Week #7 featured three "sock tricks" as the 2013 NLL season hits the midway point this weekend. (Photo: Dale MacMillan)
Week #7 of the National Lacrosse League season was all about the number six. The Toronto Rock earned their league-best sixth win while three players each scored six goals to help their teams to victory. With only three six-goal games by players in all of last season, three “sock tricks” in one weekend was quite the feat.
Only six rookies have scored 35 or more goals in NLL history. Paul Gait set the record with 47 goals in 1991 in just 10 games played while John Grant, Jr. scored 37 in 12 games in 2000. With a league-leading 23 goals through seven games this year, 11 of which were scored this past weekend, Edmonton Rush rookie Mark Matthews is on pace to break the record with 52 goals.
Matthews, the first overall pick in the 2012 Entry Draft and the NLL’s Rookie of the Month for January, scored six goals to tie the Rush’s franchise record in their 15-10 home win over the Washington Stealth on Friday night.
“[Matthews] had a little bit of fire in his belly tonight, a little hunger,” Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan told the Edmonton Journal. “We’re trying to build a winning culture here and I think he’s a winner. He’s a young guy, but we don’t want him to take it upon himself to win games for us.”
But with a combined 15 goals in Edmonton’s three wins and just eight over their four losses, it’s hard to deny that the Rush’s success is somewhat dictated by the former University of Denver star, who followed up his sock trick with a five-goal game in his return to Colorado in a 14-7 win over the Mammoth on Saturday night.
“It was definitely weird not wearing a Denver jersey, but it is what it is,” Matthews told NLL.com. “We were able to come in and get a ‘W’, which means the world to me right now.”
Buffalo Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo was otherworldly in their 10-6 road win over the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday night, as he made 54 saves on 60 shots to bring the Knighthawks back down to Earth by snapping their three-game win streak.
“I got my confidence going,” Cosmo told the Buffalo News. “When things are going well, the game almost seems to be played in slow motion. Credit my defense for that. They kept things to the outside. We switched up this week and tried to pack the middle.”
Cosmo’s .900 save percentage was the highest of any NLL goaltender in a complete game so far this season. Rochester had scored a combined 35 goals the week before, which included their 15-7 win at Buffalo.
“It comes down to burying your chances,” Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson told the Rochester D&C. “We had some good opportunities and tonight we didn’t finish, and we ran into a hot goaltender. [Cosmo] played really well. Anytime you hold a team to 10 goals, you should win the game, so this one’s on the offense.”
Down 6-3 in the first half to the Calgary Roughnecks on Friday night, Garrett Billings ignited the Rock’s offense with an incredible backhand goal to spark a five-goal scoring run that helped Toronto come back against the West Division-leading Roughnecks for a 17-12 win.
“That’s just sick, that’s what that is,” said Rock head coach Troy Cordingley to the Toronto Star about the highlight-reel goal. “You just don’t teach that.”
With an 11-7 lead early in the third quarter, Toronto really pulled away when Calgary’s Geoff Snider was ejected for fighting an unwilling Scott Evans. Amidst what Cordingley called the “turning point of the game,” the Rock scored three goals on the ensuing seven-minute power play.
“If you got a team playing on emotion like they were, you can come out and pick them apart if they’re going haywire,” said Billings, whose six goals tied the Rock’s all-time single-game record.
Emotions also got the best of the Roughnecks the following night as they again racked up over 40 penalty minutes, but Curtis Dickson bailed them out with three shorthanded goals in the fourth quarter for a 17-16 win over the Minnesota Swarm.
Despite six goals from Calgary's Scott Ranger, the game was tied at 15-15 when Dickson scored two man-down goals 1:13 apart in the final five minutes of regulation, the second of which proved to be the game-winner.
“Our penalty kill played awesome,” Dickson told NLL.com. “[Mike] Poulin stood on his head back there and made some big saves at key times and we were lucky to get a couple chances at the end shorthanded.”
Minnesota’s special teams woes continued but it’s their defense, which has allowed 12 or more goals in every game this season, that really concerns Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan.
“I’ve got to say we’re probably the worst defense right now,” he said. “When you score 16 goals, you should win in this league.”
Actually, you should win if you score more than a dozen goals in this league. Going back to the number six, teams that have scored 13 or more goals in a game so far in 2013 are 24-6 (.800). Six teams currently sit at or below a .500 record in the ultra-competitive NLL.
But forget the numbers. Whether it be a coach or the rookie Matthews, ask anyone in the league and they'll tell you that only one thing matters...the letter ‘W'.