Dirty Dozen: Parity is here to stay in NLL, Anthony Cosmo’s Bandits bucket, props to Poulin, and is the ‘assist’ an overrated stat?

Toronto assistant coach Terry Sanderson says the NLL is a 1-goal league these days. (Photo: Toronto Rock)
Toronto assistant coach Terry Sanderson says the NLL is a 1-goal league these days. (Photo: Toronto Rock)

We hear the word parity quite a bit these days in the National Lacrosse League. And the thing is, it’s not just a cliche. It’s reality in the NLL of 2013. Last weekend was a perfect example of this when we saw 3 of the 4 games not only being decided by a single goal, but all 3 victors in those matchups were the visiting teams. “It’s a 1-goal league,” said Toronto Rock GM and assistant coach Terry Sanderson, whose team led 7-4 in the fourth quarter last weekend before the Philadelphia Wings scored 4 unanswered goals in the final 9 minutes for an 8-7 win. “You think you’ve got a comfortable lead … but you’ve got to maintain that focus. I don’t know that there’s another league like this.”

Last weekend was not an anomaly, either. Six of the 10 NLL games played so far this season have been decided by 1 goal. There’s also been a 2-goal game and a 4-goal game to illustrate how tight competition can be in the NLL.

“It’s the beauty of the game,” Swarm defenseman Jeff Gilbert said. “You’re never really out of it. It’s tough to build that momentum but it’s such a big thing. If it’s on your side, almost anything can happen.”

A big reason for this is having just 9 teams in the league. Obviously, that means fewer roster spots, which translates to the best of the best having jobs in the NLL. And even with 9 rosters, some very talented players today are watching games at home on YouTube, just like you are. Jeff Zywicki and Brandon Francis come to mind as just a couple of the guys who were cut before the season started but haven’t been able to sign on with a new team.

What this all means, of course, is entertaining lacrosse for you. Then again, if you’re a Knighthawks fan, you’re not really a big fan of these close games as your team has lost both so far this season by a single goal. Colorado fans don’t mind, because the Mammoth came out on the right side of an overtime game last weekend.

Point is, parity is here in the NLL. And unless there are 15 teams in the league next year, parity’s here for a while. Enjoy.

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CLOSE CALL: With those 1-goal games last weekend, it got us to thinking if there’s ever been a weekend where every NLL game was decided by a single goal. It happened in 2009, but there was only 1 game that weekend (yeah, tricky). Same for the first weekend of the 2008 season and also in Week 2 of the 2003 season. So those don’t really count. We checked back through the 2001 season but couldn’t find any weekend where every game was decided by a single marker. It’s surprising to learn that the most recent call came just 2 seasons ago, when 5 of 6 games on the weekend of Jan. 21-22 were decided by 1 goal.

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HE SAID IT: “It’s hard not to think we let one get away. Maybe we counted the two points before they were there.”

– Toronto’s Colin Doyle, to the Toronto Sun, after the Rock let a late lead slip away in losing their home opener to the Philadelphia Wings.

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HE SAID IT TWO: “It’s one of those things where the ball’s on the ground and a guy picks it up and throws it in desperation and it catches everybody by surprise. It went between my legs, it’s one of those ones I’d like to have back, it was a lucky shot, but I don’t think that’s the first time Tracey Kelusky’s done that before.”

– Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc, to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, on the Bandits scoring the winning goal with 11 seconds left.

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OVERRATED? The assist. It’s a legit stat most of the time, but when Buffalo goalie Anthony Cosmo makes the save on a Cody Jamieson shot like he did in the third quarter of Saturday’s game, and Cory Vitarelli scoops the rebound off the rug and scores a goal, does anyone really deserve the assist there? Didn’t think so.

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PROPS FOR POULIN: What an amazing 2 saves in the final seconds of regulation for Calgary’s Mike Poulin on Saturday against Colorado. The most amazing of the saves had to be the one he made with his right arm extended as he was off-balance to stop a John Grant Jr. shot that would have won the game. Instead, to OT the teams went and Poulin came up with another amazing flurry of saves before Sean Pollock cashed in and won the game for Colorado. Had to feel bad for Poulin in taking that loss. He didn’t deserve it.

Side note: That game doesn’t go to OT if the Mammoth don’t lose at least 4 goals to crease violations during regulation.

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Anthony Cosmo's Bandits lid (Photo: ILGear).
Anthony Cosmo's Bandits lid (Photo: ILGear).

SPEAKING OF GOALIES: ILGear.com is back with another profile of a fantastic goalie bucket, this time featuring the gear of Buffalo Bandits goalie Anthony Cosmo. Check it out as Cosmo dons a lid that gives a nod to the passion of Bandits fan, sporting an illustration of fans holding signs at a Bandits game. “I overheard a conversation about the guys who come to the games with their faces painted, and I heard it takes something like three or four days for that paint to wear off,” Cosmo told ILGear.com. “So these guys are going to work with paint on their bodies and their faces. That really says something.” On the back is an outline of his family, which is first-class all the way.

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GOOD WORK: Nice job by the commentators from Calgary’s game against Colorado whent they updated viewers on the condition of a young boy who was hit by a shot from Colorado’s Adam Jones in the fourth quarter. It appeared the lad was hit in the chest, but the Calgary crew reported postgame that the kid was looked at by medical staff and left the arena with family heading for home. Great work by the Calgary staff to let viewers know.

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SPEAKING OF …: Yeah, the broadcasts are free and convenient, so we should be grateful. But here’s hoping the YouTube webcasts get their technical issues sorted out. It’s pretty frustrating to see “An error occurred. Please try again later” a few dozen times like we did in Sunday’s Edmonton vs. Washington game. But even that broadcast was better than the Buffalo vs. Rochester game, which posted that message from the get-go before the webcast was just canceled altogether.

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OUCH: What was up with that contortionist at halftime of the Calgary vs. Colorado game on Saturday night? Dude twisted himself around in ways that made you cringe, and it was hard to tell what gave him more enjoyment: wrapping himself up like a pretzel or knowing you were cringing while watching. Entertainment like that is painful to watch, but impossible to ignore.

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GOOD ON THEM: We’ve said it before and we’ll probably say it again, but it’s great to see the NALL on its feet and running this season. And same for CLax as well, but the story of Evan Roberts and the fun he’s having with the NALL’s Rhode Island Kingfish is exactly why these smaller leagues are so good for the game. Not every lacrosse player will make it to the NLL, but leagues like the NALL, CLax, and later this year the Professional Lacrosse League, provide more opportunities for laxers to keep it going after their NCAA days are behind them.

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ALREADY? We’re just underway with the NLL and we’ve already got a WLA schedule for 2013. Get those pencils out to mark your calendars and get those vacation requests in.

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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