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Weekend Wrap: Victorious Homecoming, Billings goes 15 for 15, One Goal in 37 Minutes = Win

04/02/2012, 12:28pm EDT
By Dave Walls for NLL.com

Looking back at some memorable moments of this past NLL weekend


Garrett Billings scored or assisted on all 15 Toronto goals this past Saturday. Credit: Larry Palumbo

In a night filled with high goal scores and even higher emotions, John Grant Jr. knew Saturday afternoon’s game against Rochester wasn’t like any other he had experienced this season.  “I was too fired up, and I think my play showed it.” said Grant, in a post game interview on the field.

Grant may be the only Mammoth disappointed with his effort, as the NLL’s leading scorer put up 11 points (3G, 8A) to lead Colorado to a hard-fought 16-12 victory over the Knighthawks in Blue Cross Arena.

The post game interview, normally reserved for the hometown star of the game, was originally given to leading Rochester scorer Cody Jamieson, whose 5 goal and 2 assist effort kept the game close, as the Knighthawks tied the game in the fourth quarter at 12.

Jamieson, the second year pro, recognized that it was Grant’s big day, and stepped aside. “It’s been a while since (Grant) was here, so why not give the fans what they want to see.” said Jamieson to the Democrat and Chronicle in a story here. Grant responded with kindness towards the heir apparent to the throne in Rochester. “Cody was all class, giving up that interview at the end, so kudos to him.”

Jamie Lincoln recorded a hat trick for the Mammoth (3G, 2A), while Gavin Prout also contributed 9 points (2G, 7A) for Colorado. Cory Vitarelli had 5 points (3G, 2A) in the losing effort for the Knighthawks, who now fall to third place in the East, and only one game ahead of last-place Buffalo.

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Nights like this for Toronto’s Garrett Billings just don’t happen every day, although to hear Rock coach Troy Cordingley, you’d think that Garrett’s record night was just another ordinary game.

“Garrett’s been like that all year for us” said Cordingley to NLL.com in an article here. “He’s been our best player, there’s no denying that.”

Billings figured into to all 15 of Toronto’s goals in a decisive 15-9 drubbing over the Buffalo Bandits in HSBC Arena on Saturday. It’s the largest point total, by one player, that the Bandits have ever allowed, breaking Derek Malawsky’s record, set in 2002, when the then-Knighthawk scored 13 points. Billings’ 11 assists also tie Malawsky for second in NLL history, behind Buffalo’s Mark Steenhuis’ 13, set in 2009.

After the game, Bandits head coach was visibly disgusted, and direct when asked about his team’s play. “It’s just really hard to watch…It’s mindboggling how bad we are.”

Penalties hurt Buffalo down the stretch, with Toronto converting on 7 of 13 Power Play opportunities, including the maximum of three goals on each of two five-minute major penalties that Bandits’ Jeremy Thompson and Daryl Gibson were assessed.

John Tavares lead the Bandits with four goals and one assist. Toronto’s Colin Doyle also scored eight points (2G, 6A) to help move the Rock into second place, ahead of Rochester, and at 6-6, just one game in back of the idle Philadelphia Wings. Toronto can clinch a playoff berth next week with a win against Edmonton and a Buffalo loss against Philadelphia.

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In an NLL season of games that has featured huge swings in momentum and scoring, Minnesota and Edmonton battled at Rexall Place on Saturday with a game that featured great goaltending, scoring bursts, great defense, and an overtime winner for the Rush, defeating the Swarm 9-8, thanks to Aaron Wilson scoring at the 1:57 mark of OT.

Edmonton lead the entire first half, starting early as Zack Greer scored just 11 seconds into the game. Edmonton would increase their lead to 8-4 before Minnesota would substitute goaltenders, replacing Tyler Carlson with the Swarm’s 2011 1st round draft pick, Evan Kirk, and the entire tempo of the game changed, as Kirk shut out the Rush offense for the entire second half, making 25 saves, and only allowing the OT winner to Wilson.  Talk about hard luck -- Kirk played 37 minutes and allowed only one goal, stopping 25 out of 26 shots faced -- but ended up taking the loss. 

Rush netminder Aaron Bold wouldn’t be outshined tonight, however, stopping 36 of 44 shots on net for the win. Rush Coach and GM Derek Keenan praised Bold in the post game conference.

“He was outstanding..Some huge saves late in the fourth and a couple of saves in overtime – he was really good.” said Keenan to NLL.com, in an article here. “He’s given us a chance to win all year, except for a couple where we didn’t play well defensively in front of him.”

With Minnesota’s fourth straight loss, the Swarm now fall to 5-7, while Edmonton improved to 4-7, putting them back into playoff contention. That’s something that feels especially nice for Wilson, who netted the OT winner against his former team.

“I was a little excited..Especially for me this year, I’ve struggled to score a bit, so it feels extra good to get the OT winner, and help my team get a win here.” said Wilson.

Rush coach Keenan agreed, saying “I feel great for him, because he’s struggled just to score, and tonight was a good sign.”

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While a lot of talk in the West has been about John Grant Jr. and his amazing point totals for the Colorado Mammoth, the Calgary Roughnecks have been quietly winning games and making their case for the title of “Best in the West”.

After this past weekend, Minnesota and Washington wouldn’t give much of an argument to that claim.

The Riggers continued their dominance, by sweeping their weekend games, 15-10 against the Swarm at the Xcel Center in Minnesota, and 13-11 against the Stealth at the Saddledome. The wins move Calgary to a record of 10-3, tied with the Mammoth atop the Western Division.

“We’re adjusting in terms of the offences we’re facing..” Calgary head coach Dave Pym told the Calgary Herald, in an article here. “..Doing a lot of scouting on them, in terms of team tendencies and the adjustments we’re making seem to be working.” Pym continued “We’re just going to keep with that program and pattern, and hopefully, it pays off for us down the stretch.”

That pattern made quick work of the Swarm on Friday, as Calgary peppered rookie goaltender Evan Kirk with 53 shots, creating a balanced scoring attack that kept Minnesota on its heels all night. Jeff Shattler (3G, 3A), Geoff Snider (3G, 2A), and Curtis Dickson (3G, 1A) all recorded hat tricks in the winning effort.

The real story of Friday night was the dominating 4th quarter defense of the Roughnecks, who shut out their third straight opponent in the 4th. Edmonton, Buffalo, and now Minnesota, all were outscored by a combined 18-0 in the last frame.

Washington would put up a bit more of a fight on Saturday night, breaking that 4th quarter scoring streak. The Riggers kept their foot on the gas pedal, however, launching 61 shots at Stealth goalie Tyler Richards. Despite winning 13-11, Calgary’s Scott Ranger gave the Washington goaltender credit for keeping his team in the game.

“He’s a heck of a goalie, and they’re a heck of a good team, too”, said Ranger, who knocked in a game-leading four goals on the night for the Riggers. “You just keep going at ‘er, shoot till you’re hot. It’s a good motto to we have, and we followed that tonight.”

Jeff Shattler and Dane Dobbie both recorded hat tricks, while Daryl Veltman led all players with 6 assists. 

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