New England Black Wolves Toronto Rock 2016 NLL Photo credit Jeff Melnik LaxAllStars.com
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OT Thrillers, Bandits Hit Big, Colorado Twice in Week 7

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 for 2016! We hope you enjoy our look at the NLL season through a new lens with the aid of our partner SISU!

Week 7, you rascal. You are deja vu of the beginning of the season when the Mammoth couldn’t be beaten and the Rock couldn’t buy a win. Well, Toronto hasn’t been able to buy one all season, but you get the point. Colorado came up with two big wins to extend their lead in the Western Conference, New England took the Rock to OT and got the job done, the Bandits spanked the pants off of the Swarm and the Vancouver at Rochester game OT thriller was off the chain.

I hope I didn’t spoil it for you! Here’s how it went down; Ryan Conwell covers the Black Wolves vs Rock and Stealth at Knighthawks and I’ll take the rest! Hit it!

Saskatchewan Rush (3-2) @ Colorado Mammoth (5-2)

1 2 3 4 TOTAL
Sask. 2 2 1 2 7
Colorado 1 2 5 1 9
SOG SOFF LB FO PPG
54 20 66 10-20 3-5
34 18 64 10-20 2-3

Quick Thoughts

  • It was a defensive struggle on both ends
  • Dillon Ward played his best of the season
  • Colorado is not the same without Jones
  • Mammoth took 1st from Rush with the win

After the perfect 4-0 start, the Mammoth got worked by their opponents two weeks in a row, dropping their record to 4-2 heading into the midweek Western Conference battle between the Saskatchewan Rush and Colorado, the host. Nearly 11k fans were on hand to support their home team before they would head out to Calgary on Saturday. Before we get there, we need to look at how the Mammoth stole the win on Thursday.

Saskatchewan Notes

Colorado Mammoth Saskatchewan Rush NLL 2016 Photo: Jack Dempsey
Photo: Jack Dempsey

It’s hard to believe a team that put 54 shots on goal didn’t bury more than 7 of them. It’s harder to believe that when their go-to guy Mark Matthews takes 14 of those rips, he can’t sink more than 1. But it’s the cold, hard truth, Matthews was good for only 3 points total. That’s not a good sign for the potentially lethal offense and it’s even worse when the points leader for the night was Robert Church who only found 1 goal along with 4 helpers in the loss.

The first and last goals of the game for the Rush came from a fairly quiet figure, righty forward Jarrett Davis, his 2nd and 3rd goals of the season. Davis’ first came 6 minutes in and remained the lone goal of the quarter until Zack Greer scored his 1st goal after his 7 goal night the previous weekend. Colorado snagged a rebound for a quick breakaway goal to close the quarter with a 2 to 1 Rush lead. A goal to end the 1st quarter and a pair to start the 2nd frame took away the lead before Matthews could knot things up at 3 on the powerplay. A couple of minutes later, strong ball movement in transition led to a Curtis Knight goal from Jeremy Thompson and John Lintz, closing out the half with a 4-3 lead.

Colorado Mammoth Saskatchewan Rush NLL 2016 Photo: Jack Dempsey
Photo: Jack Dempsey

Then came the 12 minute Rush drought which the Mammoth made it rain 5 goals on the other end. Ben McIntosh would finally score on a powerplay attempt to close the quarter, now down 5-8. The Rush only managed to put another 6 shots on net in the quarter as possessions and momentum stayed with Colorado. Uncharacteristically Aaron Bold didn’t have a strong night in the crease, letting in 9 goals on 34 shots and getting chased from the net at one point in the 3rd to collect his composure. Still playing fast and impressive defense, Ryan Dilks led the team with 7 caused turnovers while Brett Mydske and Chris Corbeil combined for another 5. Regardless of the outcome, these three still played championship defense. The whole backline did an incredible job locking up Grant early in the game, throwing bodies around and protecting the crease.

