There were three high-scoring games and one defensive struggle in the National Lacrosse League on the weekend. IL Indoor’s NLL 3 Stars reflect that predominance of offensive might with a sprinkling of defensive lustre. The major surprise was that the league’s top defensive teams from last year—Calgary and Edmonton—scored a total of 20 goals. In the first half! Anyone who predicted and 18-15 shoot-em-up, knock-em-down goal-fest in the Battle of Alberta clearly has a time machine and came back from the future to make that call. It’s never that surprising when John Grant, Jr. goes off for a bit night, but it’s still astounding and thrilling to watch. Meanwhile, Tyler Richards and Matt Vinc put on a good old-fashioned display of goaltending to make for another compelling Stealth/Knighthawks battle in the rematch of the season opener.
John Grant, Jr., Colorado Mammoth
5 goals, 6 assists
Is it too late to confer a Christmas wish on Junior? If not, then I wish for him to be able to enjoy his play as much as the rest of us do. Because the man who engenders shaking heads and smiles of bewilderment with the things he can do on a lacrosse floor never looks like he’s having fun doing it. Let’s face it, he looks angry even after he scores. Here’s the thing: he holds himself to such a high standard that he’s probably pissed that he missed on the previous couple of shots. Well, John, I hope you enjoyed a big smile after the Mammoth’s 15-9 win over Minnesota because any way you slice it, an 11-point night is really good.
Colin Doyle, Toronto Rock
4 goals, 4 assists, 6 loose balls
In the parlour game of “Who would you want to have the ball when you absolutely have to have a goal?”, there are several good answers. I’ve always felt like giving it to this weeks’ first star—the best shooter in the game—is a pretty good idea. I’ve also seen Scott Evans produce enough dramatic, clutch goals to place him high on my list. But it would be hard to come up with a strong argument against Doyle. The Rock captain scores at the most opportune times. Saturday night that meant a hat trick, including a pair of shorthanded goals, in the fourth quarter as the Bandits were looking like they might just have another final-period comeback under their hats.
Tyler Richards, Washington Stealth and Matt Vinc, Rochester Knighthawks
48 saves, .873 save percentage; 42 saves, .875 save percentage respectively
You can call Vino Star 3 and T-Rich Star 3a since the Knighthawks won, if you like. I’ll go with an even split for a pair of the best goaltending performances of the year. Not coincidentally, they were matched my a couple of the better defensive performances we’ve seen by the teams in front of them, but the goalies still made all the stops to keep the score low and the drama high.
Matt Roik (Colorado): 36 saves, .819 save percentage. We’re not going any further without recognizing his game before he got tossed, apparently for an illegal glove. There wasn’t a hotter spotlight in the league than the one on Roik after the release of Chris Levis and the rampant speculation about whether the Mammoth had the goaltending to be a legitimate title contender. No better way to respond than how he did: with a rock-solid performance to lead his team to a momentum-changing win…Jeremy Thompson (Edmonton): 3g, 10LB. Thompson made like Geoff Snider while lining up against the faceoff king, taking advantage of transition breaks from faceoff wins to score 3 goals i the shockingly offensive Battle of Alberta matchup. Props to Snider for his hat trick, as well, but Thompson gets the edge because Snider’s third was into the empty net…Jeff Shattler (Calgary): 2g, 6a, 7LB. The catalyst for the Roughnecks’ 18-goal night, looking like the vintage Shattler of his 2011 MVP season…Aaron Wilson (Buffalo): 3g, 1a, 8LB. Great game for the veteran and some long-range bombs to spark the Bandits almost-comeback…Jordan MacIntosh (Minnesota): 2g, 1a, 8LB, 17 of 24 faceoff wins. Some nights a team just doesn’t have it and that appeared to be the Swarm Saturday, but JMac was the busiest buzzer in the hive…Garret Billings (Toronto): 2g, 5a. He’s this year’s Cody Jamieson in the 3 Stars, always doing enough to merit a mention and sometimes pumping it up for a trip to the Big 3…Mike Grimes (Washington): 2g, 1a, 10LB. Getting attention as a lax defender is like competing for the Selke Trophy in the NHL; it never hurts to augment your defensive prowess with a touch of sniping and that’s just what Grimes did in a nice display of two-way game for the Stealth…Ryan Ward (Edmonton): 3g, 4a. Leading scorer for a Rush team that would win 99 out of 100 times they score 15 goals…Dane Dobbie (Calgary): 3g, 2a. The Finisher for Calgary Saturday, as he has been all year. Nice touch on display…Shawn Williams (Buffalo): 1g, 4a, 8LB. Shows week in and week out that he’s still sprightly.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 email@example.com.
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