Preview the NLL Power Rankings by Brian Shanahan on IL Indoor below to see which National Lacrosse League teams are making moves headed into the regular season’s midway point with five games on the Week 9 schedule.
“There were 4 games in the National Lacrosse League this weekend and a lot of reminders about why we love this game,” Shanahan writes. “On Friday, the Toronto Rock got their first victory of the season with a 14-12 win over the Buffalo Bandits. Not only did Nick Rose make a half dozen incredible saves at critical points in the game but he helped seal the victory when he scored Toronto’s 14th goal into the empty Buffalo net.”
In Saskatchewan, the Rush continue to turn a new city on to the game of lacrosse. After taking and 8-1 lead the defending champs hung on for 11-8 win in front of over 11,000 frenzied lacrosse fans. On Saturday, the Georgia Swarm and Buffalo Bandits continued the revenge trend we have seen a number of times this year. Last week, Buffalo trounced the Swarm 21-14 and this week Georgia turned it around with a 19-15 victory in Buffalo.
And finally, to the game in Vancouver. The Stealth were down 12-5 late in the 3rd quarter and I hate to admit that the late west coast start and a long day were too much for this old guy, who fell asleep. What I missed was an 8-goal run by Vancouver and an eventual 14-13 victory. The victory has put Vancouver in the playoff mix and has shown the home fans that this exciting Vancouver Stealth team is nothing like the boring, disappointing team of the last 2 seasons.
Colorado is still safe on top of the Power Rankings, but there is a lot of movement below. Check it out.
2) Saskatchewan Rush (4-2) (+2): Last week I mentioned that Saskatchewan’s play this season has been underwhelming. The Rush have not been at their best for a full 60 minutes in a game and last week coach Keenan said he was concerned that his team was not scoring enough five-on-five goals in the second half. That was a theme again this week as Saskatchewan stormed out to an 8-1 lead and then only scored 2 five-on-five goals in the second half on their way to an 11-8 victory. Having said all that, it’s scary that the Rush have the second best record in the NLL and most of us feel they are nowhere near their best. I’m sure every team in the NLL is little fearful about what happens when this team hits its stride. Next week, the Rush will host the Buffalo Bandits on Friday and then travel to Calgary for a Sunday match.
4) Buffalo Bandits (4-4) (-2): The Bandits suffered a couple of fourth quarter runs by their opponents that led to two losses this weekend. On Friday in Toronto, the Bandits were up 11-10 in a back and forth contest when the Rock scored 4 goals in the last 7 minutes to win 14-12. It was similar in Buffalo against Georgia on Saturday. The Bandits were up 12-11 at the end of 3 but Georgia scored 5 straight pull away for the eventual 19-15 victory. Despite the two losses, Dhane Smith picked up 19 points in the two games. The Bandits have a tough game coming up as they travel to Saskatchewan on Friday.
6) Georgia Swarm (4-4) (+1): There are so many things about the Georgia Swarm that coach Ed Comeau and the coaching staff must be pleased about after their 19-15 victory in Buffalo in front of over 14,000 hostile fans. Georgia’s 4-2 record against Eastern opponents includes victories over Toronto (twice), Rochester and now Buffalo just one week after the Bandits easily handled the Swarm in Georgia. You also have to be impressed with Georgia’s balanced scoring. No player scored more than 3 goals out of the 19 they scored. Next week, the Swarm will travel to New England to play the Black Wolves for the second time this season. New England is the only Eastern team that Georgia has yet to beat.
7) Vancouver Stealth (3-4) (+1): For the second time this season the Vancouver Stealth has come from behind to win a game when it looked like they had no hope. On Saturday, Vancouver was down 12-5 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Vancouver scored nine of the next 10 goals including Corey Small’s winner in OT. It was also Small who scored four 4th quarter goals in Vancouver’s 13-11 comeback win over Saskatchewan earlier in the season. Suddenly this team that was so hard to like in its first two seasons in Vancouver has become a team with a ton of heart. Next Saturday, the Stealth travel to Denver to meet the Mammoth for the third time this season. The teams split their first two matchups with both games being blowouts.
9) Toronto Rock (0-6): The Toronto Rock were close last week but this week finally got their first victory of the season when they defeated the Buffalo Bandits 14-12 in Toronto on Friday. Although Nick Rose’s empty net goal was a fun highlight of the game, a big reason Toronto has played well in the last two games is the return of Jesse Gamble and Josh Sanderson. Gamble scored his third in the two games since returning from injury and was also a factor all over the floor. Josh Sanderson quietly led all Toronto scorers with 1 goal and 6 assists. Sanderson doesn’t overwhelm anyone but he is still one of the best in the NLL at reading the defence and quickly spotting open teammates. Next week, the Toronto Rock will host the Rochester Knighthwaks at the ACC on Saturday when they meet for the third time this season. And although Toronto is still at the bottom of the Power Rankings, this is a much different team than the one that lost to the Knighthawks 12-7 and 12-5 about a month ago.