By: Andy McNamara – Staff Writer
After an exciting weekend that saw all but one game decided by four goals or less, let’s check out the risers and fallers heading into Week 7 of the National Lacrosse League season!
Stock Up: Colorado Mammoth
Saturday’s showdown with the undefeated Georgia Swarm lined up to be surprisingly important to the Mammoth for an early season encounter. Colorado was trying to avoid sliding into a three game losing skid, it was their last home outing until March, and the squad needed a ”W” to keep pace in the hyper competitive West. Oh, and all they had to do was overtake the seemingly unstoppable Swarm.
Quite the mountain to climb, which makes the Mammoth’s 14-10 victory all that more impressive. Georgia was running wild, averaging 16-goals per game in their first four matchups. Loads of credit must go to Colorado’s defense that limited the visitors to 37 shots with a solid tip of the cap to goaltender Dillon Ward who shut the door when the team needed him most.
The Mammoth get the chance to put more room between them and last place Vancouver this weekend.
Stock Down: Buffalo Bandits
Reigning NLL MVP Dhane Smith returned from an ankle injury against the Rock this past Friday, but Buffalo never really felt to be in the game. The problem isn’t from a lack of talent because the Bandits have stars on offense, defense, transition and above average goaltending. As head coach Troy Cordingly put it, ”the effort isn’t always there”. Inconsistency has plagued the club to a disappointing 1-4 record after going to the Champion’s Cup final in 2016.
The elite attack combo of Smith and Ryan Benesch getting back into rhythm will certainly help Buffalo, however, staying out of the penalty box and clamping down on opponent penetration are problems that must be fixed immediately. The Bandits have a bye week to work out the kinks and get ready for a pivotal division battle versus New England.
Stock Up: Stephan Leblanc – Toronto Rock
After missing the first two games of the season due to a hamstring ailment, Leblanc shook off the rust in Week 5 and dominated over the weekend as a set up man in the 18-10 thumping of Buffalo. Toronto’s 11th overall pick in the 2009 NLL draft exploded for nine points (2G, 7A) and was second only to that of rookie teammate ”Captain America” Tom Schreiber’s 10.
The Rock’s offense is at its best when distributing the ball around to as many goal scorers as possible. Leblanc’s resurgence is good news as the franchise heads to Calgary to face the always dangerous Roughnecks.
Stock Down: Andrew Suitor – Rochester Knighthawks
An old coach saying is ” the best ability is availability”, and despite all of Andrew Suitor’s talent, he’s struggled to stay on the floor since the end of 2015. A torn left ACL caused him to miss 12-games last season and then the veteran suffered a right knee injury in April 2016, which lead to Suitor being out the first three contests of this campaign.
The former NLL Transition Player of the Year was acquired via trade with New England over the summer and expected to provide experience to the young, retooling Knighthawks. Suitor isn’t on the roster to light up the boxscore, but zero points and only six total loose balls over the last two outings just isn’t good enough. Rochester needs him to get back up to speed quickly and stay healthy to keep pace in a tight East Division.
Andy McNamara has been a play-by-play commentator for the NLL on TSN, NLLTV.com, and world lacrosse tournaments since 2011. He’s also a sport talk host and anchor on TSN 1050 sports radio. Follow Andy on twitter @AndyMc81.