Colorado Notes

Colorado Mammoth Saskatchewan Rush NLL 2016 Photo: Jack Dempsey
Photo: Jack Dempsey

Things started off sluggishly for Colorado again after taking a punch in the mouth two weeks in a row and a big factor was the vacancy left by leading man Adam Jones. The offense only managed to pull off 4 shots on goal against Bold in the 1st quarter. The only one that fell came with a minute left on a hard shot, turned rebound for former NLL Transition Player of the Year Joey Cupido to take all the way to the opposite end, closing the quarter with a trailing, 1-2, score.

Bilic got tagged for 2 minutes from holding the stick on a screen which lead to the equalizing goal from Eli McLaughlin on the powerplay. Just a few minutes later, welcomed addition Callum Crawford took the lead with help from John Grant Jr., the last Mammoth goal of the second half despite putting another 7 shots on net.

The 6 minute, 3rd quarter goal spree won the game for Colorado along with a stellar effort on the defensive end. Junior made the Rush pay for a too-many men call, kicking the run off, followed by a back-to-back set of goals from Ilija Gajic, who was making his presence known on the offensive side of the floor for the night. His first came on his own draw win to which he cruised down the floor and buried the rock uncontested. A coupe minutes later he was back at it in settled play with beautiful movement from the veterans Crawford and Grant, connecting with Gajic for his 2nd and final point of the night to go along with a 4-7 performance at the draw circle.

Defensive rookie Josh Sullivan kept the streak alive with his 1st career goal coming on a rebound from one of many shots off goal, which he hightailed it all the way down to beat Bold one on one. It was after this goal the pulled the veteran goaltender from the floor for less than a minute to breathe it out. The Mammoth offense wasn’t able to get a successful shot off against the backup. With about 6 minutes left on the clock, Junior was sent to the box for a 2 minute hold, which Chris Wardle made the best of, extending the streak to 5 goals on a shorthanded sinker.

Colorado Mammoth Saskatchewan Rush NLL 2016 Photo: Jack Dempsey
Photo: Jack Dempsey

It would be almost 15 minutes until the Mammoth would score their 9th and final goal. McLaughlin netted his 2nd of the night, pushing the lead to 2 and just out of the visitor’s reach. It’s fun to talk about the scoring, but the real hero of the match was between the Colorado pipes. Dillon Ward faced a staggering 54 shots on net, of which he stopped 47, 13 of which were in the 4th quarter alone. The defense did a fantastic job of limiting the shot selection and letting their goalie see the shooters, but nonetheless Ward was an absolute game changer. Another name worth noting from the impressive backline is Robert Hope, who was an animal on Thursday, playing an aggressive game against the Rush shooters, forcing 5 turnovers and picking up 6 loose balls.

Vancouver Stealth (2-4) @ Roc Knighthawks (3-2)

1 2 3 4 OT TOTAL
Vancouver 5 3 3 4 0 15
Rochester 3 3 5 4 1 16
SOG SOFF LB FO PPG
 61 34 83 22-35 3-4
 54 23 66 13-35 3-4

Quick Thoughts

  • Bonus lacrosse is the best lacrosse!
  • Rochester’s keeping pace in the East
  • Logan Schuss is finding his groove

This game was high scoring and exciting from the beginning all the way until the end. While there were plenty of runs by each team, they were always matched by the other side. The final minute of regulation saw Dan Dawson break the tie with just 40 seconds left. The crowd was on their feet as the Knighthawks tried to run out the clock, but the always deadly Rhys Duch scored the tying goal just 20 seconds later.  Those two fast goals did not carry into overtime. In what was a very sportsmanlike gesture from Cody Jamieson, he allowed nearly every rostered player from each team to take a shot on goal in overtime before scoring the game winner. I’m kidding of course, but it was amazing to see neither team shying away from transition opportunities in overtime. Defenseman Chris O’Dougherty and Matt Beers both had legitimate chances to seal the game for the Stealth in the extra period. But it was Jamieson who sent the home crowd into a frenzy with his outside rocket off a solid Joe Walters pick.

