Just about all the National Lacrosse League rookies were back in action last weekend and the way things are unfolding, it’s a challenge to figure out what’s going on. Garrett Billings and Stephan Leblanc aren’t exactly enduring classic slumps, but their Toronto Rock have lost 5 straight games. In Colorado, Ilija Gajic was out again with sickness but his brother Alex Gajic scored 6 goals Friday night then 0 on Saturday as the Mammoth dropped both weekend games. Some struggle, some excel but we’re not here to look at teams. We’re here to break down the games of the rookies and that’s exactly what awaits you after the jump.
1. Garrett Billings, F, Toronto Rock: The right-hander was held to 1 goal on 7 shots and assisted on another for the Rock, who lost their fifth straight game. Losing 5 in a row is bad enough, especially after a 6-1 start, but the loss was big in terms of placement in the East Division and Orlando was able to stretch its lead over Toronto. His 26 goals and 37 assists for 63 points still is tops in the NLL but you’ve gotta think he’d trade a few goals for any sort of Toronto victory.
2. Stephan Leblanc, F, Toronto Rock: The left-hander scored just 1 goal on 5 shots, although his goal late in the third quarter tied the score 6-6 to keep the Rock in the game before Orlando pulled away in the fourth. The goal was an unassisted power-play goal. Still ranks No. 2 overall among NLL rooks with 22-34 for 56.
3. Alex Gajic, F, Colorado Mammoth: The right-hander scored 6 goals and assisted on another in Friday’s 15-14 loss to Washington, the sixth goal coming on a penalty shot. He was goal-less in Saturday’s road loss to Washington, but did assist on 2. He left with a game-misconduct in the third quarter, leaving him without a goal in a game for the first time since Feb. 25. Still, he’s got 14 goals and 35 assists for 54 points this season, No. 3 among NLL rooks.
4. Ilija Gajic, F, Colorado Mammoth: The lefty was out of the lineup again as he recovers from ulcerative colitis. There’s hope he can return before the end of the season but even if he’s played his last of 2010, he’s still shown he can score and his offensive production in 8 games still is fourth best in the NLL.
5. Matt Beers, D, Washington Stealth: Looked strong in his first action since Feb. 27. He scooped 7 loose balls in Friday’s road win over the Mammoth, then had 1 assist and 8 loose balls in Saturday’s home win over Colorado to help the Stealth become the first NLL team this season to clinch a playoff spot.
6. Ryan Hotaling, T, Boston Blazers: Got a rude lesson in faceoffs in Philadelphia, winning just 3 of 20 against the best in the league, Geoff Snider. He assisted on Gary Bining’s goal in the fourth quarter, the final goal for Boston.
7. Max Seibald, T, Philadelphia Wings: He had just 1 assist and 2 loose balls and also was called twice for cross-checks, but he still was part of a big win for the Wings, who still have a playoff prayer, and are playing with the desperation they need. Seibald is a big part of that attitude.
8. Curtis Manning, D, Calgary Roughnecks: He was solid with 7 loose balls but his 5-minute high-sticking major in the second quarter cost the Roughnecks 2 goals in Friday’s loss to Minnesota.
9. Sid Smith, D, Rochester Knighthawks: The No. 1 overall draft pick for 2009 was part of an OK outing for the Rochester defense and he scooped 2 loose balls. His holding minor in the second quarter led to a Buffalo power play goal as Rochester lost its third straight.
10. Zack Greer, F, Minnesota: The No. 3 overall draft pick is back in the top 10 after a career game, scoring 3 goals on just 7 shots in Minnesota’s loss to Edmonton on Saturday. He’s got 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points in his 8 games this season, but may finally have found his offensive touch just in time to help the Swarm make their playoff push.
Honorable mention and rookie notes: Orlando F Jesse Guerin had 1 goal and 1 assist in the home win over Toronto, giving him 4-4 for 8 points in his 3 games since he’s been activated. The left-hander’s goal was Orlando’s first of the game … Orlando D Chet Koneczny scored his first goal of the season in his 11th game … Colorado D Brad Richardson won just 23 of 60 faceoffs this weekend vs. Washington. He was 16 of 33 on Friday and just 7 of 27 on Saturday … Washington F Joel Dalgarno scored his first 2 goals of the season in Friday’s road win over Colorado. He wasn’t in the lineup for Saturday’s game … Philadelphia F Kevin Huntley has scored goals in 3 straight games, his longest stretch this season. His goal on Saturday was the winner vs. Boston … Edmonton F Corey Small had 2 goals and 2 assists in the win over Minnesota. His second goal was Edmonton’s only goal of the fourth quarter and was much-needed insurance in the 2-goal win … Edmonton D Brett Mydske scored his first goal since Jan. 30 … Rochester T Cody Johnson made his NLL debut and scooped 5 loose balls …. Edmonton F Dane Stevens was scratched for the Minnesota game … Boston G Nick Rose made his NLL debut late in the game vs. Philadelphia in relief of Anthony Cosmo and stopped all 5 shots he faced.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at email@example.com or go to RochesterSports.com.
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