NLL Team Reports for Week 5: ‘The coaching staff is very confident in the 23 players we have’ – Mammoth’s Bob Hamley
A winless team goes to .500 and a .500 team goes to winless. Just like that, the Calgary Roughnecks are back in the race, and just like that, the Philadelphia Wings are back on earth. That’s life in the National Lacrosse League, and it can be cruel. Johnny Mouradian said the Wings just ran out of gas on offense, but the Riggers showed they have plenty in the tank and they could very well be the force to reckon with many thought they would be. Meanwhile, the defending champion Rochester Knighthawks continue the search for their first win of the season even though their defense has allowed a league-low 38 goals and the Washington Stealth are in first place in the West even though they’ve allowed a league-high 68. Making sense of the NLL in 2013 can be a tough task, but that’s half the fun as we get ready for the 4 games of Week 5, which are all played on Saturday night.
|Toronto Rock at Buffalo Bandits|
|Saturday, February 2nd - First Niagara Center - 7:30 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Toronto 4-1; Buffalo 3-1.
Last week: Toronto defeated Minnesota, 13-12 on Friday, Toronto defeated Rochester 11-7, on Saturday; Buffalo defeated Philadelphia, 14-13, on Saturday.
History: Rock lead all-time series, 20-16 (13-7 in Buffalo).
Broadcast: TSN in Canada, ESPN3 in U.S., YouTube outside of North America.
Goals for: Toronto 54 (3rd), Buffalo 51 (8th).
Goals against: Toronto 47 (6th), Buffalo 51 (8th).
Scoring leaders: Toronto — Garrett Billings (7 goals, 22 assists for 29 points), Colin Doyle (4-19, 23), Josh Sanderson (11-7, 18); Buffalo — Shawn Williams (4-17, 21), Dhane Smith (8-6, 14), John Tavares (5-9, 14).
League leaders: Toronto — Garrett Billings (22 assists), G Nick Rose (4 wins, 9.31 goals-against, 201 saves).
Rock were 1-2 vs. Buffalo in the regular season last year, but won their first-round playoff game at home against the Bandits … 5 of F Josh Sanderson’s team-leading 11 goals have come on the power play … F Garrett Billings hit a milestone last weekend with his 100th goal and 300th point in his 4th NLL season. “It’s not surprising, with his knowledge and his skill level,” said GM and assistant coach Terry Sanderson. “He’s one of our mainstays and we’ve surrounded him with good people.” … D Chris White is making his first trip to Buffalo since leaving the team via free agency. He said it was a tough decision but it was a matter of being closer to home and said his knowledge of the Bandits’ system won’t be much of a factor because of the many new faces there this season. “Maybe a little bit about individual players,” he said. “But it’s a different team. A lot of the strategies are a little similar but Terry and Troy have been around for a long time and hopefully they’ll have our gameplan all set up.” … The combined record of Toronto’s opponents this season is 6-11.
Coach Darris Kilgour says veteran F John Tavares will miss the game with a calf injury … T Mark Steenhuis leads the team with 17 PIM … All 3 Bandits wins have been by 1 goal. “We’re making plays when we have to, especially on offense,” said Kilgour. “We’re very pleased with the overall team so far.” … Kilgour says a new athleticism in Buffalo may take the matchup with Toronto to a different level and away from the plodding defensive battles they’ve become accustomed to. “Maybe we’ll run a bit more than we have,” he said. … Then again, “The ball’s been really hot this year,” he said of an offense that’s distributed better than in seasons past and had more shooters involved. “It really depends on how fast you want to play the game.” In other words, Kilgour is confident his boys can run with Toronto, or slow it down, and still be successful. … D Billy Dee Smith says it’s good to be back on the floor and “the guys are getting used to each other, but there’s definitely room for improvement.” … F Luke Wiles scored the winning goal last week against Philadelphia, and Kilgour says Wiles is wasting his time beating himself up for apparent struggles. “He’s in his own head right now … but we’ll get him through this.” Kilgour said Wiles has had trouble making it to practice because he got married and green card issues are making it difficult to cross the border regularly.
|Washington Stealth at Rochester Knighhawks|
|Saturday, February 2nd - Blue Cross Arena - 7:30 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Washington 3-2; Rochester 0-3.
Last week: Washington defeated Edmonton, 12-10 on Friday, Washington lost to Minnesota, 15-14, on Saturday; Rochester lost to Toronto, 11-7, on Saturday.
History: Knighthawks lead all-time series, 11-4 (5-2 in Rochester).
Goals for: Washington 66 (1st), Rochester 32 (9th).