Vancouver Notes

Rochester Knighthawks Vancouver Stealth NLL 2016 Photo: Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks
Photo: Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks

Vancouver has come a long way since their first game of the year. If this game is any indication, their offense is really starting to click and they are getting great production out of the guys they need it from. Out of their 39 combined team points, 34 of them came from their primary forwards. Logan Schuss led the way with 10 points, followed by Rhys Duch and Garrett Billings who had eight a piece. Corey Small had a well-balanced six points and Joel McCready scored a pair of goals himself. This is great news from their offense, and goes to show that this team can cause some real problems in the West. Schuss’ recent surge in points also has him quickly climbing the league’s scoring leader board where he is now on pace to be the fourth highest scorer in the league.

Rochester Knighthawks Vancouver Stealth NLL 2016 Photo: Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks
Photo: Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks

The big thing that may put the Stealth over the top is getting some point production out of their defenders. With the road to the playoffs currently going through the likes of Colorado, the transition game will only be more and more important. Chances were lost late in the game in this area, with defenders looking off shooters, missing trailers on the crease and mistiming opportunities. Nearly every one of their defenders went without a point in this game. In a match this close, that can truly be the different between a win and a loss. Eric Penney was not great in net, but they did not opt to switch in the recently un-retired Tyler Richards for any meaningful time, either. The Stealth really need to find some answers for defense to support their offensive efforts. Penney is near the bottom of the league in save percentage and the team is second from last in goals allowed. Neither one of those will lead to much success in Vancouver.

Rochester Notes

Rochester Knighthawks Vancouver Stealth NLL 2016 Photo: Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks
Photo: Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks

Cody Jamieson continues to be the leader of this team, showing no sign of slowing down after his four goal, five assist night. He is currently on pace for 126 points this year, which is tied with Shawn Evans for second in the league. Dan Dawson was not far behind with a pair of goals to go with his eight assists. While Cory Vitarelli turned in a stellar four goals and three assists, it was Joe Walters who chipped in the most encouraging stat line. He came into this game never scoring more than two points in a game and only had one goal. Against the Stealth, he scored a pair of goals and had four assists. Jamieson’s production is keeping the lefties going, but this team is at their best when Walters is making solid contributions. Newly acquired Quinn Powless, who was traded from the Black Wolves in exchange for Jordan Hall (Mike Manley also joined Rochester, but he is still injured), did not play in this game.

Defensively, the bigger concern was Matt Vinc getting pulled pretty early in the game after saving just under 70 percent of his shots.  That does happen occasionally, but Angus Goodleaf was great when he went out onto the floor. Goodleaf finished with saving just over 80 percent of the shots he faced. He had a fantastic effort in overtime, making four saves in the period alone.

Rochester Knighthawks Vancouver Stealth NLL 2016 Photo: Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks
Photo: Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks

Another interesting development is that the Knighthawks have begun shying away from their rookies on defense except for rookie Graeme Hossack. This is going to be something to keep an eye on through the season. Their defense is aging (although still good), so getting their younger players some experience is getting increasingly important.

Colorado Mammoth (6-2) @ Calgary Roughnecks (3-4)

1 2 3 4 TOTAL
Colorado 0 5 2 6 13
Calgary
3 2 0 3 8
SOG SOFF LB FO PPG
52 21 69 18-25 3-4
46 19 77 7-25 1-5

Quick Thoughts

  • Dan Coates dominated the draws with the absence of Snider
  • Wes Berg and Tyler Digby both played good enough to win
  • Having Adam Jones back clearly changes the offense
  • Is it time to go with Poulin in Calgary?

The second bout of the weekend for the Mammoth would come on the road in a packed Scotiabank Saddledome, filled out with 9,888 screaming fans hoping to see their Roughnecks to break above .500. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be the case as Colorado rolled into town with two fresh faces that were itching to get back on the floor.

