The opening chapter of NLL Face Off Weekend 2016 presented by New Era Cap is in the books after two Week 1 thrillers that saw the Colorado Mammoth edge the Georgia Swarm 16-15 via a last-minute game-winning goal courtesy of John Grant, Jr. on Friday before the Saskatchewan Rush charged back for a 10-8 comeback road win over its rival Calgary Roughnecks on Saturday. Now that the dust has settled, Stephen Stamp has published his 3 Stars of Week 1 on Inside Lacrosse via IL Indoor. Preview the story below and follow the link for the full story.
“Each week of the National Lacrosse League season, IL Indoor combs through the weekend’s performances to bring you the best of the best, the players who stood out above everyone else,” Stamp writes. “The top three players are recognized with the prestigious IL Indoor 3 Stars. We also recognize some honourable mentions because, let’s face it, there are just too many great players doing wonderful things on NLL carpets every week to narrow the honourees down to just three. Kicking off the 2016 season, we honour a couple of old friends of the 3 Stars column along with one first-timer who made quite an impression in his pro debut.”
Mark Matthews, Saskatchewan Rush
2 goals, 3 assists
Remember four years ago when everybody was saying that Matthews was the next John Grant Jr.? So often predictions like that don’t work out. This one’s going pretty well, though. Grant doesn’t just score spectacular game-winning goals. He’s also been known over the years to just take over a game, put his team on his back and will them to come back and win. Matthews stole yet another page out of Junior’s book Saturday: his five points came on five straight Saskatchewan goals that turned a 6-3 Rush deficit into an 8-8 tie en route to a 10-8 win. Plenty of Rush players contributed to the turnaround, but none more directly than Matthews.
Randy Staats, Georgia Swarm
3 goals, 4 assists
The question about Staats heading into the NLL Draft last September was never about his talent. Anyone who’s seen him play since he was 16 has known he’d be able to produce at the professional level. The question was whether the knee that robbed him of two junior seasons will hold up. You never know, but it certainly didn’t hamper him in his first game with the Swarm. Staats was the best of a very impressive Georgia rookie class. As we suggested before the season started, he looked right at home alongside the Thompson brothers, Johnny Powless and the rest of the Swarm offence. Don’t be surprised if this isn’t the only time he appears in the 3 Stars this season.
Adam Jones (Colorado): 3g, 4a. I’m not sure how Jones is managing to work out his issues at school, where he is a probationary teacher and isn’t supposed to be taking days off to go play lacrosse games, but the Mammoth (and lacrosse fans in general) certainly hope his school board is being reasonable and he’ll be able to make all of Colorado’s games. He picked up right where he left off in last season’s career year…Curtis Manning (Calgary): 5LB, 2CTO. The Rush definitely weren’t themselves on offence for much of the Saturday game, but you have to give some of the credit for that to the work done by Calgary’s defence. Manning may have been the best of the bunch. He’s been known as a transition guy—and he’ll definitely push the ball—but Manning is first and foremost a solid defender who is stepping up to fill the shoes of retired D leader Andrew McBride…Lyle Thompson (Georgia): 3g, 1a. Three goals including a sensational crease dive marker and he still had to play second rookie fiddle to Staats. That’s quite a crop the Swarm have…Brett Mydske (Saskatchewan): Quietly effective, as usual, but made one huge play with just under two minutes to go, perfectly angling himself into position to take away Dane Dobbie’s chance to dunk in a goal from behind the net and get the Roughnecks back in the game. It’s the kind of thing he does that’s easy to miss but makes a big difference…Dane Dobbie (Calgary): 3g, 1a. Speaking of Dobbie, he’s really one of the great goal scorers in Calgary history. In fact, per the Calgary Herald, he’s two goals away from becoming their all-time leading goal scorer…Jason Noble (Georgia): 7LB, 5CTO. It wasn’t a great day for defence in Denver, but Noble led the weekend in caused turnovers and continues to show he’s developing into one of the elite defenders in the league…Callum Crawford (Colorado): 2g, 4a. As mentioned above, there were plenty of players with big point totals, but Crawford gets the nod here because it was his first regular season game with the Mammoth and he fulfilled the free agent promise he brought with him that he’ll help boost an already potent Colorado attack…Curtis Knight (Saskatchewan): 5a. With apologies to Robert Church, who was also very good for the Rush, Knight earns an honourable mention because he was playing his first box lacrosse game in a year and a half and overcame some obvious rust to provide a critical component in Saskatchewan’s comeback with his precision passing to set up key shorthanded goals from Matthews and Riley Loewen along with three others. We love a good comeback story, both in a game and a career…Jordan MacIntosh (Georgia): 2g, 2a, 5LB, 2CTO. Because MacIntosh is so versatile…