huge points night, but Mark Matthews wasn’t far behind. Greer knocked down 5 goals with an added 6 assists, 1 point ahead of Matthews who finished with 2 goals and 8 assists. Curtis Knight matched Greer with 5 goals, with another 2 goals on the side.
Going at it all night, Jeremy Thompson came up with 25 wins on 43 face-off attempts. It was his best night of the year offensively, coming up with 2 goals and 2 assists. Ben McIntosh came up with 4 goals and Robert Church also added a hat trick to the count while Nik Bilic, Adrian Sorichetti and Riley Loewen each came up with a goal to make it 24 total. Oh what a night. They’ll go back to back with Toronto this weekend in a home and away series. They can really use they two games to stay moving forward in the Western Conference.
It was the first game at the helm for Jamie Batley and despite the lack of defense on both sides, things were going pretty well until the 4th quarter. The wheels were simply never on the bus for the Stealth defense on Saturday night. 14 goals in the first two quarters was the product of a free for all shootout. Tyler Richards stopped 17 shots in the 1st quarter alone, but it still wasn’t enough to keep 7 shots out of the net. Eric Penney came in the game during the 2nd quarter and let in 4 goals and stopped only 6 shots heading into halftime. In all fairness, it’s hard to pin any fault on the net minders, these guys were getting reps like it was mid-week practice. Penney finished the game with 25 saves with 14 goals allowed.
Rhys Duch was putting in work despite his team’s losing efforts. Duch led the game with 6 goals and 5 assists with 1 goal and 2 assists coming on all 3 of the Stealth’s powerplay goals. His last tally was the only time they hit net since Duch scored their last goal 20 minutes prior. Joel McCready (5+3) and Corey Small (2+6) both had 8 point nights and rookie Jordan Durston (1+5) padded his stats by picking up 6 points. Defensemen Justin Salt and Cliff Smith both knocked down goals in transition.
Two goals from Duch and shots from McCready and Salt actually tied the game up late in the 3rd quarter, which called for a goalie change for the Rush. It was an absolute disappointment to watch their steam run out, their energy died for no apparent reason. Carlson was good in-goal, but not that good. Running Aaron Bold off the floor and Chris O’Dougherty getting Mark Matthews to pick up 4 PIM with only 2 goals are two positives I could dig out of that mess. Hopefully they get their act together before they get themselves hurt in Buffalo on Friday.