Colorado Notes

Calgary Roughnecks Colorado Mammoth NLL 2016 Photo credit: Candice Ward
Photo: Candice Ward

What a difference two players can make in this league. Thursday night the Mammoth squeaked by in a low scoring affair without their scoring-leader Adam Jones and their draw-man, captain Dan Coates but that wouldn’t be the case when the crew rolled into Alberta on Saturday. Coates’ presence was recognized right away at the face-off circle and on the defensive end. Winning 18 of his 23 takes, Coates also forced another 2 turnovers and scooped 6 loosies throughout the night. Offensively it was Jones getting his name called for 4 goals, 3 of which came on the powerplay. Adding to Jones’ 4 points, the real offensive producer was Callum Crawford who broke out the hat trick to go along with his 4 assists.

The game didn’t start with the same productivity as it finished with. In fact, the Mammoth didn’t even get on the board until over 19 minutes in when Jones scored on the powerplay to make it 1-4. Mike Burke (2+2) would be the next to join the party, scoring the first of his career-high night. They would then give up 1 goal over the next 7 minutes before Jones would punch in his 2nd goal of the night. Following the draw Greg Downing gained possession and linked up Jack of all trades Ilija Gajic, to be followed 20 seconds later from John Grant Jr. hitting Eli McLaughlin in the final minute to send both teams to the locker-rooms locked at 5.

Calgary Roughnecks Colorado Mammoth NLL 2016 Photo credit: Candice Ward
Photo: Candice Ward

The 3rd quarter featured some incredible goaltending from both parties, Dillon Ward making a 15-minute shutout while Jones buried a pair of powerplay tallies within 20 seconds of each other, making the best of a 5 minute major for high sticking, for the only scores of the quarter. One of those notches on a crazy slam dunk from behind seen here…

After Calgary found twine on the first possession of the final quarter, the Mammoth opened up the gates for 4 straights scores. Jeremy Noble punched the first one in before Crawford made himself good for two straight, followed by Burke again. Calgary would try to stop the bleeding but goals from Grant and Crawford would extend an insurmountable lead for Colorado’s 6th win of the 2016 campaign.

Getting two starts in one week, Ward was huge in both games for his team. This time around he finished the game with 38 stops on 46 attempts on cage, a slightly less eventful night than Thursday on his part, but altogether impressive.

Calgary Notes

Calgary Roughnecks Colorado Mammoth NLL 2016 Photo credit: Candice Ward
Photo: Candice Ward

The Western Conference showdown started off in-favor of the home team, scoring started just 45 seconds in and went for 4 straight before their opponents could get in on the fun. The nights opened up with a pair of lazers shot from rookie Wes Berg, the 1st settled from Tyler Digby and Curtis Dickson and the second coming from Dickson just a few minutes later, the only powerplay goal of the night for Calgary. To close out the first quarter 3-0, the big newcomer Digby fought his way in for his first of the evening.

Goaltender Frankie Scigliano hit a streaking Dickson to begin the scoring in the 2nd frame and to extend the lead to 4. At this point Colorado woke up and would begin their own 5-1 run to end the half, the only other goal coming from Digby coming again on a settled, hard-worked goal from solid ball movement. The 3rd quarter was nothing but silence for the Riggers, they only got 9 shots off on Ward and all were kept out. Scigliano made 13 saves of his own in the quarter, his best showing of the game, but the lack of production from the offense would keep the Roughnecks from ever finding any traction.

To start the 4th, Dan MacRae forced a beautiful turnover that ended with an assist to rookie Reilly O’Connor, his 1st career goal coming after 11 total assists so far in 2016, cutting the gap down to 1 goal. 5 minutes later Digby found the net again, but it wasn’t until after the Mammoth pounded in 4 of their own in the meantime. Colorado answered Digby’s goal with 2 more before the final notch of the night would come on a dagger from Berg on the extra-attacker situation caused by a pulled goalie.

