The Philadelphia Wings emerged from Week #3 of the 2013 NLL regular season as the only unbeaten team as four road teams, three in dramatic fashion, came away with a victory this past weekend. (Photo: Graig Abel)
With three games decided in dramatic fashion after some heroic comebacks, Week #3 of the 2013 National Lacrosse League regular season was quite the memorable weekend, especially for all four of the victorious road teams. It was the first time since 1998 that three home teams lost by a goal in the same weekend. As an example of how fiercely competitive the NLL is these days, six of the 10 games played so far this season have been decided by just one goal.
Drew Westervelt scored the game-winning goal with 10.9 seconds left as the Philadelphia Wings (2-0) emerged as the NLL's only unbeaten team with an 8-7 comeback road win over the Toronto Rock (2-1) to ruin their home opener at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
“When we were down, we had the faith we could come back and win,” Wings head coach Johnny Mouradian told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Great teams win games like that.”
The Rock carried what seemed to be a secure 7-4 lead midway into the fourth quarter, but a fury of offense from the Wings in the final minutes lifted Philadelphia to their first and only lead 59 minutes and 49 seconds into the game.
“I don’t think we lost focus. We just didn’t finish the game well,” Rock goalie Nick Rose told the Toronto Star. “Any time you take the last five or 10 minutes off, it’s not going to bode well.”
"It's hard not to feel we let one get away," Rock captain Colin Doyle told the Canadian Press. "A couple of lapses and that was it. We cannot let that happen at home. Maybe we counted the two points before they were there."
The Colorado Mammoth (1-1) erased a four-goal deficit in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter before Sean Pollock scored the game-winning goal in overtime to beat the Calgary Roughnecks (0-2) by a score of 13-12 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night.
"We're happy for [Pollock], he had a tough year last year," Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley told the Canadian Press. "It's nice to see him smiling after the game."
Mammoth forward and 2012 NLL MVP John Grant, Jr. scored six goals, often referred to as a "sock trick," and finished with a game-high eight points (6+2).
“You’ll see his name all over the scoresheet and it’s no fluke,” Roughnecks goalie Mike Poulin told the Calgary Herald. “He’s certainly the best goal scorer in the game and what he’s doing at his age is even more impressive.”
It was Poulin who stole the show for Calgary. The 2012 NLL Goaltender of the Year made two crucial saves, the second a desperation save on a shot by Grant, Jr., in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime.
“What can I say about Poulin?” said Grant, Jr. in the Herald article. “He made some saves that should be on Sportscentre. The game could have been over numerous times, but he was pretty acrobatic back there."
Tracey Kelusky scored the game-winner on a behind-the-back goal with 13 seconds left to help the Buffalo Bandits (2-1) beat the Rochester Knighthawks (0-2) on the road by a score of 14-13 to spoil their home opener at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
“It’s one of those things where the ball’s on the ground and a guy picks it up and throws it in desperation and it catches everybody by surprise,” Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc told the Rochester D&C. “It went between my legs, it’s one of those ones I’d like to have back, it was a lucky shot, but I don’t think that’s the first time Tracey Kelusky’s done that before.”
On a night when the defending champion Knighthawks raised their 2012 NLL Championship banner in a pregame ceremony, the Bandits silenced the crowd by jumping out to an early 3-0 lead in a game that was tied 10 different times.
“We talked about [the ceremony] as motivation,” Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour told the Buffalo News. “We told them to use it and be ready to play.”
The game also marked 2010 NLL MVP Casey Powell's official return to the Knighthawks, as he played in Rochester from 1999-2000 after being drafted by the team in 1998. Powell finished the game with a team-high six points (2+4).
“[Powell] was shooting the ball very well today in shootaround so it was good to see he got a few goals there,” Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen told NLL.com. “He was going hard and getting after those loose balls, getting physical. We need guys to lead, and when an older guy like Casey plays like that, we’ll just jump on board and ride his coattails.”
The Edmonton Rush (1-1), powered by rookie phenom Mark Matthews, got their first win and handed the Washington Stealth (2-1) their first loss of the season with an 18-10 victory at Comcast Arena on Sunday.
Matthews, the first overall selection in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft, opened the scoring just 31 seconds into the game on the Rush's first shot. Edmonton never looked back as they would not trail the rest of the way. Matthews finished with nine points (4+5), the most by a player in the NLL in a single game so far this season.
"Anytime your first shot of the game goes in the net you think, 'well, this is going to be a good night for me,'" Stealth head coach Chris Hall told the Everett Herald. "We know he's going to get his points. He is a great lacrosse player, but we've got to get more stops."
Washington will have a chance to redeem themselves next weekend when the teams meet in Edmonton on Friday at 9 p.m. at Rexall Place.
“We've got these guys next week, so we know we've got to be better,” Stealth captain Kyle Sorensen told the Edmonton Sun. “We lacked a little bit of heart. We didn't put together a full 60 minutes and I think it showed.”
No time to dwell on the past as every NLL team gets into the action this weekend with seven games in Week #4. Calgary, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Toronto and Washington will each play twice with three games scheduled for both Friday and Saturday in addition to a Sunday matinee.
Check back on NLL.com later this week for game previews with insight from players and coaches from both teams.