There were lots and lots of names in action for Week 4 of the National Lacrosse League, the busiest weekend of the 2014 season. And although most of the NLL fellas are starting to find their legs, it’s even tougher for the rooks as they adjust to the pace and speed of the game. The element of this year’s young guns that differs from seasons past is that we don’t have that 1 dominant rook who is running away as a favorite. We’re seeing a handful of guys establishing themselves right away as legit NLL ballers, which will make voting for Rookie of the Year a difficult task. But that’s months away and who knows, we may indeed see the emergence of a clear No. 1 in the weeks to come but for now, we’re just going to sit back and enjoy the competitive nature of these kids. That said, the Rookie Report for Week 4 follows.
1. Tyler Digby (Vancouver): The big right-hander out of New Westminster continues to play with the poise of a seasoned veteran, notching 4 goals and 1 assist in 2 combined games over the weekend. He notched his second hat trick of the season and forced 1 turnover in Friday’s home win in overtime over Colorado, then was 1-1 with a pair of loose balls in Saturday’s road loss to Calgary. His 13 points (8-5) puts him at the top of the rookie scoring race chart.
2. Dillon Ward (Colorado): The goalie out of Orangeville got the start in Friday’s road loss in OT to Vancouver, making 39 saves on 53 shots faced. He also had 2 assists in the loss, then came on in relief on Saturday, making 29 saves on 39 shots as the Mammoth came up short again in a home loss to Buffalo. Ward’s been sharp but hasn’t had much help in front of him as the Mammoth fell to 1-5, leaving them with a big hole to climb out of.
3. Riley Loewen (Edmonton): The right-hander out of Burnaby, B.C., has been a steady presence and even though he didn’t score a goal for the first time this season, he had 4 assists and 1 loose ball in Friday’s home win over Calgary. He’s No. 2 in the rookie scoring race with 11 points (4-7) to trail Vancouver’s Tyler Digby.
4. Cody Bremner (Vancouver): The left-hander out of Victoria had his biggest output of the season, scoring 3 goals and assisting on 3 more while scooping 4 loose balls in Friday’s home win in overtime over Colorado. He had 2 loosies in Saturday’s road loss to Calgary, but he’s certainly proving his worth as the Stealth’s No. 1 draft pick (No. 8 overall).
5. Logan Schuss (Minnesota): The left-hander out of Ladner, B.C., may be finding his groove, scoring a combined 4 goals in 2 games this weekend — with 2 in Saturday’s road win over Philadelphia and 2 in Sunday’s home loss to Philadelphia. He also had a combined 10 loose balls and his 5 goals for the season have him tied for second among Minnesota’s scoring leaders.
6. Karsen Leung (Calgary): The right-hander out of Victoria has his speed on display every game, and it’s paying dividends as he assisted on 3 goals and scooped 5 loosies in Friday’s road loss to the Rush. He forced 1 turnover in Saturday’s home win over Vancouver and more than points, he’s made it known that he’s a reliable and consistent sparkplug for Calgary’s transition game, making it even more dangerous than it was before.
7. Robert Church (Edmonton): The right-hander out of Coquitlam scored his first NLL goal and also grabbed 4 LBs in Friday’s home win over Calgary. The potential of his game is yet to be realized in the NLL, but he’s in a great situation to be surrounded by a lot of talent in Edmonton that softens his learning curve. He’s been solid so far, but once he gets adjusted to the pace and the system the Rush run, he can be a much bigger producer of points.
8. Jason Noble (Minnesota): The left-hander out of Orangeville continues to be an effective and productive defender for a Swarm unit that’s been playing very well of late. He had 9 loosies and 2 forced turnovers in Saturday’s road win over Philadelphia, then scooped 4 loosies in Sunday’s road loss. The Swarm love the energy he brings, coupled with ability that’s got him playing top-notch defense.
9. Ethan O’Connor (Toronto): The motor on this right-hander out of Milton, Ont., has played an impressive role for the Rock this season and Saturday was no different. He scooped 9 loosies and forced a pair of turnovers in the road loss to Rochester. He has 18 loose balls and 3 forced turnovers for the season, putting him among team leaders in both categories.
10. Garrett Thul (Philadelphia): The left-hander out of West Point had a big offensive weekend with 2 goals and 1 assist along with 4 LBs in Saturday’s home loss to Minnesota. He then had 1-1 with a pair of LBs in Sunday’s road win over the Swarm. At 6-4, 242 pounds, he’s got the body to move defenders around and coming from the left side makes his work that much more valuable.
Honorable mention: Calgary T Tor Reinholdt had 1 goal, 1 loose ball and 1 forced turnover in Friday’s road loss to Edmonton, then had 1 assist and 7 loosies in Saturday’s home win over Vancouver … Minnesota G Zach Higgins got his first action of the season, coming on for starter Tyler Carlson just 3 minutes into Saturday’s road game over Philadelphia. He made 31 saves on 38 shots and was named the game’s first star. On Sunday, he 36 minutes and made 27 saves on 35 shots to get tagged with the home loss to Philadelphia … D John Ranagan scooped 3 loose balls in Saturday’s home loss to Minnesota, then had 1 assist and 4 LBs in Sunday’s road win over Minnesota … T Josh Hawkins made his debut, as a starter for the Stealth, and had 3 loose balls and 1 forced turnover in Friday’s home win in overtime over Colorado. He didn’t play in Saturday’s road loss to Calgary, but he still gets plus 1 for the flow, even if he was cut by the team on Monday … Vancouver T Nick Weiss made his NLL debut and scored his first goal in the third quarter of Saturday’s road game against Calgary. He finished with 1 goal, 1 assist, 4 loosies and 1 forced turnover … Colorado T Cameron Mann had 2 loose balls in Saturday’s home loss to Buffalo … Toronto’s Mike Lum-Walker made his NLL debut and scooped a pair of loosies in Saturday’s road loss to Rochester … Calgary’s Garrett McIntosh had a combined 7 loose balls and 2 forced turnovers in 2 weekend games where the Riggers were 1-1 … Minnesota F Scott Jones had just 2 assists in 2 weekend games, both of the assists coming in Saturday’s road win over the Philadelphia Wings.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 email@example.com or go to RochesterSports.com.
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