Playoff picture begins to solidify, Grant & Doyle approach all-time marks, plus links

Ryan Benesch returned and the Swarm booked their ticket to the post-season. (Photo: Scott Pierson)
Ryan Benesch returned and the Swarm booked their ticket to the post-season. (Photo: Scott Pierson)

Despite eight of nine teams making the playoffs, the race for post-season berths is going right down to the wire in the National Lacrosse League, but things got a little clearer last night. Minnesota clinched a berth with a 14-9 win over Washington. Rochester may also have clinched a berth. They beat Calgary 14-12 and assured that they’ll make the playoffs even if they lose their last two games and Washington wins their last two and the teams finished tied for last, because the Knighthawks beat the Stealth the only time the clubs met this year. They could still use a win because multi-team tiebreakers may bump them. Buffalo definitely needs to win in their final two games, because the Bandits’ 11-8 loss to Edmonton leaves them tied with the Rush and just one game ahead of Washington, and they lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to both teams. In the night’s fourth game, Colorado leap-frogged Calgary for first place in the west by hammering Toronto 19-12, dropping the Rock into second in the East behind Philadelphia. See details of the games after the jump.

Ryan Benesch returned to the Swarm lineup after missing three games with a concussion and scored five points to help them win. He had a goal and four assists. Callum Crawford was the big gun for Minny, though, with four goals and three helpers. Washington actually jumped out to a 2-0 lead just 25 seconds into the game, but Minnesota scored the next five and 10 of the next 13 to pull away for the victory. Tyler Carlson made 46 saves for an .836 save percentage in the Swarm net. The winners had an exceptional game on defense, forcing 20 turnovers including four each by Jeff Gilbert and Dan Ball. The Stealth were led by Athan Iannucci with a hat trick and two assists and Lewis Ratcliff, who notched two goals and four assists.

Johnny Powless had his second straight seven-point night against Calgary, but this time it wasn’t in vain. The rookie scored three goals and four assists. Fellow first-year Knighthawk Stephen Keogh also had another big night, repeating his three-goal, three-assist performance from last week. Cory Vitarelli also had a hat trick for Rochester. Matt Vinc stopped 41 shots for the win. At the other end of the floor, goalie-of-the-year candidate Mike Poulin missed the game because of an ankle injury. Frankie Scigliano took the loss in his first career start. Shawn Evans and Jeff Shattler each had a pair of goals and four assists for Calgary while Dane Dobbie had a four-goal night.

Edmonton and Buffalo were tied at six at halftime, but the Rush took the second half 5-2 to emerge victorious in the matchup fraught with playoff implications. Shawn Williams scored a game-high six points on a goal and five helpers, which made him the team’s single-season record holder for assists with 46. That bumped him past Ryan Ward, who pitched in a goal and four assists last night. Zack Greer had a hat trick and Cory Small a pair each of goals and assists. Aaron Bold stopped 32 of 40 shots to earn the win. Luke Wiles scored a hat trick for the Bandits and John Tavares added two goals and two assists.

Jamie Lincoln had the biggest night of his rookie year with five goals and assist to help lead the Mammoth to first place. The win puts them a half game ahead of Calgary atop the West Division and lets them control their own destiny since they have one less loss than the Roughnecks. They can guarantee home-floor advantage throughout the playoffs by winning their last two games, or by winning one more if Calgary loses their final contest. Sean Pollock played a huge role in putting Colorado in that position, scoring four times and adding three assists and Gavin Prout contributed an eight-point night including 7 assists. John Grant, Jr., meanwhile, moved closer to the NLL’s single-season scoring record with six points (3g, 3a) to reach 104. That leaves him 11 behind John Tavares‘ mark with two games to play. Grant has scored 11 or more points three times this year. Chris Levis moved into a tie with Poulin atop the league with his tenth win of the season. He gave way to rookie Tye Belanger for the final 4:15.

Stephan Leblanc was the top gun for Toronto with four goals and five assists while Garrett Billings added six points (2g, 4a). Colin Doyle moved into a tie with Gary Gait for second place on the NLL’s career scoring list with a two-goal, two-assist performance, although he surely would prefer to have caught Gait in a win. The Rock loss drops them into a tie with Philadelphia at 7-7 atop the East, but the Wings hold the head-to-head tiebreaker so they can win the division by taking their final two games. Nick Rose’s bubble of perfection with the Rock was burst by 13 goals on 33 shots, but he’s still 3-1 since joining Toronto from Calgary in a trade deadline deal.

Minnesota 14 – Washington 9
NLL.com story
Game sheet

Rochester 14 – Calgary 12
NLL.com story
Game sheet

Edmonton 11 – Buffalo 8
NLL.com story
Game sheet

Colorado 19 – Toronto 12
NLL.com story
Game sheet

Plus the Links

Tavares is the man for lacrosse fans, but he gets that hockey is king in Canada and he says he’s happy to share his name with his more famous nephew. “I understand where hockey stands, especially in Canada, and where lacrosse stands in terms of popularity. So it’s totally understandable why he’s a lot more popular than I am,” Tavares said about his namesake with the New York Islanders. (edmontonjournal.com)…It looks like the Guelph Regals 20th season is a go. After concerns the club would have to fold because of financial issues, they came up with some funding recently and now have released their schedule for the summer. (guelphstandard.blogspot.ca)

Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at stamplax@hotmail.com.

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