Preview Stephen Stamp’s Three Stars of NLL Week 14 on IL Indoor below for a breakdown of the weekend’s top performers as the regular season hits the final four weeks before the league’s 30th anniversary year culminates with the Champion’s Cup Playoffs.
“Callum Crawford has always been a good player,” Stamp writes. “He was a second-round pick who developed into a star, four times scoring 80 or more points coming into this season. As a free agent signing, he was expected to add some quality depth scoring to a Colorado team that was already potent up front. Crawford has more than fulfilled expectations; he’s already within 4 assists and 10 points of his career highs and he’s on pace to score 119 points, which would be one of the highest totals in National Lacrosse League history.”
But for all that, Saturday may have been the best game of his career because he absolutely took over and willed the Mammoth to a victory in the absence of two of their leading offensive players (John Grant Jr and Jeremy Noble) on a night when Adam Jones just wasn’t clicking, against a strong New England team that badly wanted to turn the tables in a rematch of Week 10. More below about just what makes Crawford this week’s first star.
Callum Crawford, Colorado Mammoth
5 goals, 4 assists
Crawford displayed impressive range in scoring his five goals on five different types of shot Saturday. His first was the goal that he just keeps scoring this year and that you’d expect goalies to be ready for now, but it keeps on working. I’m talking about Crawford’s crease jump full twister, on which he jumps over the crease line towards the far side of the net then completely flips his stick over in his wrists to dump it back in the short side.
The second goal came on a jump bounce shot as he rolled across the top of the offensive formation and the third when he spun underneath a defender and flicked the ball just inside the far post as he jumped to avoid the crease line. His fourth was the game winner and an absolute beauty; I wrote about his leap to knock down Evan Kirk’s attempted clearing pass in my weekend observations story yesterday. On the fifth, he had some space at the top of the power play and simply stepped into a low to high rocket that blazed in under the crossbar.
Crawford also had a pair of lovely cross-floor passes to set up goals by Eli McLaughlin among his four assists. All in all, Saturday was a tour de force performance by the Mammoth star.
Rob Hellyer, Toronto Rock
4 goals, 5 assists
Hellyer also showed some variety, scoring on the run, on the dive and on the outside rip. He made a nifty behind the back flip to Kasey Beirnes for a goal and made a well-timed and well-placed pass up to Stephan Leblanc for Toronto’s insurance goal near the end of the game. He’s definitely established himself as one of the best righties in the NLL and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Rhys Duch (Vancouver): 3g, 4a. Duch hit the 300-goal and 700-point marks Saturday while saving his 400th assist for another celebration (he has 399 now), one he hopes will come in a win against Calgary next week…Kyle Rubisch (Saskatchewan): 1a, 5CTO. Rubisch was the best defender I saw in the four games Saturday. He’s been good this year but not necessarily up to the standard that won him the last four defender of the year awards. Saturday he was the beast we’ve become used to…Ryan Benesch (Buffalo): 3g. 4a. Benesch was just as hot as Smith in the final quarter, scoring 2 goals and 4 assists as the Bandits ran Georgia out of their new hive with a 9-4 fourth…Curtis Dickson (Calgary): 3g, 3a. Tied Dane Dobbie’s Roughnecks’ record by reaching 51 goals…Mark Matthews (Saskatchewan): 3g, 3a. His last goal came on an unusual quick stick. Adrian Sorichetti threw a low pass that Matthews caught about knee high and redirected past Frankie Sciglianoat the same level. Maybe it’s a Whitby thing the pair worked out when they were winning the Minto Cup for the Warriors…Frankie Scigliano (Calgary): 37/46, .804 save percentage. Speaking of the big man between the pipes, Scigliano was solid for the Riggers. He shut out the Rush in the third quarter to allow Calgary to climb back into the game…Brodie Merrill (Toronto): 1g, 1a, 4CTO. Merrill played the kind of defence that made him one of the best in the business for so many years and; his play was the catalyst for a shortstaffed Rock back end to hold on and give the O its chance to do enough to win…Cam Holding (Colorado): 2g, 1a. The Michigan State field coach has had a bit of a quiet season but his play spoke volumes with a pair of critical goals in the Mammoth’s win over the Black Wolves…Chad Tutton (Georgia): 1g, 3CTO. It might be time to seriously consider Tutton for rookie of the year. The transition player was his usual wrecking ball in his own end and once again chipped in offensively…Shawn Evans (New England): 4g. Actually a bit of an off night by the lofty standards Evans has set, but he was still dangerous from opening whistle to final buzzer…Shayne Jackson (Gerogia): 4g, 1a. Becoming a transition force, he twice did his best Benesch impression coming off the bench to take a pass and slip the ball home… Stephan Leblanc (Toronto): 2g, 4a. Leblanc has hit his stride and playing a physical, effective game for the Rock…Robert Hope (Colorado): 2a, 3CTO. Hope’s game is growing as he matures in the NLL. He started out playing solid team D with smart slides and excellent footwork. He’s become more aggressive in one-on-one defence. As the game slows down for him, Hope is more adept at jumping out high to eliminate passing and shooting options before they materialize…Randy Staats (Georgia): 2g, 5a. Looked more like he did early in the season when his comfort level on the floor was very high and was rewarded with a 7-point night… Eli McLaughlin (Colorado): 3g, 1a. Nobody was telling McLaughlin he had to take over John Grant’s role with Junior out for the game, but the second-year forward…