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WEEKEND WRAP: Exciting Final Night of Regular Season Sets Tone for the Playoffs

04/30/2012, 10:06am EDT
By Andy Lefkowitz, Associate Editor for NLL.com

Battle for higher playoff seeds came down to the wire with chases for league and team records


Toronto's Garrett Billings (13) is the NLL's new single-season record holder for assists in a season with 82. (Photo Credit: Dale MacMillan)

If the final regular season games of the 2012 National Lacrosse League season are any indication, then the playoffs could be among of the most exciting ever.

The games of Week 17, the final night of the regular season, saw a slew of league and club records fall and playoff positions set ahead of next weekend’s Divisional Semifinals.

Start in Minnesota, where John Grant Jr. became the all-time single-season scoring leader in Colorado’s 16-13 loss to the Swarm.

Grant’s second goal of the game – and 50th of the season – also was his 116th and final point to break John Tavares’ record of 115 set with Buffalo in 2001. As Tavares did more than a decade ago, Grant needed just 14 games to set the new mark after missing two games in March with an upper-body injury.

“It’s cool to be recognized, but I’m more focused on the playoffs at this point,” said Grant, who became the third player to reach 500 career goals earlier this season.

After winning just nine games combined in 2010 and 2011, the Mammoth got off to a 6-0 start before splitting their final 10 contests this year. Colorado has dropped two straight heading into next Saturday’s playoff game against Minnesota at Pepsi Center in Denver, which airs live on CBS Sports Network.

While Grant broke a long-standing league record, Adam Jones and Chris Levis were also setting new team marks.

Jones, the third overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, capped a marvelous season with his 29th goal to break Brian Langtry’s Mammoth rookie record set in 2003. Meanwhile, Levis made 30 saves, giving him 603 for the season to better Gee Nash’s record of 601 set in 2005.

In Edmonton, Garrett Billings of the Toronto Rock nearly made Grant’s new record a short-lived one.

Billings came into the season finale against the Rush with 106 points. He would add five goals and three assists in the Rock’s 12-11 win but fall two points short of Grant and finish with 114, the third-highest single season total in league history.

Billings still broke Rock captain Colin Doyle’s record for points in a season and became the NLL’s single-season assists leader with 82.

“Unbelievable. He’s been like that all year,” Toronto head coach Troy Cordingley told Kyle Galliver of NLL.com. “He’s been our leader, he’s kind of carried us on his back. Anything he does doesn’t surprise me anymore.”

About midway through the game, the Rock won their first division title since 2005 after Rochester beat Philadelphia. Toronto will begin the postseason on Saturday night against Buffalo at the Air Canada Centre at 7pm Eastern (TSN, RDS2 & NLL Network). 

Aaron Bold will figure prominently in Edmonton’s record book after a stellar first season. The All-Star is now the Rush’s record holder for most saves (571) and lowest goals-against average (10.47). He also registered a new team-best for assists by a goaltender with 14.

“When it comes to the days’ end, I don’t really care about my performance, it’s all about the teams’,” Bold said. “If I play good when we’re winning, then so be it.”

Bold and the Rush will be trying to upset top overall seed Calgary this coming Saturday night.

Wings forward Dan Dawson now owns the team record for most points in a season. With two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 9-7 loss to Rochester, Dawson pushed his total to 103 to eclipse Athan Iannucci’s mark of 100 set four years ago.

Philadelphia, which closed the regular-season on a five-game losing streak and was swept in the season series by the Knighthawks, will travel back to the Blue Cross Arena for a playoff matchup on Friday night at 7:30pm (NLL Network).

The final game of the league’s regular season involved the only team not headed to the playoffs. It also may have been the most entertaining.

Washington’s Lewis Ratcliff scored seven goals – the last of which came with 99 seconds left – to push the game against Buffalo into overtime. The Stealth’s season ended at 9:55 of the extra session, as Tavares’ power-play goal lifted the Bandits to a 17-16 win in the fifth-longest game in NLL history.

Ratcliff became the first player to score seven goals in one game since Minnesota’s Ryan Benesch on Jan. 14, 2011, against the Stealth.

Washington’s Bob Snider won 30 of 37 face-offs, giving him 319 this season to break the league record shared by Peter Jacobs (Philadelphia 2005) and older brother, Geoff Snider (Philadelphia 2008).

Amid the accomplishments, the game also marked the final one for Stealth forward Cam Sedgwick, who announced his retirement to his teammates prior to the game. He leaves Washington third on the franchise's all-time games played list (119), seventh in goals (122), third in assists (236) and fourth in points (354). Sedgwick won a championship with the Stealth in 2010.

“I love this organization and I love the guys and it's special for sure.” Sedgwick told Aaron Lommers of the Everett (Wash.) Herald.

Let the playoffs begin!

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