It was bad news for the Riggers at the draw circle, Curtis Manning and Garrett McIntosh combined for a sub-par 7 of 25 attempts, primarily against Coates. The powerplay unit is also lacking, only connecting 1 of the 5 attempts they were given on Saturday leaving them with the worst powerplay success percentage in the West. Killing the powerplay, they’re doing fine, warding off 50% of opposing teams’ attempts.

Calgary Roughnecks Colorado Mammoth NLL 2016 Photo credit: Candice Ward
Photo: Candice Ward

Goaltending is an issue right now and the coaching staff can’t seem to get it worked out. They replaced Scigliano early in the 4th for Mike Poulin, who was yanked after getting beat on the subsequent possession which went straight from draw to goal. No time for saves, no time for confidence, time for Scigliano again. Then they put in the more mobile Poulin for the final 3.5 minutes or so, which he doesn’t give up another goal. Scigliano finished 37 of 49, collecting his 4th loss of the season.

Buffalo Bandits (4-2) @ Georgia Swarm (3-4)

1 2 3 4 TOTAL
Buffalo 3 9 3 6 21
Georgia 2 3 5 4 14
SOG SOFF LB FO PPG
60 20 73 25-39 2-3
44 23 44 14-39 2-5

Quick Thoughts

  • Were we playing football?
  • There are two teams playing as the Georgia Swarm
  • Jay Thorimbert is part machine
  • Dhane Smith might be all machine

The near 5k Georgia Swarm fans that filled the Infinite Energy got their money’s worth when it came to goal scoring, too bad for them, the majority came from the visiting Buffalo Bandits. A true football score, the game finished 21 to 14, with a total of 39 face offs and nearly 150 total shots! Talk about run and gun lacrosse! We picked this matchup as our Game of the Week for Week 7 because we knew it would be played fast with a ton of shots on goal, we just didn’t expect the Bandits to runaway with a 7 goal margin after 21 goals!

Buffalo Notes

Georgia Swarm Buffalo Bandits Photo: Paul Sasso
Photo: Paul Sasso

Let’s get this out of the way first, Dhane Smith is on course to break all kinds of records in 2016, thanks to big nights he’s been having like his 5 goal, 8 assist night in Georgia. Ryan Conwell did the math and if Smith stays on this course for the rest of the season, he should finish a whopping 20 points higher than what NLL MVP Shawn Evans wound up with last season. Dang, son!

The night started off with Kevin Brownell scoring his first of the night just a minute in on the assist from Mark Steenhuis and Mitch Wilde after recovering the ball to the offensive side. The big night from Alex Kedoh-Hill started just 30 seconds after Brownell’s tally, coming from rookie Mitch de Snoo from quick transition and ending with Kedoh-Hill climbing the boards. The Swarm did their part to scratch in a couple of goals on the score sheet before Wilde took the rock down the floor himself for an unassisted one on one with Higgins to end the 1st quarter with a 3-2 Bandits lead.

The second quarter blew the game right open with a 7 goal Buffalo explosion over 6 minutes starting with none other than Dhane Smith, followed by Ryan Benesch (from Smith), to be trailed by a Smith goal (from Benesch) again. Brownell then found his 2nd and final point of the night before Great Dhane could force in his hat trick scoring goal, again assisted by Benesch. The run was polished off by a notch from Chad Culp and then a Steenhuis goal. The Swarm were able to pick up a couple of goals before Kedoh-Hill punched in his 2nd of the night, followed by an answer from Lyle Thompson. Benesch silenced the crowd that woke up from Thompson’s goal just a few seconds later to close out the half with a commanding 12 to 5 lead.

Buffalo lost the 3rd frame 5 to 3, but a 15 to 10 lead was still a wide margin to head into the final 15 minutes with. It was Daryl Veltman scoring twice in the the 3rd, the first time in transition from Steve Priolo to Smith and the 2nd coming on the powerplay making the best of an illegal cross check from the Swarm’s MacIntosh. The last goal of the quarter for the Bandits came with 10 minutes left from Smith before Georgia would punch in 4 of their own. The 4th quarter story was Buffalo’s once again. Benesch and Veltman kicked off the period with their hat trick scoring goals, both assisted by Smith. Georgia would go on to hit once before Kedoh-Hill put a stop to it with his hat trick scoring point. Dhane Smith would go again this time unassisted, then immediately followed by Kedoh-Hill on the powerplay. Mitch Jones would close out the epic night for Bandits scoring from a connection from Priolo in transition.

