NLL Team Reports, Week 11: ‘Philadelphia has been a tough matchup for us … I wish I had an answer’ – Toronto GM Sanderson
Rematch appears to be the theme for this National Lacrosse League weekend. All 4 games are on Saturday, with the Toronto Rock visiting the Philadelphia Wings. And while the Wings are 3-1 against the Rock the last 2 seasons and the Rock will be looking for a way to get that reversed, that’s not the rematches we’re looking at. We’re looking at Edmonton being in Rochester and Buffalo being in Colorado. The first game is a rematch of last year’s Champion’s Cup game, won by Rochester. Both sides say last year is last year, but that’s what we expect them to say. And, of course, it’s easier for the Knighthawks to say that because they won. The Rush have 16 players who were on that team last May, and there’s little doubt they’ll want to make amends in the barn down by the river. The game in Colorado brings the Bandits to town a week after a line brawl punctuated Colorado’s win in Buffalo. But again, both sides say that’s in the past. It’s not the busiest weekend of the season, but it could be one of the more interesting.
|Toronto Rock at Philadelphia Wings|
|Saturday, March 16 - Wells Fargo Center - 1 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Toronto 7-3; Philadelphia 5-4.
Last week: Toronto defeated Colorado, 14-10; Philadelphia lost to Washington, 16-10.
History: Toronto leads all-time series, 22-13 (11-7 in Philadelphia)
Goals for: Toronto 124 (4th); Philadelphia 97 (9th).
Goals against: Toronto 109 (2nd); Philadelphia 111 (tied for 3rd).
Scoring leaders: Toronto — Garrett Billings (20-46, 66), Colin Doyle (16-39, 55), Josh Sanderson (18-25, 43); Philadelphia — Kevin Crowley (15-28, 43), Kevin Buchanan (10-29, 39), Kevin Ross (15-18, 33).
League leaders: Toronto — Nick Rose (7 goalie wins, 412 saves).
The Rock are the only NLL team that hasn’t scored a short-handed goal at home. All 4 have come on the road … The Rock can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Philadelphia and a loss by either Minnesota or Colorado. “Clinching a playoff spot is our first goal … it’d be nice to get that out of the way and these division battles are important so hopefully it’ll give us a little bit of space in the standings,” said F Colin Doyle … GM and assistant coach Terry Sanderson said while it’s nice to be in a spot to clinch this early, the focus remains on a Philadelphia team that is 3-1 against the Rock over the last 2 seasons. “Philadelphia has been a tough matchup for us lately, which is a concern. I wish we had an answer,” said Sanderson. “I thought we competed well with them (in an 8-7 loss on Jan. 19), but then Mr. Miller puts on a display and we can’t get anything past him. It’s just one of those things.”
The Wings defeated Toronto in their first meeting this season, outscoring the Rock 5-2 in the fourth quarter of an 8-7 win in Toronto on Jan. 19 … The Wings have allowed a league-high 17 short-handed goals … The Wings have scored just 13 first-quarter goals, fewest in the NLL but they have shown some remarkable resiliency with a 4-3 record in games where they’re trailing after the first quarter … F Drew Westervelt has scored 3 game-winning goals this season, second-most in the NLL … T Brodie Merrill missed last week’s game with an injury and coach/GM Johnny Mouradian isn’t sure when he’ll be back. Merrill’s status is just one of a few injuries that Wings are dealing with. F Brendan Mundorf hasn’t played yet this season (ankle) but could be back in time for next weekend’s game in Minnesota, T Max Seibald (foot) is probably out for the season, as are T Rob Campbell (foot) and D Eric Hoffman (ACL), while D Brett Manney and D Jeff Reynolds are nursing injuries and have missed time. “We’ve got some things to work through,” said Mouradian … Mouradian also said the team’s big shooters have to have better shooting percentages and not take shots early in the shot clock and also recognize when a defense is setting them up for a shot that decreases their chances. “We need to get back to sharing the ball and not being selfish,” Mouradian said. … G Brandon Miller said playing Washington gave the Wings a measuring stick of where they stand, and Toronto will do the same. “Washington let us know where our mistakes were and what we need to work on,” he said.
|Edmonton Rush at Rochester Knighthawks|
|Saturday, March 16 - Blue Cross Arena - 7:30 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Edmonton 5-5, Rochester 4-5.
Last week: Edmonton was off; Rochester was off.
History: Rush lead all-time series, 2-1 (1-1 in Rochester).
Goals for: Edmonton 129 (3rd); Rochester 100 (8th).
