The Minnesota Swarm earned a weekend sweep as eight NLL teams opened exhibition play with six games this past weekend. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
After nearly one-third of National Lacrosse League games were decided by just one goal last season, the NLL picked up where it left off with four one-goal games highlighting the start of preseason play. With opening night of the regular season on December 28 just weeks away, eight teams were in action for six exhibitions this past weekend, which also featured the NLL Hall of Fame Ceremony for goaltending legend Pat O'Toole.
The Minnesota Swarm and first overall pick Logan Schuss beat the Colorado Mammoth, who had acquisitions Bob Snider and Drew Westervelt along with goaltender and third-overall draft selection Dillon Ward make their debuts, by a score of 14-10 as the new-look teams faced off at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (TRAC) in Oakville, Ontario on Friday night.
The Swarm earned their weekend road sweep after first-round rookie Scott Jones scored a buzzer-beating goal to defeat the two-time defending champion Rochester Knighthawks. Despite six goals from Craig Point, the K-Hawks fell 16-15 in front of a crowd of 10,782 fans at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. One of the highest-attended preseason games in league history was also broadcast live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Prior to the game, it was "Toole Time" as the longtime Knighthawk O'Toole became the 21st member of the league's Hall of Fame as the lone inductee of the Class of 2013 during an emotional ceremony shared with family and friends. After speeches, the plaque bearing his likeness was unveiled as he joined the exclusive circle of all-time greats honored with the league's highest distinction.
Meanwhile, the Mammoth were edged by the Toronto Rock at TRAC on Saturday night as the Rock held on for a 13-12 win keyed by a hat trick for Stephan Leblanc and the play of goalie Zak Boychuk. A trio of Rock players, Scott Johnston, Garrett Billings and Rob Hellyer, each scored twice while Jackson Decker, Jordan McBride and Cameron Mann all tallied twice for the Mammoth.
The Calgary Roughnecks defeated the Vancouver Stealth on the road with a 9-8 win on Saturday night at Langley Events Centre as the NLL returns to British Columbia this year. Dane Dobbie scored a hat trick for the Roughnecks while first-round pick Tor Reinholdt added a goal in his preseason debut as Calgary held on despite a valiant comeback attempt by Vancouver who trailed by as many as seven goals in the second half.
The Buffalo Bandits and new forward Ryan Benesch, who was acquired via offseason trade from Minnesota, defeated the Philadelphia Wings, who had Evan Kirk make his debut in net, twice at First Niagara Center in 24 hours, first on Saturday with a 16-15 comeback exhibition win courtesy of a last-minute goal from Shawn Williams before taking the Sunday scrimmage by a score of 12-10.
Check out some of the best images from the weekend by clicking here.
The NLL preseason continues with five games including four scheduled for next weekend:
Saturday, Dec. 14
Calgary Roughnecks vs. Minnesota Swarm, 1:30pm ET at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (open to the public)
Toronto Rock vs. Rochester Knighthawks, 7pm ET at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (open to the public)
Buffalo Bandits vs. Edmonton Rush, 7pm ET at Iroquois Lacrosse Arena
Sunday, Dec. 15
Rochester Knighthawks vs. Calgary Roughnecks, 11am ET at Iroquois Lacrosse Arena
Saturday, Dec. 21
Toronto Rock vs. Philadelphia Wings, 7pm ET at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (open to the public)