Georgia Swarm Buffalo Bandits Photo: Paul Sasso
Photo: Paul Sasso

The man they call Big Fish, Davide DiRuscio, stood tall in cage for the Bandits for all 60 minutes and the win. 30 saves on 44 shots on goal was enough to propel the Bandits past the Swarm, although they gave up 14 goals, the 3rd game with 14 or more in 2016. 25 of 39 faceoff wins came to league-leader Jay Thorimbert, who took each and every draw and came up with a team-high 11 loosies.

Georgia Notes

Georgia Swarm Buffalo Bandits Photo: Paul Sasso
Photo: Paul Sasso

The Swarm have proven themselves to be one of the most dynamic teams in the NLL. When I say dynamic I’m referring to the contrast between when they’re hot and when they’re not, and when they’re hot, how they have like 8 or 9 guys that can put the ball in the net, with their ages ranging from 23 to 26. While the offense managed to put up 14 goals this weekend, the defense gave up 21.

Georgia got blown out in the loose ball game too, Joel White hasn’t been in his typical role gobbling up a loosie every time he hits the floor and the only guy to pick up more than five was faceoff man Jordan MacIntosh grabbing 10, but only winning a third of his 36 draws.

The first quarter started with the Bandits hopping out to a 2-0 lead before Shayne Jackson buried his 14th goal of the season followed by rookie Chad Tutton on the feed from fellow freshman Jesse King to tie things up. That’s when things go ugly. Buffalo ran up the score, charging the Swarm for 8 unanswered goals over the 18 minutes that Georgia repeatedly came up empty on. Good transition from senior defender Mitch Belisle to White finally stopped some of the bleeding and team goal leader Johnny Powless put a goal in less than a minute later, only to bring the score to 9-4. Before the half was over, the Swarm would give up two more goals to the Bandits with only a single score coming from this nasty Lyle Thompson effort, his only goal of the game.

Just 30 seconds into the 2nd half, Johnny Powless earned his 2nd of the night from Jackson and Kiel Matisz before the Swarm went on another nearly 7 minute drought, letting in the Bandits’ only 3 goals of the frame. Sophomore stat Miles Thompson registered his only score of the night along with another set of powerplay goals from Powless, his 3rd and 4th of the game, and a lone strike from rookie wonderboy Randy Staats, his 14th goal of the season. The third quarter closed out at 15-10, Buffalo’s lead, although momentum seemed to be with the Swarm, scoring 4 consecutively to close it out.

The final quarter started off no better, Buffalo taking Georgia on a 6-1 run, featuring a sole MacIntosh goal, until 6 minutes left in the game. At this point the Bandits were up 10 goals and slowed their roll to cruise out the victory. The Swarm were able to put together a measly 3 goals from Tutton, Jackson and MacIntosh to close out the loss.

Goaltending struggled severely as Zack Higgins got his 1st start since the week 1 loss. Higgins blocked 13 shots, letting in only 3 in the first quarter. The Bandits beat him on  the 2nd and 3rd shots on goal, which he recovered from nicely making some nice saves to keep the Swarm in the game. Then Buffalo went off and Higgins was yanked twice for the towering Brodie MacDonald, who didn’t solve much of the problem and ended up being replaced for Higgins in the 4th quarter. Although the game was nearly split, Higgins was charged with the loss, saving 22 of 31 (71%) shots while MacDonald actually had the worse night, only blocking 17 of 29 (58%).

