There are 5 National Lacrosse League games this weekend and 4 of them are in-division games. Three of them have tiebreaker possibilities for season series, and at least 1 of them has a boatload of pride riding on it. Buffalo’s win over Toronto last night kept the Rock from clinching that season series and set up an all-important rubber match in Toronto on March 29. Tonight, the winner of the Philadelphia at Buffalo game can clinch that series as the teams have already split their previous games. On Saturday, Edmonton is at Calgary, which has already clinched that series for the season. But the Rush are eager to snap a funk that dates back to 2010 in the regular season against their biggest rival. And on Sunday, the Stealth will be trying to tie their season series with the Swarm. For CLax, it’s a busy weekend with 6 games on the docket. The Durham Turfdogs have a pair of games, both against first-place teams, while Barrie and Iroquois both continue the search for their first win. Who is playing when and where, after the jump.
Buffalo showed its improved play against Rochester 2 weekends ago was no fluke as it looked strong and composed in last night’s road win over Toronto (6-3). It puts Buffalo (5-3) just half a game behind the first-place Rock and some momentum heading into tonight’s 7:30 home game against the Philadelphia Wings (4-3). The Wings have won 2 straight with some impressive defense and if goalie Brandon Miller continues to play the way he did against Rochester and Colorado, the Bandits have their work cut out for them.
On Saturday, the Knighthawks (3-5) and Mammoth (2-5) square off at 9 p.m. and both are angry teams. Or at least they should be. Neither team is performing to the level of their own expectations, especially the Knighthawks, who are defending their NLL championship. Rochester’s offense has struggled and so has Colorado’s defense, so all signs point to Rochester, right? Maybe, maybe not. The Mammoth shook up their back end for a second time this season by releasing veteran goalie Matt Roik. That gives Colorado a pair of goalies in Dan Lewis and Tye Belanger, who are young and very inexperienced.
Rochester shooters could eat that up or be frustrated by a goalie they’re not familiar with. Pride certainly will be a factor in this game as well because the loser of this game is the clear cellar dwellar and talk could start heating up about being the team left out of the NLL playoffs.
Also at 9 p.m. on Saturday is the third installment of the Battle of Alberta. The Edmonton Rush (4-5) are out to snap a 12-game regular-season losing streak to their biggest rival and they’ll be doing it on a night the Calgary Roughnecks (5-4) are honoring the retired face of the franchise, Kaleb Toth. The Rush have won 3 of 4 and the Riggers are 2-2 in their last 4 games but have had issues with discipline and a defense that’s given up 17, 16 and 16 goals in the last 3 games.
Sunday’s 6 p.m. weekend capper between the Minnesota Swarm (3-5) and Washington Stealth (5-4) is another one of those big in-division matchups. Minnesota won the Jan. 26 game in Minnesota so a Swarm victory on Sunday will clinch the season series and give the Swarm a tiebreaker advantage should it be needed at season’s end. But the Swarm learned this week that they’ll have to finish their season without captain Andrew Suitor, who tore an ACL against Edmonton last Friday. The Washington Stealth are looking for consistency. And beyond tying the season series with a win this weekend, it’s possible they could find themselves alone on top of the West should they win this game and Calgary lose to Edmonton.
It’s a busy weekend in Ontario with 6 CLax games on tap starting with tonight’s 8:05 game at Brampton between the Toronto Shooting Stars (4-2, 8 points) and the Inferno (4-2, 8). The’re 2 of the 3 teams tied for second place and these teams are playing each other for the first time, so it should be an interesting matchup. Also at 8:05 tonight, the Iroquois Ironmen (0-5) will try for their first win of the season against the Ohsweken Demons (5-3, 10). The Demons beat the Ironmen 18-15 in their season opener back on Jan. 12 and boast the top 2 scorers in the league in Roger Vyse (19 goals, 30 assists for 49 points) and Delby Powless (20-25, 45). The Ironmen have a top threat in Chris Attwood, last year’s scoring champ for CLax, who has 29 points (13-16) in 5 games.
On Saturday, another winless team, the Barrie Blizzard (0-6) take on the Inferno at 2:05 p.m. in search of their first victory. Brampton defeated Barrie 17-13 back in early February. Also at 2:05, the Niagara Lock Monsters (5-2, 10) take on the Durham Turfdogs (4-2, 8 ) in a key battle that could either extend Niagara’s position at the top of the table, or create a tighter logjam. It’s a valuable 2 points for this game, that’s for sure. If you like defense and goaltending, this game is a matchup between the goaltenders with the top 2 goals-against averages. Niagara’s Connor Danko is tops at 8.39 and Durham’s Zach Higgins is right behind him at 9.49.
And if the Ironmen can’t get a win on Friday night, they’ll get another chance on Sunday at 2:05 p.m. when they play the Shooting Stars. It’s a tough draw this weekend for Iroquois, whose 2 games are against the 2 teams tied for first place in the standings.
The weekend is capped with an 8:05 p.m. game Monday between Durham and Toronto, 2 teams that come into the weekend as part of a 3-way tie for second place. It’ll be the second game of the weekend for both teams but Durham clearly has the tougher draw after playing first-place Niagara on Saturday.
The only game of the weekend is at 7 p.m. Saturday as the Boston Rockhoppers (5-1) travel to take on the Kentucky Stickhorses (2-4). The Stickhorses are coming off a 12-10 loss on the road to Baltimore while the Rockhoppers had a week off after last week’s game against Rhode Island was postponed because of weather. Boston’s last outing was an 18-9 win over Baltimore on Feb. 17. Kentucky has lost 2 of its last 3 and the Rockhoppers have won 4 straight.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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