Which players stood out during what was a light weekend schedule-wise that saw the Buffalo Bandits double up its East rival Toronto Rock before the Colorado Mammoth stayed unbeaten with a dominating win in B.C. against the Vancouver Stealth? Preview Stephen Stamp’s Three Stars of Week 4 on IL Indoor below.
“It was an odd week in the National Lacrosse League,” Stamp writes. “Only two games, and neither one was competitive. The grand Buffalo/Toronto rivalry looked like it might revive the Rock for about 15 minutes, but then the Bandits just ran away with it in their eventual 12-6 win. Vancouver didn’t even have that 15-minute window of competitiveness; a week after spoiling the defending champions first home opener in Saskatoon, the Stealth looked shockingly ragged against the now 4-0 Mammoth. So, fittingly, we have an oddity in the IL Indoor NLL 3 Stars: all of the stars and honourable mentions come from just two teams.”
I thought about including Logan Schuss or Jeff Moleski from Vancouver, but Schuss scored his lone goal (to go with 3 assists) on 16 shots and I just couldn’t bring myself to pick someone from a Stealth D that had even home-friendly announcers Jake Elliott and Brad Challoner wondering how they could have so many breakdowns. For Toronto, I considered Stephan Leblanc with his 2 goals and 2 assists, but he also turned the ball over seven times—three more than anyone else on the weekend. So…scroll down for the Buffalo and Colorado edition of the 3 Stars.
4 goals, 5 assists
I get why Buffalo has Smith playing full time out the front door; he’s an early front-runner for MVP and offensive player of the year. But his goal breaking out of the Buffalo end, taking a pass from Mitch de Snoo and burying a perfectly-placed shot made me nostalgic for his days in transition. It’s just such a delight watching him run the floor. He did most of his damage from the set offence, though, and Smith continues to show how much he’s matured as a player entering his fourth year in the league. With all due respect to the guys in Colorado, is there anyone you’d fear more seeing him matched up one-on-one against even your best defender on the shoulder of the offensive formation? (I hear you, Curtis Dickson fans, and yes you have a strong argument)
John Grant Jr., Colorado Mammoth
5 goals, 2 assists
I hear you, too, Junior fans. Grant doesn’t have the quick first step that Smith and Dickson use to beat defenders, but no one has ever been as effective at backing a defender down and doing damage. And boy can he still shoot. While Grant’s four straight goals didn’t come with the drama of Corey Small’s similar feat last week against Saskatchewan, they were still pretty impressive.
Dillon Ward (Colorado): 50/55, .909 save percentage. That’s an NHL-like save percentage and an impressive performance helping Colorado romp in a game where they were outshot. But Vancouver really wasn’t generating a lot of high-quality chances among their shots; that’s why Ward was leapfrogged by Priolo. Still a great game for Ward and a boost to the confidence of the whole Mammoth defensive unit…Callum Crawford (Colorado): 4g, 2a Interesting note: Crawford, Grant and Adam Jones each took 16 shots Saturday night. Doesn’t mean much, but that’s a neat symmetry…Anthony Cosmo (Buffalo): 36/43, .860 save percentage. I get that holding Toronto to 6 goals these days just seems like the norm, but even with the Rock offence struggling it’s still good, and so was Coz…Dan Coates (Colorado): 5LB, 3CTO. Coates may not appear in this space very often because he really doesn’t do a lot that stands out, but talk to the people that play and coach with and against him and you’ll realize he’s one of the best players pretty much every time he’s on the floor…Adam Jones (Colorado): 2g, 5a. Leads the league in goals, points and power play goals. Has yet to have even a so-so game, let alone a bad one…Greg Downing (Colorado): 1a, 3LB, 2CTO. This is a cumulative selection rather than being based just on this week. Downing was a…