Toronto Rock (0-6) @ N. England Black Wolves (4-3)

1 2 3 4 OT TOTAL
Toronto 2 5 4 5 0 16
N England 4 4 4 4 1 17
SOG SOFF LB FO PPG
 54 30 70 25-37 5-7
 58 29 70 12-37 6-8

Quick Thoughts

  • Shawn Evans.  That’s it, just Shawn Evans.
  • More bonus lacrosse!
  • Toronto is so close to a win.

While the end result of this game was Toronto still being winless on the year, they did not play like an 0-6 team.  New England had to work for all of their scoring chances while Toronto did the same. Nothing came easy for either team and it was a very physical game from the starting whistle with the first quarter alone seeing 11 penalties. Toronto almost had the win too, if not for Shawn Evans scoring the tying goal with under seven seconds left. Less than a minute into overtime, Kyle Buchanan would get the game winner to send Toronto home without any answers.

Toronto Notes

New England Black Wolves Toronto Rock 2016 NLL Photo credit Jeff Melnik LaxAllStars.com
Photo: Jeff Melnik / LaxAllStars.com

After four games of not being able to break past the seven goal barrier, Toronto has relatively exploded for games of 16 and 17 points. Unfortunately for them, both of these still wound up being losses. They have now lost six games, all of which are to their Eastern Division foes. It is almost time to start pulling out the calculators to see what it would take for the Rock to see the postseason. Just glancing at their schedule, they do not play Georgia again, they see New England and Rochester only one more time each, and they have seven games against the West. This means they have to really start winning all for a vast majority of their games since tie breakers are not going to be in their favor.

The Rock forwards really did have a better night. Rob Hellyer led the way with three goals and five assists, and Stephan Leblanc was just behind with four goals and four assists. In his first game back this year with the Rock, Josh Sanderson scored a goal and had four assists, which is right about where you would want him to be to start. It is tough to be too hard on the forwards here as they were seven seconds away from winning the game.

New England Black Wolves Toronto Rock 2016 NLL Photo credit Jeff Melnik LaxAllStars.com
Photo: Jeff Melnik / LaxAllStars.com

The defense on the other hand, really folded at the last minute. Goalie Brandon Miller saved just about 70 percent of his shots which puts him second from the bottom in the league. That is just not a place you expect to see a goalie as talented as he is. If their offense is going to start putting up these kinds of numbers, the defense really needs to do a better job of limiting opportunities for the other team. Right now, their Goals Against average of 14.2 is almost a full point higher than the best Goals For average in the league. Who owns that 13.3 goals average? That would be Buffalo, the next opponent the Rock face.

New England Notes

New England Black Wolves Toronto Rock 2016 NLL Photo credit Jeff Melnik LaxAllStars.com
Photo: Jeff Melnik / LaxAllStars.com

New England found a way to win this one and is tied for the top spot in the East with Buffalo. Shawn Evans was on another level in this game, scoring six goals to go with his six assists. Kevin Crowley and Pat Saunders both had four goals and two assists while Kevin Buchanan had five assists of his own. Kyle Buchanan was pretty quiet with just a goal and an assist, but he had the overtime game winner going for him, which is nice. What is very encouraging for the Wolves is Jordan Hall was folded into their offense with no issue at all after being acquired just days before. He had a goal and three assists against Toronto, spent some time on man up, and did not seem even a little out of place. Altogether, the New England offense was very productive.

New England Black Wolves Toronto Rock 2016 NLL Photo credit Jeff Melnik LaxAllStars.com
Photo: Jeff Melnik / LaxAllStars.com

Defensively, it was not a great game for the Black Wolves. Their defenders did not push transition too often, although one of my favorite goals by the team was a feed from John Ranagan to Sheldon Burns on the crease. While they did have a ton of penalties in the first quarter, they did not allow too many goals, and their penalty kill for the rest of the game was not great. Evan Kirk also had one of his worst games of the season in terms of save percentage, but it was not enough for the coaches to want a switch. It’s not a great trend for the Black Wolves, who still lead the league in goals against, but their last three games have started showing some vulnerabilities. This gives me some concerns for their defense as they did the same things last year: a hot start followed by a season of struggling.

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