NLL Week 6 Team Reports: ‘We just tied the game up in a big box … and said ‘here you go.’ — Vancouver Stealth coach Chris Hall

Rochester's Matt Vinc, left, and Edmonton's Chris Corbeil are set to clash again this weekend. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Rochester's Matt Vinc, left, and Edmonton's Chris Corbeil are set to clash again this weekend. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

There are 5 games on tap for Week 6 of the National Lacrosse League but 1 of those games is a much-anticipated matchup. Though it won’t be a battle of unbeatens, still, the Rochester Knighthawks travelling to Edmonton to play the Rush brings the intrigue of a pair of stalwart defensive units butting heads. Both squads have talented offensive units as well, so which aspect of the game gives way is the big question heading into the Saturday night tilt. There are, of course, other games and lots of eyes will be on the Mammoth to see if they can maintain their momentum after last week’s big win, and the Bandits have the chance to solidify their standing at the top of the East Division with the Toronto Rock in town. What follows is your Week 6 Team Reports.

FRIDAY

Vancouver Stealth at Toronto Rock
Friday, Jan. 31 - Air Canada Centre - 7:30 p.m. (EST)

Records: Vancouver 2-3; Toronto 1-2.
Broadcast: TSN2 in Canada, ESPN3 in the U.S., YouTube.com/TLN outside North America.
Last week: Vancouver lost to Edmonton, 9-8; Toronto did not play.
History: Toronto leads all-time series, 6-3 (4-2 in Toronto).
Goals for: Vancouver 54 (tied 5th); Toronto 34 (8th).
Goals against: Vancouver 55 (5th); Toronto 35 (3rd).

Stealth notes

Vancouver is 0-2 on the road this season and 5 of the next 6 games are on the road … The Stealth won their last trip to Toronto, which was in 2012, and coach Chris Hall would like last week’s game against Edmonton to be that far away in his memory. Vancouver blew a 7-2 lead and scored just 1 goal in the second half as Edmonton rallied for the win. “We prepared well and did an outstanding job in the first half,” he said. “We put up 7 goals, which is very good against that defense and that goaltending … and then we absolutely did the reverse in the second half. We got away from our game plan totally. We just tied the game up in a big box with a big red ribbon and handed it to Edmonton and said, ‘here you go.’ ” … Vancouver scored 1 goal on 16 shots in the second half against Edmonton … D Jeff Moleski is listed as probable for participation in the weekend trip … D Kyle Sorensen remains out, but Hall says he is week-to-week.

Rock notes

Coach John Lovell said the Rock will be wary of a team coming to town that had its pride injured the week before. “They’re going to be hungry coming in because much like us against Buffalo, they let one get away from them against Edmonton,” he said. “I know that they will be hungry and we’re in for a real test.” … F Josh Sanderson and the rest of the offense are preparing for G Tyler Richards and a tough Stealth defense. “Tyler’s one of the best in the league,” he said. “So we’re going to have to work to score some goals.” … That said, the Rock shooters need to stick with what works and not alter their approach. “It’s about creating good shots,” Sanderson said. “We don’t want to be taking bad shots and letting him get into a groove. When he’s in a groove, it’s basically impossible to beat him … We want to make him earn every save.”

SATURDAY

Toronto Rock at Buffalo Bandits
Saturday, Feb. 1 - First Niagara Center - 7:30 p.m. (EST)

Records: Toronto 1-2; Buffalo 4-1.
Broadcast: TSN2 in Canada, ESPN3 in the U.S., YouTube.com/TLN outside North America.
Last week: Toronto did not play; Buffalo defeated Rochester, 11-10.
History: Toronto leads all-time series, 22-18 (14-8 in Buffalo).
Goals for: Toronto 34 (8th); Buffalo 64 (2nd).
Goals against: Toronto 35 (3rd); Buffalo 57 (tied 6th).

Rock notes

Toronto has activiated D Bill Greer, but Patrick Merrill and Chris White remain out. Rookie D Dustin Dunn was moved to the practice squad. “We’re excited about it,” said coach John Lovell of Greer’s return from injury. “We need his leadership and veteran presence.” … Lovell said the Rock watched most of Buffalo’s win over Rochester and came away impressed. “Buffalo is playing well in just about every area,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough matchup. We’re looking forward to it and hopefully we can make up for our last time there (a 12-10 loss to the Bandits on Jan. 10) … Lovell said he didn’t talk with Bandits coach Troy Cordingley after the Jan. 10 game and even though he’s coaching against a former co-worker, he doesn’t take that into consideration. “It’s no different than coaching against any other guy in this league,” he said. “We all want our teams to do well. That’s what Troy is trying to do and that’s what I am trying to do.” … With just 35 goals in 3 games, F Josh Sanderson said the offense has some things to work through. “We need a little more production from myself and guys like Kasey Beirnes and Garrett Billings goal-wise. We had a good practice (Tuesday) so hopefully we can build off that … and we just have to be better. It isn’t good enough, but we’re not too worried yet.” … Sanderson, Beirnes and Billings have combined to score just 6 of the team’s 35 goals and 2 of those have come on the power play. The bright side to that, said Sanderson, is that the problems that emerged in the second half against Buffalo are correctable. “We turned the ball over and took bad shots,” he said. “We didn’t play smart enough. We gave them life and they took advantage of it. We have to be better, we know that, so now it’s just a matter of executing.”