Goals against: Washington 68 (9th), Rochester 38 (2nd).
Scoring leaders: Washington — Rhys Duch (14-13, 27), Cliff Smith (9-13, 22), Lewis Ratcliff (11-8, 19); Rochester — Cody Jamieson (5-10, 15), Casey Powell (2-6, 8), Dan Dawson (1-7, 8).
League leaders: Washington — Rhys Duch (14 goals), Bob Snider (67 loose balls, 104 faceoffs won), Lewis Ratcliff (60 shots on goal).
How bad is the Knighthawks offense struggling? Casey Powell and Dan Dawson rank 2 and 3 in team scoring, but Powell didn’t play in the opener and Dawson was pointless last week against Toronto … Coach Mike Hasen said the team has to forget its struggles and concentrate on what’s in front of it. “We have to learn from our mistakes … we have to play more for each other,” he said. “It’s a bunch of little stuff. Guys are working hard and trying, but just need to be smarter in what they’re doing off-ball and on defense we have to make sure we’re on the same page.” … Dawson says it comes down to execution. “The flow has been there, we just haven’t been executing the way we have to.” To that end, the offense would benefit from more work down low, he said. “We have to stop settling for the outside shot and get to the dirty areas,” he said. “We only had 2 power plays against Washington the first time and that’s unacceptable.” … More cuts through the middle increases the chances to draw a penalty and that not only gives the O a chance to score, but it keeps the defense off the floor, Dawson said.
D Curtis Hodgson matched the franchise record set by Gary Rosyski (2000-2008) by playing in his 132nd straight game … Coach Chris Hall said this will be a different Knighthawks team his boys faced in the opener. “Casey Powell wasn’t in the lineup then, so they’ll have a different look,” he said. “But they’re starting to mesh, they have a lot of firepower and they’re pretty well-balanced.” … T Bob Snider says the Knighthawks have a target on their back as defending champs, and now pride is a factor as they’ll be eager to right the 0-3 ship that has sailed out of the dock. “There’s so much parity,” he said. “You have to be prepared and can’t be complacent because that can change in a hurry.” … Hall likes the pace of the Stealth, especially compared to last season’s awful start, but knows his team can be better. “We’ve had some good things and we’ve had some bad things,” he said. “Like most things, it’s a work in progress.” … Fans in Everett can attend a viewing party for the game at Sporty’s Beef & Brew on Evergreen Way.
|Minnesota Swarm at Colorado Mammoth|
|Saturday, February 2nd - Pepsi Center - 9 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Minnesota 1-2; Colorado 1-2.
Last week: Minnesota lost to Toronto, 13-12, on Friday, Minnesota defeated Washington, 15-14, on Saturday; Colorado lost to Calgary, 19-12, on Friday.
History: Mammoth lead all-time series 7-6 (2-3 vs. Swarm in Colorado).
Broadcast: Altitude, YouTube.
Goals for: Minnesota 39 (6th), Colorado 38 (7th).
Goals against: Minnesota 40 (3rd), Colorado 48 (7th).
Scoring leaders: Minnesota — Ryan Benesch (9-10, 19), Callum Crawford (5-11, 16), Shayne Jackson (6-8, 14); Colorado — Gavin Prout (4-15, 19), John Grant Jr. (12-7, 19), Adam Jones (5-9, 14).
League leaders: John Grant Jr. (7 power play goals).
If you had any doubts as to why T Andrew Suitor is team captain, those doubts had to be erased after Saturday’s game. After serving a 2-game suspension to start the season, Suitor returned with a vengeance, scoring 3 points (2-1), scooping 10 loose balls and winning 6 faceoffs. “It was real hard to watch when I know I could have been out there,” he said. … The Swarm is another team to have all of its games decided by 1 goal and 2 of those have been losses. “We just need to tighten up a bit,” said coach Joe Sullivan. “We have to put a little more onus on ourselves in the fourth quarter.” … The Swarm have been outscored 13-4 in the fourth quarter of their 3 games, including 4-1 in Saturday’s win over Washington … “We don’t want to change too much, just make sure everybody’s making the right decisions,” said Sullivan. “And we need to pick up the intensity in practice.” … John Grant Jr. scored 31 points (15-16) in 3 games against the Swarm last year, including a 5-2 game in the first round of the playoffs, but Suitor said he doesn’t have an answer for that. “There’s no stopping Junior,” he said. “You just try to contain him … maybe with certain matchups, and hopefully he doesn’t go off on us.”
