There are now just two weekends left in the 2015 National Lacrosse League regular season until the Champion’s Cup playoffs begin. Which teams are favorites to hoist the Cup? Preview the NLL Power Rankings after Week 16 on IL Indoor by Brian Shanahan below for some insight into who the contenders and pretenders are. And get ready for a wild finish down the stretch with one playoff spot in both the East and West Divisions up for grabs.
“There were 5 games in the National Lacrosse League this weekend,” Shanahan writes. “On Friday the Toronto Rock defeated the visiting New England Black Wolves 15-12, despite being outshot 70-42. The win improved Toronto’s record to 13-4. Meanwhile the Rochester Knighthawks were narrowly defeated by the Colorado Mammoth by a score of 11-10 in Denver. That loss, their fifth of the season, meant that Rochester lost control of the first place battle in the East. If Toronto can win its last game of the season, in New England, it will finish atop the East Division.
“On Saturday, the Calgary Roughnecks improved their record to 6-11 by defeating the Minnesota Swarm 10-6. Rochester got back on a winning note by defeating Vancouver 13-9 in Langley. And finally, how many people switched away from the Edmonton vs. Colorado game when the Rush pulled ahead 13-6 at the end of the third quarter? I did and missed Colorado outscoring the Rush 6-0 in the fourth quarter to make it a 13-12 final. The Edmonton Rush clinched first in the West with the win.”
1) Edmonton Rush (11-5): The Edmonton Rush defeated the Colorado Mammoth 13-12 on Saturday but coach Derek Keenan can’t like the way his team closed out the game by being shut out 6-0 in the fourth quarter. Edmonton finishes the regular season with games in Minnesota and Colorado over the next two weekends. Look for them to try to return to smothering defensive lacrosse to prepare for the playoffs.
2) Toronto Rock (13-4) (+1): Sloppy is a good word to describe Toronto’s 15-12 victory over the New England Black Wolves on Friday. Although the Rock were outshot 70-42 it still looked like a game that the Rock controlled but were unable to close out cleanly. Toronto led by 4 goals throughout most of the second half but allowed New England to stay close. Toronto’s special teams did dominate all game, going 6-for-6 on the PP and scoring 4 short-handed goals while holding New England’s PP to 3-for-10. The Rock can clinch first place with a win in New England in two weeks. It will be interesting to see what their offense looks like as we might see both Colin Doyle and Rob Hellyer back on that night.
3) Rochester Knighthawks (11-5) (-1): The Knighthawks were flat against the Colorado Mammoth and it wasn’t until late in the game did we see the Rochester Knighthawks play the way we expect. Shut out in the third quarter and trailing 11-5, the Knighthawks scored 5 goals in the fourth quarter to make the score 11-10 and the only reason the game didn’t go to overtime was because of a couple spectacular saves by Dillon Ward. (The stick save he made on Cory Vitarelli was one of the best I’ve ever seen). Rochester defeated Vancouver 24 hours after the loss but will have to hope for a New England upset over Toronto if it is to have a chance at first. The Knighthawks host New England next Saturday.
6) Calgary Roughnecks (6-11): The Calgary Roughnecks easily handled the Minnesota Swarm 10-6 in Minnesota. At this point the only thing that matters for Calgary is its last game in Vancouver on Saturday May 2. Regardless of what Vancouver does in Buffalo next week, the winner of that final game will get the last playoff spot.
7) Vancouver Stealth (5-11): The Vancouver Stealth lost to the Rochester Knighthawks 13-9 on Saturday even though Joel McCready scored five goals for Vancouver against his old team. McCready, who came to Rochester in the blockbuster Johnny Powless deal, continues to be the “Heart and Souler” for the Stealth. His 30 goals more than double his previous career best and his teammates will have to match his efforts if they hope to get a playoff berth. Next week’s game in Buffalo will simply be a warm-up for their regular season finale against the Calgary Roughnecks on May 2.