Money Ballers: Young guns shine in Week 3, but wily veteran Tavares emerges on top

John Tavares, left, not only makes a rare appearance on the Money Ballers list, he leads it. (Photo: Bill Wippert)
John Tavares, left, not only makes a rare appearance on the Money Ballers list, he leads it. (Photo: Bill Wippert)

After a couple of fairly light weekends, Week 3 of the 2014 National Lacrosse League season featured a busy slate of six games including three home-openers. The games ran the gamut from a nail-biter in Vancouver to a big come-from-behind victory in Buffalo to a total blowout in Edmonton to our first overtime matchup of the year. With six games on the schedule, a summary of each would result in a really long article, so let’s shake things up a bit. Since the Money Ballers is all about clutch performances, let’s look specifically at the game-winning goals, and the situations in which they were scored. Six games means six game-winning goals but on this occasion, only five game-winning goal scorers.

In the words of one Peter Townshend, the kids are alright. Of the game-winning goal scorers this past weekend, only one had more than two years of NLL experience. The scorers were rookies Cody Bremner and Karsen Leung, second year player Curtis Knight, 21-year-old Johnny Powless (who in his third season, still doesn’t know what it’s like to play an NLL season and not win the Championship at the end), and John Tavares, who was playing in the NLL before either Powless or Knight was born.

On Friday night, the Toronto Rock led 4-0 after the first and 6-2 at the half, but an outstanding third quarter and a strong fourth put the Bandits up by one with less than five minutes to play. With the Bandits on the power play, Jamie Rooney on the left side of the crease passed to Ryan Benesch in the middle, who passed it back to Rooney. At the same time Shawn Williams broke inside and blocked defender Scott Johnston, leaving a lane open for Tavares. Rooney sent it over to JT, who doesn’t miss often from the edge of the crease. A smart play by Williams who received no points for the effort, but he’ll take a team win over individual points every day of the week.

After a streaky game in Calgary where the Roughnecks had scoring streaks of four and five before the end of the second quarter, Colorado’s defense held Calgary’s offense scoreless for over 20 minutes though the Riggers still led by three. After John Grant missed the net with a shot, Jon Harnett grabbed the ball and launched it down to a streaking Leung, who made the most of the breakaway and buried his first career NLL goal just to the left of Dillon Ward. A nice way to score your first goal, especially when it ends up being the game-winner. That ball will end up on the Leung mantelpiece, and he will presumably tell his grandchildren "this  is the ball I used to get my first Money Baller points."

In Rochester, the game-winner wasn’t quite so pretty. The Knighthawks had scored seven straight goals to turn a 3-2 deficit in the first into a 9-3 lead at the half, when Scott Campbell took the ball up the floor in transition, then passed to Powless coming up the middle. Powless shot just before getting squashed between two defenders, and the ball squirted behind goalie Evan Kirk and ended up in the net. That goal proved to be the winner despite the fact that the Knighthawks wouldn’t score another for 18 minutes, and the Wings would score six straight in the meantime.

The game-winning goal in Edmonton’s 17-6 blowout of Colorado was the earliest game-winner in the NLL since January 28, 2012. That game was another Edmonton blowout, a 16-5 win over the Stealth when the game-winning goal actually came in the first quarter. This one was 1:49 into the second, on the power play. The Rush passed around the Mammoth defensive box until Mark Matthews fed rookie Riley Loewen right in front of the net, but the ball hit his stick and went into the corner. Knight picked it up and simply ran back to the middle and shot, completely fooling Tye Belanger, who seemed to be the last person in the building to realize the ball had gone into the net.

Saturday night featured the first NLL game in British Columbia since … well, since the championship game last season. But it was the first NLL game featuring a B.C.-based team in almost a decade. Not only was the first-ever Vancouver Stealth home game low-scoring, it was almost record-settingly low. Only three games in NLL history had fewer goals than the 13 scored by the Stealth and Swarm. (Though there have been 10 other games with 13 goals.) As you may expect from a low-scoring game, the game-winning goal was a thing of beauty. Lewis Ratcliff to Alex Gajic to Tyler Digby to Bremner who winds up and … fakes a shot, ducks under Greg Downing, and then winds up again for the real shot. Top shelf. Not bad for a new guy.

Speaking of new guys, Tavares is not one of them. The Bandits captain scored the game-winner on Friday night, but it seems he was just getting started. Tavares scored five goals on Sunday, including game-tying and go-ahead goals in the second. After leading by as many as 5 in the third, the Bandits allowed the Wings back into the game in the fourth quarter, and Ryan Ward tied the game with five minutes left in regulation. Less than a minute into OT, Joe Resetarits passed to Tavares in what looked like a harmless play. But as any NLL goaltender will tell you, it’s never harmless when JT has the ball. Tavares spun 360 degrees, backed up a couple of steps, and fired it by Kirk. Game over.

Tavares’ second game-winner of the weekend helped him gather 13 MB points and win the week. He also takes the overall lead away from Adam Jones, while Kyle Buchanan and Ryan Benesch leap into the top 10. Amazingly, over the last three years of the Money Ballers, Tavares has only appeared in the leaders list once. He tied with Brendan Mundorf to win week 11 of the 2012 season. So that means that he’s not a clutch player, right? Yeah. Sure.

Expect lots more movement near the top after the seven games next weekend, the busiest of the season.


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

  As of Week 3   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 John Tavares (T8) BUF 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 13.5
2 Adam Jones (1) COL 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 10.0
3 Joel McCready (T37) ROC 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 7.5
  Drew Westervelt (5) COL 1 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 7.5
5 Dan Dawson (T12) ROC 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 7.0
6 Kyle Buchanan (T2) PHI 1 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6.5
  Ryan Benesch (T8) BUF 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 6.5
8 Kevin Ross (T24) PHI 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 6.0
  Ryan Ward (T12) PHI 1 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 6.0
10 Cody Jamieson (T12) ROC 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 5.0
11 Cody Bremner (T61) VAN 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4.5
  Tyler Hass (T73) MIN 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 4.5
  Kevin Crowley (T16) PHI 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4.5
  Jamie Rooney (T33) BUF 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4.5
  Dhane Smith (T2) BUF 0 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 4.5

Leaders:

  Weekly leader Overall leader
Week 1 Joel McCready Joel McCready
Week 2 Adam Jones Adam Jones
Week 3 John Tavares John Tavares

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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