ILIndoor Roundtable: Checking in with teams on a roll in Rochester and Calgary, and what’s going on in Buffalo?
We’re finally getting into the meat of the National Lacrosse League season and there’s plenty to chew on. So we tackled a few different issues with the ILIndoor Roundtable for this week. Check it out as staffers Bob Chavez, Stephen Stamp, Teddy Jenner and Casey Vock talk about the Rochester Knighthawks’ big weekend sweep of Philadelphia and Buffalo. We also take a look at Bandit Land and whether or not the Bandits and their fans have anything to worry about. And last but not least, how smooth are the Calgary Roughnecks operating? Their 0-2 start seems like a long time ago.
CHAVEZ: Let’s start with the Rochester Knighthawks and their weekend sweep. They didn’t just win those games, they dominated in Philly and Buffalo. But for as well as the offense played, finally, I was really impressed with the defense. Is this is a good as it gets defensively, or can we expect this unit to get even better through the season? If so, that could be a scary thought for opponents.
STAMP: I don’t think the Knighthawks or any team can expect to keep allowing just 7.7 goals a game indefinitely; the offensive players in the NLL are just too good. But their showing in the last three games does show that they’ve gotten back on track defensively. So much of what they do is predicated on communication, not just while the defence is on the floor but between shifts and between games as well. No matter who you are and how good a character you have, it’s easy to fall into a bit of complacency after winning a championship. It’s a credit to the Rochester players and coaching staff that they’ve managed to address that so quickly and get things turned around. So no, they won’t have a 7.7 gaa or lower the rest of the season, but they will be more like the team we all expected them to be before the season started.
JENNER: The Hawks were +18 on the weekend and yeah they put up big numbers but the D! Wow. Matt Vinc was incredible with 97 saves in their back-to-back wins. Coach Mike Hasen finally has the unit playing team defense and it’s causing fits for opponents. One guy that never gets any love is Rory Glaves. He’s steady, reliable, doesn’t make mistakes and plays big minutes in the back. If this unit can continue to shut offenses down, like they have in their last three games, look out!
VOCK: Stamp makes a good point in that it’s unlikely to expect the Khawks defense to get any better than it was this weekend in terms of stats. But, when it comes to their play itself, I do feel that you could see this team play better defense throughout the season. This weekend, Curt Styres told me that Sid Smith, Scott Campbell, Paul Dawson, Brad Self, Rory Glaves and company are “taking ownership” over what they are doing on defense. While you might not see it every weekend in the stats moving forward, that defense could very well continue to click in that fashion and become an even tighter unit. It looks like a pack of guys who put their hard hats on and go to work. Matt Vinc is keeping them in check.
CHAVEZ: I tend to agree in that maybe we won’t see the domination continue, but I do think we’ll see a much stronger Rochester side from here on out. Their biggest enemy right now is overconfidence, so they have to guard that. On the other side of that, should the Bandits and their fans be worried? Did they just run into a hot goalie or are there deeper problems in Bandit Land?
STAMP: The Bandits are 3-3 with a dozen new players on the roster this year, so I think it’s a little early to be hitting the panic button. They have time to gel and should get stronger and certainly more consistent as the year goes on. There are concerns, however, and primary among them at this point is the defence that has allowed 13, 12, 13, 13, 14 and 15 goals. It puts a lot of pressure on your offence if you are never holding opponents to fewer than a dozen goals. They’re also suffering from a severe lack of production from Luke Wiles and Tracey Kelusky.
JENNER: I’m still trying to figure out what happened to Luke Wiles. Two years ago he was a beast for the Stealth and had a great year in Buffalo last year too but this year he’s been nearly non-existent. I talked about this on my radio show this week, but it seems the Bandits have lost their edge. Darris Kilgour’s Bandit-ball seems to have disappeared and it may be due to the ‘new-NLL’ but where is the team that could intimidate a team just from walking on the floor? They have no edge anymore and I feel it was a huge part of their character. Also, Anthony Cosmo isn’t getting much help nor is he giving his defense any breaks.
VOCK: If I’m the Bandits, I want to see some of the other experienced players step up and put the team on their backs. Tracey Kelusky. Maybe Mike Hominuck, who put up 53 points just last season. Or maybe a guy like Chad Culp. We see Shawn Williams producing like usual, but it’s tough when a player like Wiles is struggling a bit. I think the Bandits need guys to not wait around for JT to return and take it upon themselves, maybe assert themselves a bit and take charge. There’s no reason that offense should sputter without Tavares with some of the names on the list.
CHAVEZ: The potential is there for the Bandits to be a great team, but for whatever reason it’s not coming together. That’s the big challenge for Darris Kilgour and any coach in the NLL: to figure it out. There’s still some time left to get it all sorted out, but the clock is ticking in Buffalo. Speaking ticking and clicking, how impressive are the Roughnecks these days? Shootout, goalies duel. The Riggers are getting it done anytime, anyhow, anywhere.
STAMP: Just look at Calgary’s roster and it’s no surprise they win a lot of games. I think Shawn Evans has really stepped up as the leader of that offence, but they have so many guys who can hurt you and they all seem to play well together. The defence looked a bit discombobulated early in the season but they’ve rebounded to look more like what we expect from that veteran group. And Mike Poulin is the reigning goalie of the year. One thing to keep in mind about Calgary is that they’re not just good, they’re young. The average age is 26.8 and they have exactly ONE player over the age of 30: Geoff Snider is 31. This team is going to be good for a long time.
VOCK: What I think is impressive about Calgary so far this year is that they are winning, in some cases big, with a new head coach. Sometimes even an internal hire can require an adjustment period, and I thought that might mean this team could stutter a bit early on, and maybe we saw that to some degree, but they are on now at both ends of the floor. Scary club playing like they were for most of last season.
JENNER: In speaking with Clark Kent, I mean Curtis Dickson, it was just a matter of the team coming together as one. He looks at that early back-to-back road weekend as a huge turning point for them. Curt has brought another level of competitiveness to the club and it’s working. A coach who hates to lose brings everyone’s desire to win up a few notches. The Necks have been built to win for the past few years however, the reason Dave Pym is now a Toronto scout is because he couldn’t get it done in the post season.
CHAVEZ: I have long loved Calgary’s pace. It’s an exciting brand of lacrosse and it really pushes the tempo on both ends. So it’s nice to see Mouse keeping that system going and it’s nice to see it coming together for him. There’s obviously plenty of season left so nothing’s locked up yet, but you gotta like Calgary’s chances if the Riggers keep it going.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 email@example.com or go to RochesterSports.com.
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