Every team played in Week #14 as all six games had playofff implications while the postseason race continues. (Photo: Todd Bauders)
Week #14 of the 2013 NLL regular season featured six games on Saturday and Sunday as the race for the postseason and position in the division was in full effect this past weekend. The standings are tight in the ultra-competitive league as seven teams, including all five in the West Division, are within two games of .500 with two weeks left.
The Toronto Rock (10-5) clinched the East Division regular season title for the second-straight year with a 10-9 home win over the second-place Rochester Knighthawks (6-7) in front of a season-high crowd of 13,073 at Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon.
"It definitely feels nice," Rock goalie Nick Rose told The Canadian Press. "We had been trying for the last couple of weeks and to finally be able to clinch is nice. Now we can focus on Philly then get ready for the playoffs."
The defensive battle may have been a preview of a possible playoff matchup between the East Division rivals as Rose and Knighthawks goaltender Matt Vinc are two of the best netminders in the NLL.
“(Vinc) is the best goaltender in the league,” Rose told the Toronto Sun. “If he’s going to continue to play like that, we’re going to have to find ways to beat him.”
Toronto played without Colin Doyle who missed the game to be with his wife for the birth of their third child. Despite missing their second-leading scorer, the Rock managed to hold on in the dramatic final seconds for the win.
“It was a real gutsy win for us minus our captain, our leader,” Rock head coach Troy Cordingley told the Toronto Star. “But I’ve said it time and time again: We’ve got a lot of leaders in that room."
The Philadelphia Wings (6-8) snapped a five-game skid and the three-game winning streak of the Minnesota Swarm (6-8) with a 15-13 home win at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday.
"That was one of the most emotional wins we've had since I've been here," Wings general manager and head coach Johnny Mouradian told NLL.com. "When your players rally, and when they take ownership of a game like that, it's just phenomenal."
Philadelphia forward Drew Westervelt scored twice in the fourth quarter to help the Wings earn a crucial win for their postseason hopes.
"Drew Westervelt has more clutch goals in the NLL in the last few years than anyone I've ever seen," said Wings forward Kevin Crowley. "That was him just stepping up again."
The Colorado Mammoth (6-8) got their fourth win in their last five games and snapped the five-game unbeaten streak of the Edmonton Rush (8-6) with a 9-7 road win at Rexall Place on Saturday night.
"We played a desperate team," Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan told the Edmonton Journal. "They're trying to get in the playoffs and they played well."
The Mammoth were led by the strong play of goalie Tye Belanger who made 47 saves on 54 shots while the Rush's leading scorer said it just wasn't their night.
“We outshot them by 20 shots, we had lots of great looks,” Edmonton forward Ryan Ward told the Edmonton Sun. “We were hitting the goalie, making him look good."
Once at the bottom of the standings with a 2-7 record, Colorado has climbed back into playoff contenton and hopes to continue playing their best lacrosse when it counts most.
"You want to play well anytime in a season, but Edmonton proved last year by going all the way to the finals that it is not necessarily the regular season that means everything. The playoffs is the most important time," Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley told The Canadian Press.
The Washington Stealth (8-6) clinched a playoff berth with a 12-11 road win over the Calgary Roughnecks (8-6) before a crowd of 10,008 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night.
"We have an opportunity to still win the league quite frankly," Stealth head coach Chris Hall told the Everett Herald. "It was giant because obviously a loss means we still haven't clinched a playoff spot because Colorado won and we would have given up a home playoff game opportunity to Calgary, so it was monstrous."
Washington's leading scorer Rhys Duch scored the game-winning goal with 2:45 left in the fourth quarter.
"On that shot, I started moving my feet, which causes the goalie to have to move with you and then you create a better shooting lane for yourself. I drew Poulin to the right and I put it back the opposite way," Duch told The Canadian Press.
“It’s going to be a battle for a home playoff date,” Roughnecks forward Curtis Dickson told the Calgary Sun. “It’s the kind of lacrosse we want to be playing at this time of the year. It gets you ready for the playoffs. I think that’s what put us to sleep the last two years. Going into playoffs, we didn’t really have any meaningful games."
The Knighthawks beat the Wings with a 14-7 home win at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. The game opened up the NLL on CBS Sports Network schedule with select weekly games through the remainder of the regular season and playoffs.
“We’re just playing a little smarter lacrosse for 60 minutes,” Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc told the Rochester D&C. “It’s almost like we play our best with our backs against the wall and playing with playoff implications.”
Vinc, the NLL's leader in both goals against average (9.75) and save percentage (.813), has been that wall for the team all season.
“He’s the backbone of our team,” Cody Jamieson told the D&C about Vinc. “When he plays well, everybody feeds off him.”
“He took them to the championship last year and they won,” added Wings GM/head coach Johnny Mouradian. “We got (52) shots, and we spent a lot of time working on our shot selection and we had good shots. We had one-on-ones with him, we had good looks, we had the ball swung, but he made saves.”
The Swarm handed the Buffalo Bandits (5-9) their worst defeat in team history and sixth-straight loss with a 21-7 home win before a crowd of 10,167 at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.
“The last couple of games, it seems like everything’s going in for us,” Swarm transition player Jordan MacIntosh told NLL.com. “We’re going to ride that high."
The 21 goals scored by the Swarm were the most by an NLL team this season and set a new franchise record. Minnesota scored 20 or more goals for the second-straight game, the first time that an NLL team has accomplished the feat since the Bandits did it in 2005.
"We’re not trying to set records every single game," MacIntosh added. "We’re just trying to get 'W’s' right now.”
Every team will be trying hard for a 'W' in Week #15. All the way from the league-best Rock, who hope to lock up home field throughout the postseason, to the Bandits, who would be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss and a Knighthawks win. With so much on the line, we could see the most hard-fought weekend of NLL games yet.