It was another exciting weekend of NLL lacrosse as we had some surprising results in the East and West Divisions. As we reach the middle of the season, teams at the top will need to continue their winning ways and those at the bottom will have to start playing their best lacrosse if they want to reach the playoffs. Let’s see who had a winning weekend and who ended up in the losers column in this week’s Winners and Losers.
Buffalo and Calgary’s Offenses
Both Buffalo and Calgary’s offenses exploded for huge performances in their wins and it seems unfair to just pick one or two players from these teams for Winners and Losers. For Buffalo, Shawn Evans had 4 goals and 6 assists, Dhane Smith dished out 11 assists, Corey Small added 5 goals and 2 assists as Chase Fraser and Thomas Hoggarth both also finished with 4 points. The Bandits Power Play also finished 7-for-8 in a dominant performance against their Eastern Division rivals, the Georgia Swarm. For Calgary, Curtis Dickson had a heroic-like performance with 4 goals and 7 assists, Dane Dobbie battled for 4 goals and 6 assists, Tyler Pace contributed 4 goals and 3 assists, and players like Riley Loewen and Mitch Wilde rounded out their scoring in a stunning win over the Saskatchewan Rush. Both Buffalo and Calgary showed what they can do when their stars are in the zone as they pulled out crucial wins in a tight playoff race.
The Colorado Mammoth got a potentially season saving win against the Philadelphia Wings thanks to the play of netminder Dillon Ward. Ward extinguished any chances for Philly to get back into the game in the fourth quarter as he made save after save on the Wings shooters. The Wings were definitely playing with more confidence after their first win, but Ward and the Mammoth spoiled any hopes they had of a win streak. The Mammoth now have their second win of the season and will look to get on their own winning streak to be able to sneak their way into the playoffs. Dillon Ward will definitely give them a chance if he continues to be a brick wall in net.
The San Diego fans were feeling pretty good heading into the Seals’ game against Vancouver after sliding into first place in the West during their two bye weeks, but Keegan Bal and the Warriors gave them a reality check. Keegan Bal was on fire as he scored four goals in a row in the second quarter and finished with six goals and four assists on the night. Without Logan Schuss in the lineup someone had to step up for the Warriors and Bal was up to the task. The Warriors are slowly coming together as they have now strung together a few wins and have now made the playoff race in the West a lot more interesting.
New England had a comfortable lead on Rochester going into the fourth quarter, but the Knighthawks stormed back to within two goals. Rookie Jackson Nishimura got a breakaway and scored his first NLL goal to stop the Rochester run and seal the Black Wolves victory. The goal would end up being the game-winner, so congratulations to Nishimura for scoring his first career goal in such a dramatic fashion.
The Black Wolves got another huge performance from their veteran Callum Crawford who had five goals and five assists in the win against Rochester to reach 900 career points. Crawford joins some all time greats as he is playing some of the best lacrosse of his career to help New England make a run at the playoffs.
Referee Hit By A Shot
Referees get a hard time in any sport by players and fans for their lack of calls, making the wrong calls or for basically anything they do. Being a referee is already a difficult job, but when you add in the chance of getting hit by a hard rubber puck or ball going 90 plus MPH you have to give these guys some respect. During the New England and Rochester game, one referee was unlucky enough to find himself in the path of a Callum Crawford shot that got deflected and pelted him right in the face. The only reason this referee is in the losers column is because he lost the game of chance that all referees play when they try and position themselves to stay out of the way of shots. The good thing is he got right back up and toughed it out like a true lacrosse or hockey player would. So make sure you give some love to the referees, too, because they are in the line of fire every time they are on the floor.
That’s it for this week’s Winners and Losers. This weekend’s games feature some East vs West matchups and also a doubleheader between New England and Philadelphia. The stakes are getting higher as the playoff race is on for the chance to be crowned NLL Champions in June. Follow Winners and Losers to stay up to date on the greatest (and not so great) moments from the NLL each week.