Four of the five winning teams in Week #6 held their opponents to 10 goals or fewer as goalies thrived. (Photo: Chris Fischbeck)
While the week before was all about special teams, the story of Week #6 was the goaltending, as four of the five winning teams held their opponents to 10 goals or fewer over the weekend.
Rochester Knighthawks goaltender Matt Vinc was almost invincible as “Vno" said "no” to 97 of 114 combined shots while the Knighthawks (3-3) earned two decisive road wins. Rochester beat the Philadelphia Wings 20-10 on Friday morning, then the Buffalo Bandits 15-7 the next night, to improve their record to .500 after an 0-3 start to the season.
“When he’s lights out, there’s nobody better,” Knighthawks forward Mike Accursi told the Rochester D&C. “Our defense did a good job funneling the shots, but any opportunity they had, ‘Vino’ was eating them up and that’s all you can ask from a goalie.”
Meanwhile, Washington Stealth goalie Tyler Richards continued to flash the same brilliance that once helped carry his team to consecutive title game appearances. Over his last two games, Richards has made 99 saves on 112 shots.
"It would be a comparison to the 2010 and 2011 playoff stretch," Richards told the Everett Herald. "That was maybe the best lacrosse I have played. This has kind of been the first time for me that I have kind of been the number one guy from the beginning of the season and been able to answer the bell. [Head coach Chris Hall] challenged me and said I needed to be better. So you step up, or someone else will take your spot."
The Calgary Roughnecks (4-2) claimed their spot atop the West Division standings with their fourth-straight win by beating the Edmonton Rush (1-4) for the 12th-straight time in a tightly-contested 9-8 home decision.
Calgary's Curtis Dickson put the Roughnecks ahead with 39 seconds left with his third fourth-quarter goal before getting roughed up while playing “keep-away” from the Rush in the final seconds of the game.
"That was a little excessive," Dickson told the Calgary Herald. "I got hit pretty high there and they didn't catch that. Games are all taped and hopefully the league will take a look at it."
It was an interesting night for Roughnecks brothers Greg and Jon Harnett. Older brother Jon controversially gave Edmonton a seven-minute power play while younger brother Greg scored his first career NLL goal. While in the box serving a five-minute major, Jon was given a two-minute minor penalty after he expressed his dismay with the first call.
“I was fuming in there,” he told the Calgary Sun. “I punched the glass as the ref went by. He turned to me and he put his hand up. I deserved it. I have to be accountable. It was just the wrong time. To only have one goal against in seven minutes means my guys bailed me out. I had to reset my game in the second half.”
Greg almost had to have his nose reset after celebrating his second-quarter goal while proud big brother Jon chased the referee down, only this time to get the ball commemorating Greg's first career NLL goal.
“It was overwhelming actually,” Greg Harnett told the Sun. “I almost broke my nose because my helmet came down into my face. I was really excited. I can’t really describe it.”
One save made the difference between the game's two netminders, as Edmonton’s Aaron Bold had 44 saves on 53 shots while Calgary’s Mike Poulin made 45 stops on 53 shots to help his team earn their first home win.
"It's fantastic, it's really great to reward these fans," Poulin told the Herald. "10,000 strong tonight and they've been so loud and as a goalie you can really hear it.”
Even watching from home, you could really hear the noise at Xcel Energy Center when the Minnesota Swarm (2-3) beat the Toronto Rock (5-2) in overtime by a score of 13-12 to send the crowd home happy.
Swarm goaltender Tyler Carlson stopped 35 of the Rock's 47 shots, including three stops in overtime, none of which were more compelling than his breakaway save on Toronto’s Stephen Hoar when the ball hit the post behind Carlson and then somehow found the back of his pads.
“Carlson played unbelievable tonight,” Swarm assistant coach Bobby Keast told NLL.com. “He’s so solid in net.”
On the contrary, you could have heard a pin drop amidst the crowd of 14,833 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo on Saturday night. For the Bandits (3-3), their blowout loss to the Knighthawks was one of the quietest home games in recent memory, sans the Rochester faithful of course. After an early 3-0 deficit, the first goal coming just 27 seconds in, the home team and the crowd never really got back into it.
“You have to be real careful with this type of game,” Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour told the Buffalo News. “You can break some spirits just showing mistakes that were made. We could sit there for three hours watching the mistakes…the season’s not over at 3-3.”
With six teams currently sitting at .500 or one win/loss away from an even record, the season is certainly far from over. Calgary and Rochester started the year with a combined 0-5 record and have since gone 7-0. Anything can happen.
No matter if it's in the standings or on the scoreboard, no lead is safe in a league where one possession can make all the difference. After all, 12 of the 26 NLL games so far in 2013 have been decided by just one goal (46%). And by the numbers, teams hoping for a deep playoff run have 46 games left to make things right.