The Mammoth are playing the team that ended their season last year but that’s not the issue right now, said coach Bob Hamley of his 1-2 team with both losses coming at home. “We’re disappointed with our efforts in front of our fans,” he said. “But like I’ve said, every week is a grind and we have to get better each week.” … The best place to start that improvement is the back end and the Mammoth released veteran G Chris Levis and handed the No. 1 job to Matt Roik. “The numbers just weren’t there,” Hamley said in explaining the decision. “We had to make a move.” … Second-year D Dan Coates said the effort is there, it’s just got to be more consistent. “This is not the start we wanted,” he said. “We know what we’re capable of, we just have to put 60 minutes together.” … It’s not all on the defense, though. Coates said it’s a team thing and it includes O guys getting back to the bench and the D guys getting off the bench, especially against the Swarm this weekend. “They’re young and athletic,” Coates said. “They push the ball well in transition. We have to be hungry.” … Hamley said improvement shouldn’t have to come by making roster changes. “We all know what we have to do, it’s everyone’s responsibility. The coaching staff is very confident in the 23 players we have, now we have to get together and play as a unit.”
|Calgary Roughnecks at Edmonton Rush|
|Saturday, February 2nd - Rexall Place - 9 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Calgary 2-2; Edmonton 1-2.
Last week: Calgary defeated Colorado, 19-12, on Friday, Calgary vs. Philadelphia on Sunday; Edmonton lost to Washington, 12-10, on Friday.
History: Roughnecks lead all-time series, 20-4 (12-2 in Edmonton).
Broadcast: Sportsnet One, YouTube.
Goals for: Calgary 58 (2nd), Edmonton 37 (8th).
Goals against: Calgary 46 (5th), Edmonton 32 (1st).
Scoring leaders: Calgary — Shawn Evans (13-18, 31), Dane Dobbie (9-8, 17), Curtis Dickson (9-7, 16), Scott Ranger (5-11, 16); Edmonton — Mark Matthews (8-11, 19), Corey Small (6-10, 16), Ryan Ward (6-8, 14).
League leaders: Calgary — Shawn Evans (31 points), Geoff Snider (11 forced turnovers); Edmonton — Kyle Rubisch (26 PIM).
F Shawn Evans was on fire against the Mammoth on Friday with 4 goals and 6 assists in the first half. He finished with 4 goals and 8 assists (12 points) to set a franchise record for points in a game. “We knew what we were getting when we made the deal,” coach Curt Malawsky said. “His compete level is second to none.” … Malawsky, obviously, is pleased with the weekend sweep to get the Riggers back to .500. “Our focus was really good,” he said. “We played a little more disciplined and valued the ball. And we played offense by committee … Our character came into question after the first 2 games and guys took it personally.” … The Riggers gave up 7 power-play goals vs. Colorado and 3 vs. Philadelphia, but Malawsky said numbers don’t tell the story. “We play very aggressive in the back end and we’re going to take penalties,” he said. “But if it’s a good 2-minute whack to the hands, it is what it is. The guys know what a good penalty is and what a bad penalty is. It’s who, it’s where and it’s when.” … D Dan MacRae said he felt something good click right around the time the offense was scoring 6 unanswered goals against Colorado in the first quarter. “The offense put this team on their back and we were right back in it and everybody had trust in each other again.”
The Rush have lost 10 straight regular-season games to the Roughnecks, including 0-4 the last 2 seasons. “We need to fix that if we want to be taken seriously,” said GM/coach Derek Keenan. … Edmonton’s last regular-season win over the Riggers was a 14-11 decision on Jan. 30, 2010, in Edmonton. … Incredibly, only 4 current Rush players were on that last winning team: Jimmy Quinlan, Brett Mydske, Ryan Ward and Corey Small … Of course, the Rush the talent to run with the Roughnecks and Keenan admits it’s a big mental block now. “The most important thing, because if you look at the stats, they don’t tell you everything, but we got outworked by them, and outran. So we can’t get outworked and outran. Those are the key elements. We have to match their intensity, and exceed it.” … D Chris Corbeil was new to the Rush last season, but understands full well what the Rush are up against. “We know what we’re capable of and we need to get some respect,” he said. … The Rush released F Tom Johnson to make room for Michael Cudmore, a second-round draft pick who has recovered from a knee infection. “There’s not a lot of depth out the back door,” said Keenan. “And Cudmore is living in the market so we needed to get him on the roster. But we also need to develop some young back-door guys. Tom did a good job for us.” … F Zack Greer missed last week’s game against Washington with an injury but should be back this weekend, said Keenan.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 firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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