Goals against: Edmonton 111 (tied for 3rd); Rochester 92 (1st).
Scoring leaders: Edmonton — Ryan Ward (16-35, 51), Mark Matthews (28-18, 46), Corey Small (18-24, 42); Rochester — Cody Jamieson (18-27, 45), Dan Dawson (8-30, 38), Cory Vitarelli (15-11, 26).
League leaders: Edmonton — Kyle Rubisch (29 forced turnovers); Rochester — Matt Vinc (10.08 goals-against average).
It’s a rematch of last May’s title game and the Rush are hoping for a better outcome, although they’re being careful about using last May’s loss as motivation. “It was so long ago,” coach/GM Derek Keenan said. “I’m sure there’ll be some motivation, we have 16 guys where on the team but we have a lot of new offensive guys and that was our problem there last year. Hopefully we’ll score more than 1 goal in the second half.” … D Jim Quinlan says it’ll be nice to win in Rochester, but last week’s win over Calgary probably meant more to the Rush. “It was huge for our locker room and it validated how good we can be.” … The Rush, with 3 short-handed goals, are tied with 2 other teams for fewest in the NLL … The Rush have allowed just 7 short-handed goals, best in the NLL … The Rush allow just 42.3 shots per game, best in the NLL.
The Knighthawks may have some new names in the lineup after trading F Casey Powell to Colorado for D Jon Sullivan and getting D Scott Self and Jim Purves for Kedoh Hill and a 2013 second-round draft pick, respectively, in separate trades with the Bandits on Wednesday … “We needed some depth back there and needed to tighten some things up,” coach Mike Hasen said. “We’ve been playing well but we need to be better.” … The deals give the Knighthawks 2 sets of brothers in Dan and Paul Dawson and Scott and Brad Self … The trade that moved Powell may open some space on offense by giving the Knighthawks one less stick to appease. “We’ve had spurts and we need to have those spurts be a bit more consistent,” said Hasen. “We need our offense clicking. We’re not pegging it on 1 particular guy, we just need the right side moving and hopefully this will get the guys going.” … And yeah, the Knighthawks are aware that this is a rematch of last year’s title game but for the most part, they don’t care. “That was last year and things are a lot different this year,” D Rory Glaves said. “We need a win and that’s what we’re focused on.” … The Knighthawks have allowed just 14 power-play goals, fewest in the NLL, and their the penalty killers, at 65% (14 of 40), are best in the NLL … 5 of Rochester’s 7 short-handed goals have come at home, best in the NLL … The Knighthawks are 4-1 when leading after the first quarter, but just 1-1 at home with the early advantage.
|Washington Stealth at Minnesota Swarm|
|Saturday, March 16 - Xcel Energy Center - 8 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Washington 7-4; Minnesota 3-7.
Last week: Washington defeated Philadelphia, 16-10; Minnesota lost to Calgary, 19-15.
History: Swarm leads all-time series, 10-5 (6-0 in Minnesota).
Goals for: Washington 138 (2nd); Minnesota 122 (5th).
Goals against: Washington 128 (6th); Minnesota 136 (8th).
Scoring leaders: Washington — Rhys Duch (31-34, 65), Lewis Ratcliff (21-24, 45), Athan Iannucci (21-23, 44); Minnesota — Ryan Benesch (22-32, 54), Callum Crawford (13-33, 46), Shayne Jackson (14-25, 39).
League leaders: Washington — Rhys Duch (31 goals), Matt Beers (58 PIM).
The Stealth can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Swarm. “It’d be great to get a playoff position this weekend,” coach Chris Hall said. “Obviously it’s one of the goals when you start the season.” … But Hal isn’t expecting a walk-through, despite the 3-7 record for the Swarm. “It’s a division game and the rubber match,” he said. “We’re expecting a tough battle with a team we’ve split with so far.” … Washington lost at Minnesota, 15-14, on Jan. 26, then won at home on March 3, 11-8 … Hall says the Swarm are tough enough to beat, but the addition of F Josh Gillam, who had 13 points in 6 games last year for Minnesota, adds another dimension to defend. “He’s a dynamic player, a real hustler and go-getter who will add some fire to that offense.” … The Stealth are 6-1 when scoring the game’s first goal, best in the NLL … The Stealth have allowed 39 goals in the fourth quarter, most in the NLL … F Athan Iannucci notices a big difference in a Stealth offense that’s averaging 12.5 goals a game compared to 11.2 last season. “It’s more of a philosophy thing,” he said. “We’re talking and communicating better.”
