The 2015 National Lacrosse League regular season heads into the final weekend with five games in Week 18 including what will be an epic play-in game finale between the Calgary Roughnecks and Vancouver Stealth for the third and final playoff spot in the West Division. Where do the teams stand in their quest for the Champion’s Cup? Brian Shanahan breaks it down on the NLL Power Rankings after Week 17 on IL Indoor.
“Week 17 was a weekend without surprises,” Shanahan writes. “Maybe it is the calm before the storm, but it was a relatively quiet weekend in the National Lacrosse League. With only 4 games being played, there definitely was a clear favourite in each game and even though it’s always fun to see upsets, it was not happening this weekend as playoff bound teams beat up on their foes.”
“On Saturday Rochester easily handled the New England Black Wolves 14-6, the Buffalo Bandits turned it on in the second half to hammer the Vancouver Stealth 17-9 and the Edmonton Rush built up a 14-7 lead before cruising to a 16-12 victory over Minnesota.”
“On Sunday the Bandits made it clear that they didn’t view New England as a playoff threat by beating them 20-9. Although Buffalo’s playoff clinch was a foregone conclusion, the Bandits’ home game on Saturday was not a night without drama. The Bandits hosted their second “Tucker Out Lymphoma” night to raise awareness and honor the late Tucker Williams, son of former teammate Shawn Williams. Listening to Bandits players after the game, you realized how important it was for them to play a great game for the Williams family.”
1) Edmonton Rush (12-5): The Edmonton Rush defeated the Minnesota Swarm, in Minnesota, by a score of 16-12. While there is no need for the Rush to panic, that’s two weeks in a row where they were outscored in the third period and two weeks in a row where they allowed 12 goals against, a lofty number by Edmonton’s standards. Next week the Rush finish the regular season with a game in Colorado.
3) Rochester Knighthawks (12-5): Since their 16-3 loss to the Edmonton Rush on March 28, the Knighthawks are 5-1 and have averaged 7 goals against per game. This Saturday they defeated the New England Black Wolves 14-6 and for the seventh time this season they held a team to 7 goals or less. Next week the Knighthawks will finish their regular season in Minnesota.
4) Buffalo Bandits (10-7) (+1): The only guarantee in the Power Rankings this year is that Buffalo and Colorado play leapfrog each week. The Buffalo Bandits scored 37 goals this weekend as they easily handled both the Vancouver Stealth and New England Black Wolves by scores of 17-9 and 20-9. Mark Steenhuis (12 goals) and Ryan Benesch (8 goals) scored 20 of Buffalo’s goals. The Bandits finish their regular season against the New England Black Wolves next week.
6) Calgary Roughnecks (6-11): The Calgary Roughnecks has the weekend off but will be playing for their playoff lives when they travel to Vancouver next weekend. This is a team that might not make the playoffs, yet are feared by everyone if they do get in.
7) Vancouver Stealth (5-11): The Vancouver Stealth played half a game against the Buffalo Bandits before crumpling in the second half to lose 17-9. There weren’t many positives for the Stealth to take out of this game. Their power play was 3-for-7 but allowed 3 short-handed goals and their defense looked like they were stuck quicksand whenever Mark Steenhuis decided to go one-on-one. None of it matters and all will be forgotten if the Vancouver Stealth manages to defeat the Calgary Roughnecks in next week’s game for the last playoff spot.
Click here for full NLL Power Rankings after Week 17 by Brian Shanahan on IL Indoor. Photo by Scott Pierson.