ILIndoor: National Lacrosse League Top 20 stories for 2012, Nos. 11 through 20

John Tavares produced points as usual, but the Bandits surely saw their share of struggles in 2012. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
John Tavares produced points as usual, but the Bandits surely saw their share of struggles in 2012. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

The 2012 National Lacrosse League season gave us plenty to cheer and, for some, plenty to boo. Either way, passions are at their usual levels and that’s what makes us the proud fans of the game that we are. But as the recently completed season fades into the sunset, it’s time to take a look back at some of the stories that grabbed the headlines. We’ve narrowed it down to the Top 20 attention-grabbers of the season and today, we’re looking at No. 11 through No. 20. Check back on Monday between your hamburgers and hot dogs, along with the respect paid to military veterans, to see what made our Top 10 list for stories of the year.

11. Anthony Cosmo traded to Buffalo: Coz started the 2012 NLL season at home, watching the team that picked up his rights in the dispersal draft, the Minnesota Swarm, make a go of it with a pair of rookie goalies. Cosmo came into the season wanting to be closer to his Mississauga home and he told the Swarm that, who drafted him anyway. So Cosmo sat. And Tyler Carlson and Evan Kirk excelled, leaving us wondering if we’d see Cosmo at all. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bandits were struggling so they came calling and the Swarm charged them a pair of future first-round draft picks and just like that, Cosmo was a Bandits goalie. He struggled early with rust in Buffalo but came on at the end, helping the Bandits salvage their season by at least qualifying for the playoffs. The season ended earlier than hoped for with a first-round playoff loss but considering where the Bandits were earlier in the season, it could have been much worse.

12. CBS Sports Network coverage: We can’t complain too much about live coverage of NLL games when we can sit at our computers on game nights and watch just about every game for free via streaming. Not a lot of pro sports leagues do that. But when the NLL inked a deal with CBS Sports Network, we rejoiced. And when Brent Stover was announced as the lead announcer, with color analysis from the brother Powell and Casey and Mike, we rejoiced. It put the NLL on live primetime TV for the first time and brought the game into millions of homes. The high-definition broadcasts were sharp and the announcing was enthusiastic. There’s 1 more year left on the contract between the league and the network, so here’s hoping the numbers and production were impressive enough to continue the relationship beyond 2013.

Toronto's Garrett Billings had the quietest, best NLL season ever, including a 15-point game. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Toronto's Garrett Billings had the quietest, best NLL season ever, including a 15-point game. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

13. Garrett Billings, 15 points on 15 goals: It didn’t take long for Garrett Billings to establish himself as an elite scorer in the National Lacrosse League. He lit it up as a rookie with 83 points and followed that with 75 points in 2011. And en route to his 114-point season of 2012, the right-hander out of Langley did something that dropped jaws. In Toronto’s 15-9 victory over Buffalo on March 31, Billings scored 4 goals and had 11 assists. Not only was that a team record for points in a game, it meant he was involved in every goal the Rock scored that night. All you can do is tip your cap and say job well done, sir. Respect.

14. Geoff Snider dominance: It goes beyond Snides scoring a season-high 3 goals and assisting on 2 others in Calgary’s win over Minnesota on March 30. And it’s about more than the 28 loose balls he scooped in the game. Because those digits alone stand up pretty well when you start talking about dominating a game. But when you toss in the fact that Snider won 28 of 28 faceoffs in that game, well, it doesn’t get much more impressive than that. Snider’s long been recognized and respected as one of the game’s best and this game, even by Snider standards, has to be recognized as one of the most dominant performances by an individual.

15. John Tavares, the ageless wonder: Nothing we write hasn’t already been written about John Tavares, but he’s simply a freak of nature. Every season for the last 4 or 5 years, he’s been asked if this is his final year. And every year, he doesn’t know. And when a 43-year-old man can come out and nearly match his goals (41) with his age (43), why would he stop playing? And even beyond the scoring, he’s still dropping back on D from time to time, putting on display his unsurpassed talent for the game. He was asked again at the end of this season if he’ll be back for another and again, he said he didn’t know. What we do know is that JT will go down as on the best to ever play the game.

