Team 22 Money Ballers: Stealth’s Rhys Duch shoots to top of standings for NLL playoffs

Rhys Duch had one of the best Money Baller games of the entire season in Saturday's victory. (Photo: Dan Brodie)
Rhys Duch had one of the best Money Baller games of the entire season in Saturday's victory. (Photo: Dan Brodie)

It’s not uncommon in team sports to have a player play an outstanding game in a losing cause. We see it in the National Lacrosse League all the time, particularly with goaltenders. In any 8-7 game you’ll have a goaltender that gives up 8 goals, almost four below the league average of 11.95, and still lose. This past weekend’s games featured a couple more examples, particularly one by our Team 22 Money Ballers regular season champ. Oddly, if you look at the numbers of the Rochester-Minnesota game, you might think that neither team had a great night.

Callum Crawford and Ryan Benesch scored 8 and 7 points respectively (two strong performances in a losing cause), but only one other Swarm player had more than 2. The Swarm had only five goal-scorers on the night.

The Knighthawks had 4 power plays but didn’t score. Twice the Knighthawks went 10-plus minutes without scoring, and the Swarm had gaps of 16 and 20 minutes. Neither team was particularly effective on the transition, as they combined for seven points from their defense/transition units. Both Tyler Carlson and Matt Vinc played well, but ended up with identical 71.4% save percentages, well below their regular season averages.

But the numbers don’t always tell the full story, and they certainly can’t describe the excitement of the game. It was tied at the half and twice in the fourth, the second time with less than six minutes to play. Minnesota went from losing by two to winning by two in less than nine minutes, and seven minutes after that were losing by two again. Cody Jamieson missed the second half of last week’s game with an ankle injury but returned for this one and played through pain (obviously limping to the bench in a couple of cases) to lead his team in points (1+4), as he so often does. Craig Point scored four, including the game-tying and game-winning goals in the fourth, giving him six Money Baller points and the game lead.

There weren’t a ton of saves or goals in this game because there weren’t a ton of shots. The two teams combined for 77 shots on goal — only one regular season game this year had fewer, though so did last week’s Knighthawks win over the Wings. In a game where there weren’t that many goals, you can frequently point to a lot of saves, indicating excellent goaltending. But in a game with not that many goals and not that many saves, it’s more likely that the defensive unit had a strong night in preventing the shots. Sometimes it’s hard to judge defenders statistically because of the lack of stats that point to their effectiveness. But perhaps it’s the lack of stats that does point to their effectiveness.

In Calgary, Curtis Dickson had an amazing seven goals, all in the second half, and Dane Dobbie had a hat-trick, but it was kind of a two-man show on offense. Shawn Evans, Scott Ranger, and Joe Resetarits had a goal each while Daryl Veltman and Jeff Shattler and the rest of the team were held scoreless. The Roughnecks had only one second-half goal scored by someone other than Dickson. On the other hand, Washington had 8 different goal-scorers, and everyone on the Stealth roster listed as a forward who was in the game scored at least once. But that’s not to say that the Stealth dominated this game.

In this case, the numbers do a better job of indicating the excitement of the game. Dickson scored a natural hat trick in the third to bring the Roughnecks back into the game from a five-goal deficit, then added another goal two minutes later, and then another hat-trick within six minutes in the fourth, all three of which tied the game. A truly incredible performance, but we all know that Dickson would give up all the accolades for a Roughnecks victory in that game.

Two of Dickson’s tying goals were followed by go-ahead goals by Rhys Duch, who had 3+4 for 7 points to tie Athan Iannucci for the Stealth lead. Neither Duch nor Nooch are strangers to the Money Baller lists, Duch having won the title in 2011 and finishing third this season, while Iannucci won it in 2009.

Duch had one of the best Money Baller games of the season, picking up 9 points with a go-ahead goal and the game-winner in the fourth as well as a go-ahead goal and assist in the second. Duch now leads the playoff Money Ballers list by 1.5 points over Rochester’s Point. But the playoff Money Baller title is far from decided, as three Stealth and three Knighthawks, including last year’s playoff winner Cody Jamieson, are within the top 8 and are only separated by 5.5 points. A good championship game by any one of them could give them the victory, though I imagine winning a Money Ballers playoff title would be very little consolation if it’s done in a losing cause.

Here are the Money Baller standings after the division finals. The number in brackets after a player’s name is their ranking in the playoff scoring race.

  As of Week 2   First Fourth OT  
      Three Quarters Quarter    
      Tie Ahead GWG Tie Ahead GWG GWG  
# Player Team G A G A G A G A G A G A G A Pts
1 Rhys Duch (3) WAS 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 11.0
2 Craig Point (T17) ROC 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 9.5
3 Dan Dawson (T7) ROC 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 7.5
4 Curtis Dickson (T5) CAL 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 7.0
5 Brett Bucktooth (T7) WAS 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 6.0
  Kiel Matisz (T7) MIN 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 6.0
  Cody Jamieson (T12) ROC 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 6.0
8 Lewis Ratcliff (T12) WAS 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 5.5
9 Ryan Benesch (1) MIN 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 5.0
10 Adam Jones (T23) COL 1 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4.5
  Shawn Evans (T7) CAL 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4.5
  Cliff Smith (T17) WAS 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 4.5
13 Paul Dawson (T65) ROC 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 4.0
  Casey Powell (T17) COL 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4.0
  Athan Iannucci (T5) WAS 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4.0
  Dane Dobbie (T7) CAL 1 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4.0

Leaders:

  Weekly leader Overall leader
Division semi-finals Brett Bucktooth
Lewis Ratcliff
Brett Bucktooth
Lewis Ratcliff
Division finals Rhys Duch Rhys Duch

Graeme Perrow started blogging about the NLL in 2005 and now wonders what he did with all his free time before that. He began writing the Money Ballers column for IL Indoor in 2012. He lives in Waterdown, Ontario with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @GraemePerrow.

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