Preview the NLL Power Rankings by Brian Shanahan after Week 14 on IL Indoor below to check out which National Lacrosse League teams are getting hot at the right time down the stretch with just four weeks left in the regular season before the Champion’s Cup Playoffs begin.
“Week 14 had 4 games in the National Lacrosse League, all on Saturday night. There were two games in the East and then a couple of games in Saskatchewan and Vancouver,” Shanahan writes.
First, in the east, the Buffalo Bandits defeated the Georgia Swarm by an 18-14 score. Georgia was actually the last team to defeat the Bandits ( back in February) and were leading by a score of 10-9 entering the fourth quarter. However, in the NLL, you have to play four quarters, which lead to Georgia coach Eddie Comeau to remark: “If you had points for leading going into the fourth, we’d be right up there.” Buffalo’s Dhane Smith had 5 goals and 2 assists to continue his record-setting pace.
In New England, Colorado’s Callum Crawford was the Mammoth hero with five goals and four assists as the Mammoth once again came out on top in a back-and-forth 12-10 game. Crawford’s winning goal came when he intercepted an attempted pass by Black Wolves goalie Evan Kirk 2 feet outside his crease.
In Langley, two teams desperate to keep their slim playoff hopes alive battled it out with injury decimated rosters. In the end, it was a five minute major by Joel McCready that enabled the Toronto Rock to take the final lead of the game. Toronto went 5-for-7 on the power play to win the game 13-11.
Finally in Saskatchewan, 14,941 fans came out to see the Rush win their 6th game in a row as they hung on for an 11-9 win over the Calgary Roughnecks. The success of the Rush in the stands proves one thing. Box lacrosse can sell in a hockey/football crazed province if the product is good and the team gets wins.
1) Colorado Mammoth (10-3): The Mammoth continue to find ways to win close games and their offseason signing of free agent Callum Crawford is continuing to be the NLL move of the summer. Crawford’s 9 points give him 86 points in 13 games, on a pace to shatter his best season of 96 points in 2010. Next week the Mammoth will play in Georgia but fans can’t be blamed for looking ahead to their home and home with Saskatchewan in two weeks.
2) Buffalo Bandits (9-4): The Buffalo Bandits won their fifth straight game by scoring 9 in the fourth quarter to erase a 10-9 deficit and take an 18-14 win against the Georgia Swarm, the last team to beat them, back on Feb. 20. Dhane Smith was held to 2 points in the first three quarters but like his team, he busted open the last quarter with 3 goals and 2 assists. He now has 53 goals and 110 points in 13 games. Although it seems very likely he will break the points record of 130 set by Shawn Evans last season, he will be in legendary territory if he can get 7 points in next week’s game to surpass John Tavares and John Grant, who scored 115 and 116 points in 14 games. And little has been said of Athan Iannucci’s record of 71 goals set in 2008 (in a 16 game season). Smith is on pace for 73 goals. Next week, the Bandits host Rochester for only the second time this season.
3) Saskatchewan Rush (10-3): The Saskatchewan Rush defeated the Calgary Roughnecks (for the fourth time this season) by a score of 11-9 in front of a sold out Sasktel Centre. The win keeps the Rush tied with the Colorado Mammoth for first place in the West and more than ever before the Rush franchise is eager for home playoff games. Next week, the Rush play in New England but they will meet the Mammoth twice in two weeks.
5) Calgary Roughnecks (6-9): Calgary put up a valiant battle but came out on the losing end of an 11-9 score against the Saskatchewan Rush. Down 9-5 at the half, Calgary held the Rush to just one five-on-five goal in the second half. Calgary will play its next two games against the Vancouver Stealth (including next Saturday at Calgary) and even a split will likely eliminate the Stealth from the playoffs.
8) Toronto Rock (4-9): The Toronto Rock got their first road win of the season by defeating the Vancouver Stealth by a final of 13-11 in Vancouver on Saturday. Toronto has been decimated on the back end of its lineup and were without Bill Greer, Sandy Chapman, Rob Marshall, Scotty Johnston and during the game they lost both Luc Magnon and Mark Farthing. Farthing was playing his first NLL game and appeared to injure his knee in the last few minutes of the game. The only way Toronto can keep their playoff hopes alive is to keep winning. Next week they will host the New England Black Wolves on Saturday at the ACC.