16. Buffalo Bandits’ 6-game losing streak: No one in Bandit Land saw this coming and even when it was staring them in the face, it was difficult to believe. The Bandits are a franchise that’s used to winning and the demanding fans expect nothing less. The 2-0 start to the season was as expected, but then the Ls started to pile up. Philly, Minnesota, Washington in OT, then Philadelphia again. Colorado and then, the horror of horrors, a loss to rival Rochester was the team’s sixth straight loss and dropped the Bandits to 2-6. Anger dominated the message board yet Bandits fan still came out on droves, a testament to their passion. The Bandits did manage to gather themselves and qualified for the playoffs but it was a short trip. The grumbling is not finished in Bandit Land and will likely continue until the team does some offseason work to give Bandits fan more optimism heading into the 2013 season. And even though it was a playoff year for the Bandits, it’s a season most fans want to forget. Quickly.

Edmonton's Shawn Williams set the NLL record for consecutive games played. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Edmonton's Shawn Williams set the NLL record for consecutive games played. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

17. Shawn Williams’ streak, and counting: We get so accustomed to seeingWilly suit up week in and week out that we kind of take it for granted that he’ll be there. And really, that’s his own fault. Because he doesn’t know the meaning of missing an NLL game. Best known for his 10 seasons with the Rochester Knighthawks, he was wearing the black of Edmonton this season and no matter what color he sported, he was game. And as of today, it’s 196 consecutive regular-season games. Williams tied the NLL’s Ironman record of 188 straight games on March 10, then broke the record on March 17 in Philadelphia, surpassing the mark shared by Colin Doyle and Steve Toll. And along the way, he eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier, becoming just the sixth player in NLL history to do that. A good season for a good man.

18. Scott Evans benched in Edmonton: Good piece on Thursday here at ILIndoor explaining the situation with Scott Evans, whose season with the Edmonton Rush was not a happy one. Evans has long been one of the game’s scoring stars but styles collided in Edmonton, resulting in him being a healthy scratch down the stretch for the Rush. It was a bit ironic that a player with his scoring touch was essentially blamed as one of the reasons the Rush struggled so much on offense. But it’s difficult to argue with the result of his absence late in Edmonton’s season as the Rush offense went on a tear and combined with the lethal defense the team plays, the Rush advanced to their first Champion’s Cup game. As Stephen Stamp explains in his story, Evans has the ability to control his place in the game. Whether he has the desire to control that destiny is a different matter.

19. Knighthawks incident in Minnesota: The news was not pretty out of Minnesota back in mid-February, but it was all too real. Five Knighthawks players, Cody Jamieson, Sid Smith, Travis Hill, Tyler Burton and Jordan Hall were taken into custody after a bit of a brawl broke out at at TGIF restaurant in Bloomington, Minn. Opinions were fast and furious, from people who were not there, and the players were suspended by the NLL and the Knighthawks. The suspension was for 1 game and the cases remain pending today. There are 2 sides to every story and we’ve yet to hear from the players or the team as to what went down. The incident put the Knighthawks and the NLL in headlines for the wrong reasons, and here’s hoping it doesn’t happen again anytime soon for the Knighthawks, or any NLL team.

20. Streaks end at 177 and 188: Maybe there was something in the water in Toronto this season. But when a pair of really long streaks came to an end for fellas wearing the Rock sweater, you couldn’t help but do a double-take. Blaine Manning’s consecutive games streak ended at 177 when he broke a collarbone in Week 2 and Colin Doyle’s ironman streak ended 2 weeks later at 188, which actually tied Steve Toll for the NLL record. It was bad enough to see Manning’s streak end because he’s one of the game’s classiest players. But Doyle, wow. To get so close! It’s a shame both streaks had to end for these veterans because as any proud athlete will say, there’s nothing worse than not having control of a situation. Whatever comes your way in the game, you want it to be on your terms. Both men returned before season’s end to start new streaks but whether they get back to the numbers they had this season, only time will tell.

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 bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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