Seven games. Four one-goal games (I’m including Washington’s 12-10 win over Edmonton with an empty-net goal just before the buzzer). One four-goal gap. Two blowouts. Both of the latter by Calgary, who made up for an 0-2 start in a big way with a 19-12 demolition of Colorado and a 16-8 romp over Philadelphia (the latter of which actually had just a two-goal spread early in the fourth quarter before the Roughnecks kicked in the afterburners and ran away with it). When a team performs like that, you can expect to see some of its members grace IL Indoor’s National Lacrosse League 3 Stars. We’re going with a trimmed-down version from here on out, raising the bar to earn an Honourable Mention and thus making the prestige of being selected that much greater. Make the jump to see who made the grade.
Shawn Evans, Calgary Roughnecks
6 goals, 13 assists, 12 loose balls
Is this the year that Evans breaks out and removes any doubt that he is one of the absolutely elite players in the game? His performance over the weekend suggests is just may be. Evans has had three seasons scoring over 70 points, including tying his career high last year with 79 in his first season in Calgary. Now he’s on pace to shatter that. It’s unlikely he’ll maintain the 124-point pace he reached thanks largely to a franchise-record 13-point night Friday, but don’t be surprised to see him crack the 80-point barrier for the first time well before the end of the season. No matter how good Johnny Powless turns out to be, you won’t find the Riggers regretting the trade that brought Evans to Wild Rose Country.
Josh Sanderson, Toronto Rock
6 goals, 4 assists, 9 loose balls
There were players who scored more points this weekend than Shooter’s 10, including his teammate Garrett Billings. But while Billings was really good, Sanderson had an even more profound impact on his team’s fortunes. When Minnesota was threatening to run away and hide from the Rock in the second half Friday night, it was Sanderson who kept scoring key power play goals at absolutely critical moments. He looked like the Shooter of old, picking his moments to score on shots that look far less dangerous than they actually are. With Sanderson playing like this and Billings proving that last year’s huge numbers were no fluke, the Rock are a scary offence to face right now because they’re never out of a game.
Kiel Matisz, Minnesota Swarm
6 goals, 4 assists, 13 loose balls
In his first NLL start last week against Buffalo, Matisz looked like a rookie player trying to get a feel for the pro game. Apparently he got it. Matisz was a threat to make something happen every time he touched the ball this weekend and displayed the two-way game that makes him a perfect fit for how the Swarm are trying to build their team. On a weekend when fellow Minnesota first-rounders Brock Sorensen (his first NLL goal, a beauty behind-the-back snipe on a breakaway), Shayne Jackson (3 goals and 7 assists in two games) and Alex Crepinsek (staunch, smart shutdown defence) all showed to varying degrees why the Swarm are excited about having them on the team, Matisz was the best rookie not just on his team but in the league.
Lewis Ratcliff (Washington): 6g, 6a, 6LB. A beautifully symmetrical line for the Stealth lefty over the weekend as it was his turn to shine brightest in the beautifully balanced Washington offence…Kevin Ross (Philadelphia): 6g, 3a, 13LB. He’s providing exactly what the Wings picked him up to add: some scoring combined with a gritty presence that demands attention and opens up space for his teammates…Dane Dobbie (Calgary): 8g, 5a. Dobbie has a touch of Kasey Beirnes in him, showing a knack for appearing in a good scoring spot just as someone is in a position to pass the ball to him and making it look like it’s easy to do so…Garrett Billings (Toronto): 3g, 10a, 12LB. Colin Doyle pointed out last year that it was great for the Rock that Billings was taking over the reins of the offence because when he, Sanderson, Beirnes and Manning retire in the coming few years it’ll be Billings’ team to lead. The vets are still good and crucial to the club, but it’s Billings’ team now and the Rock are in good hands…Andrew Suitor (Minnesota): 2g, 1a, 10LB. The Swarm captain made the most of his limited time on the floor in his return from a two-game suspension to start the season. Both his goals were gorgeous and the drama of returning from an injury to score the eventual game-winner made this game an instant classic for him. The anticipation, athleticism and skill he demonstrated on that goal make it abundantly clear why he’s one of the best in the game…Nick Rose (Toronto): As good as Rose had looked all year, he looked equally bad early in Toronto’s Friday game against Minnesota. You’ve got to have a short memory to make it as a goalie, though, and after Zack Boychuk gave him a three-and-a-half minute breather, Rose returned and was perfect the rest of the way to allow the Rock to come back and win. Then he was just brilliant again Saturday night…Chad Culp (Buffalo): 2g, 3a, 8LB. Culp is usually the quiet plugger who does all the little things and doesn’t get much of the spotlight for Buffalo. Not any more. He’s played a huge role in their offence so far this season and looks decidedly comfortable doing so.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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