Bandits notes

The winning streak is nice, but GM Steve Dietrich said the Bandits are still making too many mental mistakes. “Both offensively and defensively,” he said. “The first half was pretty ugly for us defensively … we have to continue to tighten up defensively and keep cutting down on the mistakes we’re making defensively. Our offense was better than it has been so we just have to keep getting better.” … F Ryan Benesch said the Bandits are riding a wave of momentum after a poor showing in the opener, and a poor first half against Toronto on Jan. 10 in which they were trailing 6-2. “In that first game, we came out kinda flat and I think we thought we could just run over Philadelphia, but we got our butts handed to us” he said. “But we’ve been playing a lot better lately. We’re really starting to gel.” … Dietrich agreed, but obviously didn’t like the letup in the fourth quarter against Rochester that saw an 10-3 lead turn into a 1-goal game … G Anthony Cosmo made 22 saves on 24 shots in the first half to help the Bandits build their big lead and Dietrich points to Cosmo as a big reason behind the team’s resurgence. “The big thing is his confidence,” said Dietrich. “He’s got his swagger back. Last year, he was questioning everything … this year, he’s just showing up and playing. That confidence, and the way he’s playing, it basically lends itself to the rest of the guys believing in him.”

Vancouver Stealth at Philadelphia Wings
Saturday, Feb. 1 - Wells Fargo Center - 7:30 p.m. (EST)

Records: Vancouver 2-3; Philadelphia 2-3.
Broadcast: YouTube.com/TLN.
Last week: Vancouver lost to Edmonton, 9-8; Philadelphia did not play.
History: Philadelphia leads all-time series, 9-5 (6-1 in Philadelphia).
Goals for: Vancouver 54 (tied 5th); Philadelphia 62 (3rd).
Goals against: Vancouver 55 (5th); Philadelphia 57 (tied 6th).

Stealth notes

Coach Chris Hall said the back-to-back weekend is nothing new, but this one has a bit of a twist in that it’s against East Division teams on the road. “Within your own division it’s sometimes easier because you know the teams and you see them more often,” he said. “But this one is a bit unusual because we didn’t play Toronto last year and Philadelphia has made a number of changes to their roster this year. Aside from film, we haven’t see them play live so it presents a significant challenge in preparing for them.” … D Chris O’Dougherty said the Stealth are taking on this unique challenge as a step-by-step process and not looking at the whole picture. “We’re playing 8 quarters so we’ll take each quarter as it comes,” he said. “Philly is an athletic team, they can run and they’re playing well … they have guys who can put the ball in the net … We have to get a win when TRich playing well. It’s not good when we take a loss when we take a loss when he’s playing as well as he is.” … It’s a bit of a homecoming for O’Dougherty, who is from nearby New Jersey. “I always circle this one on the schedule,” he said. “Philly’s more of an American-based team and I like to represent the Americans well and show that I’m one of the best in the game right now. It’s a little personal and I get to play in front of mom and dad so I always like that.”

Wings notes

The Wings are champing at the bit to get back on the floor, especially against a Stealth team that will provide a good measuring stick. “We have our work cut out for us,” said assistant coach Jim Milligan. “They’re an excellent team offensively and defensively.” … The Wings have givenup 57 goals, tied for 6th-most in the NLL, so Milligan and the staff are looking to tighten the back end. “It’s a learning thing,” he said. “We have a lot of new players on the defensive end and lot of them are learning the system, and a lot of them are learning the game. And they learn by playing and by making mistakes. It’s a chemistry thing of who is playing with who … and as they get familiar with it, I think you’ll see them getting stronger as the season goes on.” … D John Ranagan is one of those n00bs, recalling his days as an offensive midfielder now finding himself focusing on defense. “The 2-man game that’s very apparent in the NLL,” he said of the focus of his transition. “A lot of that is watching a ton of film if you’re not used to it and asking a lot of questions,” he said. “Being on the same page with your teammates and constantly communicating on the floor.” … Newly signed F Roger Vyse will be in Philadelphia to take the roster spot for injured F Kevin Ross, and Milligan said it will be a game-time decision as to whether or not Vyse dresses.

Minnesota Swarm at Colorado Mammoth
Saturday, Feb. 1 - Pepsi Center - 9 p.m. (EST)

Records: Minnesota 1-3; Colorado 2-5.
Broadcast: Altitude, YouTube.com/TLN.
Last week: Minesota did not play; Colorado defeated Calgary, 14-13 (OT).
History: Colorado leads all-time series, 9-7 (3-4 in Colorado).
Goals for: Minnesota 30 (9th); Colorado 76 (1st).
Goals against: Minnesota 41 (4th); Colorado 98 (9th).

