In this most unpredictable of National Lacrosse League seasons, Saturday was a night for reverting to more predictable form…with one rather glaring exception. Flash back one week: last year’s top two defensive teams met in a Battle of Alberta showdown and were tied 10-10. At halftime! Calgary went on to win 18-15 in a Bizarro World result. Last night they were at it again. This time the score at the half was a much more Rush- and Roughneck-like 3-2 for Calgary. Goalies Mike Poulin and Aaron Bold looked like the first and second place finishers for Goalie of the Year they were last year and it took a spectacular rocket from near downtown Calgary by Curtis Dickson in the final minute of play to eke out a 9-8 win.
The winner was Dickson’s fourth goal of the night and tied him for the game-high scorer with Mark Matthews (2 goals, 2 assists) a week after seven players had scored at least 4 points. Jarrett Davis was the top Rush marksman with a hat trick. Each goalie faced 53 shots and stopped at least 83% of them, so it literally came down to last goal wins, just in a different sense than last week’s free-for-all.
In Buffalo, the Bandits ran into a Rochester Knighthawks squad that before this weekend hadn’t looked a lot like the defending champions. The Hawks got the early-season struggles out of their system in Friday morning’s 20-10 demolition of the Philadelphia Wings and just kept on rolling last night, dumping the Bandits 15-7 behind 4 goals from Cory Vitarelli and big nights from all the veterans on the O. Cody Jamieson scored twice and had 7 assists. Stephen Keogh put up a hat trick and 3 helpers. Dan Dawson and Casey Powell each had a goal and 4 assists and Mike Accursi scored once and added 3 assists.
In net, Matt Vinc was his old self, turning aside 48 of the 55 shots he faced. He put up that performance in front of a Rochester D that looked very much like the kind of squad we’ve come to expect from a Mike Hasen-coached group loaded with smart, reliable veterans.
For a Buffalo team missing all-timer John Tavares for a second straight week, the offence just wasn’t there. Defenders David Brock (two goals) and Derek Suddons scored 3 of the Bandits 7 goals and rookie Carter Bender got his first NLL marker in his debut. Aaron Wilson scored twice and added an assist to be the top scorer for Buffalo and Luke Wiles‘ struggles continued as he scored a single goal on 11 shots. Starter Anthony Cosmo was pulled for the third time this season after allowing 13 goals on 44 shots. Backup Kurtis Wagar faced only four shots in his 10-plus minutes of action but two of them got by him. Definitely a night the Bandits would like to forget, calling to mind the far too many such nights they had last year for coach Darris Kilgour’s liking.
Out on the west coast, meanwhile, the Washington Stealth continued to show they remember what it’s like to be one of the best teams in the league after missing the playoffs last year. Tyler Richards looked a lot like the goalie that established himself as one of the league’s elite while the team was going to back-to-back Champions Cup finals in 2010/11. He made 51 saves and the Stealth didn’t allow more than 2 goals in any quarter as they dominated the Colorado Mammoth in a 13-6 win.
The Washington power play was in fine form, scoring four times in six chances. Rhys Duch continued to put up robotically consistent numbers with decidedly unrobotic flair and creativity, scoring a hat trick and adding a pair of assists. Brett Bucktooth and Cliff Smith each put up 2 goals and 2 assists. Snipers Athan Iannucci (1g, 5a) and Lewis Ratcliff (1g, 4a) each had big nights as set-up men.
Adam Jones led the Mammoth offence with 2 goals and 2 assists. Gavin Prout was Colorado’s only other multi-point scorer with 2 assists. You read that correctly; John Grant, Jr. didn’t score multiple points. In one of the strangest things in this largely strange season, Grant didn’t score a single goal on 15 shots and had just one assist. Even more odd is that the Stealth’s D, while anchored by trusty vets Mike Grimes and Kyle Sorensen, leaned heavily on a quartet of rookies to shut down the Mammoth and the game’s all-time single-season scorer. Tim Henderson was outstanding, taking a lot of one-on-one responsibility for covering Grant and Washington got un-rookie-like performances from Tyler Garrison, Justin Pychel and Billy Hostrawser.
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