The down-to-the-wire playoff race was in full effect during Week #15 of the 2013 NLL regular season. (Photo: Todd Bauders)
Week #15 of the 2013 NLL regular season featured five games this past weekend as teams battled for their playoff lives and set the stage for a dramatic finish to the schedule this weekend.
Jordan Hall scored a diving goal 1:01 into overtime as the Philadelphia Wings (7-8) clinched a playoff berth with a 10-9 home win over the Toronto Rock (10-6) at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday evening.
"[Making the playoffs] is the end goal," Hall told Philly.com. "It doesn’t really matter where you are when you enter the playoffs. Everybody is so close. Toronto is the number one team and we just knocked them off.”
"This is what we play for," Wings goalie Brandon Miller told NLL.com. "I’m getting old enough now that I’ve got to get one of those rings. It’s what we’re after, it’s why we play. First step in getting in the playoffs, and that’s why this feels great.”
Looking to improve their chances at the West Division regular season title, Calgary Roughnecks (8-7) came up just short in their 15-14 home loss to the Rochester Knighthawks before a season-high crowd of 12,340 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night.
“It’s unfortunate,” Roughnecks forward Jeff Shattler told the Calgary Sun. “It was a one-goal game and they got the bounces and we didn’t. I think our whole team played phenomenal from the defense to the goalie to our offense. It’s just the breaks of lacrosse."
The Minnesota Swarm (7-8) clinched a playoff spot with a 17-12 road win over the Colorado Mammoth (6-9), who missed an opportunity to secure a postseason berth, before a crowd of 17,622 at Pepsi Center on Saturday night.
“That’s the goal at the start of every season,” Swarm forward Callum Crawford told NLL.com in reference to the playoff berth. “We had a rough start for sure, but we picked it up at the end of the season. Great to go in on our own terms, not having to rely on somebody else to something for us.”
The Buffalo Bandits (6-9) snapped a six-game losing streak and stayed alive in the playoff race with a critical 15-10 road win over the Washington Stealth (8-7) at Comcast Arena on Saturday night. Buffalo's backup goalie Kurtis Wagar, starting in place of an injured Anthony Cosmo, made 33 saves on 43 shots.
“I thought we did a great job with ball movement, seeing the open guys and guys hitting the open shots as well,” Bandits transition player Mark Steenhuis told NLL.com. “We had a good overall effort. I think everybody (on offense) got on the scoresheet. Wagar played awesome with Cosmo being out. All the weight was on his shoulders and he really rose to the occasion."
Stealth forward Rhys Duch scored four times to overtake the NLL lead with 41 goals this season, but downplayed its importance overall.
"I score goals to help my team win because that's what they pay me to do," Duch told the Everett Herald. "I don't really think there is anything that comes with it except a good write-up on the internet. I'm more concerned about beating Philadelphia next weekend."
The Edmonton Rush (9-6) overcame a slow start to keep the NLL regular season title within reach while putting the playoff hopes of the Rochester Knighthawks (7-8) on hold with a 14-10 home win at Rexall Place on Sunday afternoon. Edmonton's backup goalie Brodie MacDonald came on in relief of starter Aaron Bold and earned his first career win with 32 saves on 38 shots.
“He shut the door and was the difference maker," Rush forward Jarrett Davis told NLL.com.
The Knighthawks failed to clinch a playoff spot as some undisciplined play cost them against an Edmonton team that went 4-for-5 with the man advantage.
“Too many mental mistakes," said Knighthawks defenseman Paul Dawson. "We made dumb decision after dumb decision and it cost us."
After the dust had settled, three teams now control their own destiny and will put everything on the line for the final two playoff spots as the season goes down to the wire.