As far as weekend matchups go, the National Lacrosse League has some real dandies and it all kicks off tonight with a clash in Toronto. The Calgary Roughnecks, winners of 4 straight and your West Division leaders, come into the 416 to play the Rock, leaders of the East Division. It’s the first of 2 games this weekend for the Roughnecks, who play in Minnesota on Saturday. Later Friday night, the Washington Stealth travel to a hungry Edmonton Rush team. The Rush, at 1-4, also have 2 games this weekend and a 3-4 record will look better than any of the alternatives. On Saturday, the third installment of the Buffalo-Rochester rivalry goes down in Rochester and later that night, we get to see what the Edmonton defense can do against a strong Colorado offense led by John Grant Jr., who is sure to be motivated by his 0-1 game last weekend. And if all of this isn’t enough, there are a handful of CLax games and an NALL tilt to pick from.
Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game between the Riggers (4-2) and the Rock (5-2) pit the NLL’s top 2 scorers against each other in Toronto’s Garrett Billings (9-31, 40) and Calgary’s Shawn Evans (16-23, 39). The Rock scored 4 power-play goals in their 13-11 win over Calgary on Jan. 12 and the Riggers will be sure to keep it tight on Kasey Beirnes, who helped secure the Toronto win with 2 late goals.
At 9 p.m., the Stealth (4-3) and the Rush (1-4) square off for a third time this season. The Rush rolled 18-10 in their first meeting on Jan. 20 but the Stealth repaid the favor 5 days later with a 12-10 win. The Rush have since lost 3 straight and are starting to feel the urgency. Washington has lost 2 of its last 3 but are feeling better about themselves after last week’s 13-6 win over Colorado. The defense has held its last 2 opponents 6 goals and 7 goals, respectively. Hard to believe, but after this game, the Stealth will be halfway through their season.
Saturday night’s first game, at 7 p.m., has Calgary at Minnesota (2-3) for their first meeting this season. The teams split the 2 games they played last season, but if this game is close at the end, it could favor Minnesota. Four of the Swarm’s 5 games this season have been decided by a goal and they’re 2-2 in those games. Calgary is 1-1 in such scenarios although by its own admission has struggled in the fourth quarter to put games away.
At 7:30 Saturday, the Buffalo Bandits (3-3) are in Rochester (3-3) for a rematch of last week’s game in Buffalo, won by Rochester, 15-7. It wasn’t even that close as the Knighthawks picked the Bandits apart. While a win like that can give team confidence, it can also motivate the opponent and the Bandits are sure to be fired up come Saturday.
The final game of the weekend is Saturday at 9 and it pits the Rush against the Colorado Mammoth. No one wants to use the word desperate, but we’re already aware of Edmonton’s plight. It’s not much different for Colorado, which is 2-3 and has lost 2 of its last 3 games.
The Brampton Inferno (2-2, 4 points)) are giving up at least 16 goals per game and their 2-1 home record will be tested on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. by a Durham Turfdogs (3-1, 6 points) team that has yet to lose on the road in 3 tries. Zach Higgins and John Chesebrough have shared solid time in the Durham cage, although Higgins has numbers that absolutely sparkle in a 9.78 goals-against average and a save percentage of .824. Brampton can either pull even with Durham, or fall farther behind in the league table.
On Sunday, the Toronto Shooting Stars (3-1, 6 points) are at a Barrie Blizzard (0-3, 0 points) that’s playing its first game at home, on Sunday at 2:05. Toronto has balance out the front door with 5 players in double figures, while the Blizzard need to pick up the pace offensively as they average just 11 goals an outing.
There 2 other CLax games to note, although they’re technically not part of the weekend. First-place Ohsweken (4-2, 8 points) is at the Niagara Lock Monsters (2-2, 4 points) on Monday at 7:05, while the Iroquois Ironmen (0-3) are at Niagara on Tuesday at 8:05.
Boston (4-1) and Baltimore (3-2) play for a third time this season on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Baltimore. The Bombers will be more than eager to get this game going to redeem a 20-9 loss to the Rockhoppers back on Jan. 27. Baltimore won the Jan. 12 matchup in Boston by a 17-16 count and they won’t meet again until the regular-season finale in Boston on March 16.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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