With plenty of buzz from the National Lacrosse League’s trade deadline to go along with a season-high eight games on the schedule, NLL Week 14 action did not disappoint. Where do the teams stand with four weeks left in the regular season and the playoff race in full swing? Preview the newest NLL Power Rankings by Brian Shanahan on IL Indoor below and get ready for 20 more games culminating with the start of the Champion’s Cup playoffs in May.
“What a week, and what a weekend it was for the National Lacrosse League,” Shanahan writes. “There has never been a trade deadline as exciting as we saw last week when some of the NLL’s biggest stars (Billings, Crowley, Powless, Schuss, Suitor) moved to new destinations. And it was nice that Week 14, with 8 games on the schedule, gave all the traded players an immediate chance to make an impact with their new teams. Something else that I loved about this weekend was the home and home series. We loved it when Toronto and Buffalo did it a few weeks ago and this weekend we got to see it with Colorado and Calgary as well as Edmonton and Vancouver. There were too many storylines to summarize in this introduction so read below to find out how your favorite team did and how it was impacted in the significant changes to this week’s NLL Power Rankings.”
1) Edmonton Rush (9-4) (+1): When coach Derek Keenan came back to Edmonton, with the team at 0-2, I think most of us knew that Edmonton would climb back to where we expected it to be, among the top teams in the NLL. Well, the cream always rises to the top and that’s where Edmonton is at the moment. The Rush won both of their games over Vancouver on the weekend. The Stealth gave them a great battle on Friday but the home side Rush prevailed to win 16-15 in OT. On Saturday, the win was a little easier as Edmonton outscored the Stealth 17-10. Matthew Dinsdale, picked up from Calgary last weekend, scored 2 goals and an assist in his debut for Edmonton on Saturday. Edmonton now has the best goals differential in the NLL (+55), the best goal per game average, goals against average, and PK. Next week, it plays another home and home against Calgary with Friday’s game from Calgary live on TSN2.
2) Rochester Knighthawks (9-4) (+1): Last week, the Rochester Knighthawks were throttled by the Edmonton Rush 16-3 and a few people told me they were surprised that after the loss a number of Knighthawks players simply complimented the Rush and shrugged off the loss. I wasn’t surprised and I wasn’t surprised that Rochester looked “Champion-like” this weekend as it defeated the Rock 11-7 in Toronto and stomped on the Minnesota Swarm 10-2 the next night. That’s how a team, with as much pedigree as Rochester has, reacts to a bad loss. Matt Vinc was at his best this weekend but you also have to be impressed with Joe Resetarits. The Knighthawks acquired him last week for defender Jamie Batson in a deal that garnered much less attention than the other trades of the week and Resetarits scored two goals against the Rock on Friday and three against Minnesota on Saturday. Rochester will need to keep winning to take first place in the East and its next two games, both against Colorado, maybe the toughest two games on the remaining schedule.
3) Toronto Rock (11-4) (-2): Last week I mentioned that Toronto gutted out a win in Calgary despite many struggles (especially on the PP and PK) throughout the game. This week, it struggled again and Rochester made it pay. Toronto fell behind 8-2 in the first half and despite outshooting the Knighthawks 56-40 and the offence showed none of the chemistry that was its calling card for most of this season (with Rob Hellyer in the lineup). Newcomer Kevin Crowley had a goal and two assists and they will need more than 1 game for him to gel with his new teammates. Brett Hickey was shut out for the first time this season despite throwing 15 shots on Matt Vinc. Toronto has now lost 3 of its last 5 games and this loss gives Rochester the tie breaker should both teams end up tied for first. Next Friday the Rock will host the Vancouver Stealth, who are fighting for their playoff lives.
6) Calgary Roughnecks (4-10) (+1): The Calgary Roughnecks split their weekend series with the Colorado Mammoth and after starting the NLL season at 0-6 they have finally equalled the Vancouver Stealth in wins, at 4 for the season. On Friday the Roughnecks continued to do what they did for most of the season, losing their fifth one-goal game. However, they rebounded in a big way with a convincing 14-9 victory on the back of Shawn Evans’ 12-point performance on Saturday. With 4 games left in the season Evans has 105 points and looks like he will demolish the NLL record for points in a season of 116. (John Grant set the record playing 14 games in a 16 game season). Calgary will not have an easy time taking the last playoff spot. It plays Edmonton twice next weekend before finishing the season with games against Minnesota and then the Vancouver Stealth in what will likely be the deciding game for the last playoff spot.
7) Vancouver Stealth (4-9) (-1): Vancouver battled, but came up short in both games against the Edmonton Rush this weekend and are now riding a 5-game losing streak. Considering that Edmonton beat the Stealth 19-7 in their last meeting in Edmonton, Friday’s overtime game was an unexpected great game. Rookie net minder Eric Penney got both starts this weekend with Tyler Richards out and he made some spectacular saves on both nights. If Penney gets the start in Vancouver’s next game in Toronto on Friday, the Mimico product will likely have his own cheering section (including his mother who works at the ACC). On Sunday, the Stealth will continue their East Division weekend when they travel to New England to face the Black Wolves.