Essentially, the playoffs start this weekend for the Swarm. With 2 teams in position to clinch spots this weekend, that could be 2 fewer spots left for the Swarm to fight for so they understand the need to turn it around now after losing 4 of their last 5, which includes a 3-game losing streak. “We’ve put ourselves in a position where every game puts a little more pressure on us. There’s no room for error,” said coach Joe Sullivan. … The Swarm are hoping the addition of Gillam, who has been playing hockey in Europe, can do this year what it did last year for the Swarm, who went 4-2 in their final 6 games of the regular season with Gillam in the lineup. “He’s got a quick first step and is great on loose balls,” said Sullivan. “We’re looking for him to give us that shot in the arm.” … The Swarm defense gave up 9 goals on 15 shots to Calgary in the second quarter last week … The Swarm special teams have really struggled on the road. The away power-play is worst in the league at 35% (8 of 23) and the downers have allowed 19 goals on 27 chances (70%), also worst in the NLL … F Jay Card said the Swarm know they can run with the Stealth, as scoring 15 goals in their first meeting proved. Scoring 8 in the second game showed we “ran into a hot goaltender. Tyler Richards is one of the best in the league, so that was the difference in the 2 games. We just have to keep banging bodies and keep the ball hot,” he said.
|Buffalo Bandits at Colorado Mammoth|
|Saturday, March 16 - Pepsi Center - 9 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Buffalo 5-5; Colorado 3-7.
Last week: Buffalo lost to Colorado, 12-6; Colorado lost to Toronto 14-10 on Friday, then defeated Buffalo, 12-6, on Saturday.
History: Mammoth leads all-time series, 4-3 (2-0 in Colorado).
Goals for: Buffalo 109 (7th); Colorado 130 (7th).
Goals against: Buffalo 122 (5th); Colorado 130 (7th).
Scoring leaders: Buffalo — Shawn Williams (12-33, 45), Dhane Smith (15-12, 27), Aaron Wilson (15-12, 27); Colorado – John Grant Jr. (29-27, 56), Adam Jones (20-24, 44), Gavin Prout (8-31, 39).
League leaders: Colorado — John Grant Jr. (129 shots on goal).
First things first, assistant coach Rich Kilgour is not anticipating any carryover to Colorado after last weekend’s line brawl in Buffalo. “There should be no hard feeling at all because the bad feelings were taken care of,” he said. “Everyone was willing, no one got jumped and they just went at it.” … F John Tavares remains iffy with his calf injury, but Kilgour says to not be surprised if the team’s captain is in Saturday’s lineup … The leg injury to T and faceoff man Jay Thorimbert was not as serious as first thought and the Bandits expect him to be ready to play this weekend … Saturday’s loss was the result of what Colorado did and what Buffalo didn’t do, said Kilgour. “They really outworked us,” he said of a Mammoth team that outscored Buffalo 12-3 over the final 3 quarters. “If you’re not prepared to play a full 60 minutes, you’re probably going to end up on the wrong end of the scoreboard.” … The Bandits have the worst power play in the NLL at 41% (23 of 56) … Buffalo has scored just 3 short-handed goals (all at home), tied for fewest in the league with 2 other teams … The Bandits have allowed 12 short-handed goals in Buffalo, most in the league.
Coach Bob Hamley agrees with Kilgour about last week being last week, and nothing more. “We’re all competitors. Every week is a grind and we’re all trying to manufacture wins,” he said. “We’re going to be focused.” … Hamley believes the trade for Casey Powell will help the offense on the right side, which has been lacking in production. “When you’re 3-7, you work the phone in trying to improve your team. We’re looking for Casey to give us a spark on offense.” … F Joey Cupido has been a pleasant addition to the lineup in 9 games this season after playing just 1 game last season. His 60 loose balls are third-best on the team and his 15 forced turnovers lead the team … The Mammoth have 221 PIM, second-most in the league, which includes a league-high 15 major penalties … The Mammoth are 1-3 when scoring the game’s first goal … F Adam Jones is on pace for 70 points this season, and Hamley says the reigning Rookie of the Year is playing better this year than last, when he was still not completely trusting his surgically repaired knee. “Last year he did it on guts and excitement. But I think he’s back to his form that we saw in junior and college. He’s doing a lot of the little things … and doing a real good job.” … G Tye Belanger was impressive in his first start, getting the win while making 30 saves and posting an .833 save percentage in Buffalo. “It was a big relief to get that out of the way,” he said.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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