Swarm notes

Minnesota has had 2 weeks to think about its last game, a home loss to the Wings. “We really didn’t like the way we went at home against Philadelphia,” coach Joe Sullivan said. “It was the first game that we’ve been outworked all in all right across the board and that’s unacceptable from my standpoint and the players’ standpoint. We called them out after the game on that.” … To help an offense that’s scored a league-low 30 goals, the Swarm made a trade for F Dane Stevens, who brings a big body out the front door. “He’s going to be a component that brings size,” said Sullivan. “It’s very visible that we’ve underachieved offensively so we made some changes. If he gets his body going and frees himself up like I know he can then he’ll definitely help our offense. And if he frees other players around him, that’s even better.” … And yes, Stevens is expected to report … F Callum Crawford doesn’t deny the struggles of the offense. “In past years, it’s been goals by committee,” he said. “With the exception of our last game against Philly, I don’t think we were doing anything poorly, except for execution. We weren’t able to find the back of the net. The work was there, the effort was there. The only component that was missing was the execution.”

Mammoth notes

Coach Bob Hamley likes last week’s win, obviously, but was perhaps more pleased with what created that win. “I’m very proud of my guys, they battled all night,” he said. “We’re happy with the outcome.” … Against the Swarm, the Mammoth know they’re going up against a team that’s searching hard for ways to win. “Every team’s a battle,” said Hamley. “You look at the standings and there are 3 teams that have winning records. Everyone else has losing records.” … The addition of F Casey Powell has Hamley eager to see what will unfold for his offense. “He’s a great player on the floor, and his leadership and enthusiasm for lacrosse is contagious. We’re excited.” … F Adam Jones said some of the offensive schemes were tweaked a bit before last week’s game against Calgary and while that wasn’t the reason he scored 7 goals, it did help the team’s mindset. “You could tell we were ready to go,” he said. “For me, personally, I had a couple go in early and I told myself I was going to keep shooting and luckily, some of the balls that don’t usually go in were going in.” … Whether that works against the Swarm remains to be seen. “I think we both kinda play similar styles so I think it’s going to be an exciting game and we both could really use a win.” … G Dillon Ward got played wire-to-wire in the win over Calgary and Hamley said he’ll get the start against the Swarm. “We look forward to having Dillon start again on Saturday, and we’ll go from there,” Hamley said, adding that the Mammoth have confidence in both Ward and Tye Belanger.

Rochester Knighthawks at Edmonton Rush
Saturday, Feb. 1 - Rexall Place - 9 p.m. (EST)

Records: Rochester 3-1; Edmonton 4-0.
Broadcast: YouTube.com/TLN.
Last week: Rochester lost to Buffalo, 11-10; Edmonton defeated Vancouver, 9-8.
History: Rochester leads all-time series, 4-1 (0-2 in Edmonton).
Goals for: Rochester 43 (7th); Edmonton 54 (tied 5th).
Goals against: Rochester 34 (2nd); Edmonton 32 (1st).

Knighthawks notes

The Knighthawks are recovering from their first loss of the season and the biggest question for coach Mike Hasen was the status of forward Dan Dawson, who didn’t play the second half of Saturday’s loss to Buffalo. “He’ll definitely be making the trip (to Edmonton),” said Hasen. “He’s going to do his darndest to make sure he’s in that game. He’ll be there.” … Dawson has played in every game since the 2003 season … The loss to Buffalo doesn’t sit well with Hasen, but the spirited rally toward the end is a positive. “It was nice to see that finally, some stuff was going in on Cosmo,” he said. “Buffalo was playing with a lot of confidence and they took it to us for most of that game.” … Hasen said the offensive performance against Buffalo isn’t too much of a concern. It was just one of those games. “We were doing a lot of good things, they just weren’t dropping,” he said. “Buffalo was playing really well, and Cos was the Cos of old. He stoned us time in and time out, and that was the biggest difference.” … The Knighthawks know a thing or two about solid defense, and the Rush will bring it. “They’re big, they’re strong and relentless,” said Hasen. “They push up the floor with the ball very well. They play really well as a unit … They play a complete team game and it’s going to be tough to get by them.” … One aspect the Knighthawks do want to improve is their transition defense. “We just have to be smarter when we have the ball,” said Hasen. “We have to play to that 25-second shot clock instead of trying to push and create opportunities in 50-50 battles, we just have to read it a little bit better and get off the floor a little bit quicker.” … Knighthawks D Mike Kirk said the lesson learned against Buffalo is the need to stick with the plan. “We gave them too many open looks,” he said. “Buffalo is a smart team, smart offense … we’re going to have to regroup against Edmonton because they’re a very dangerous offense with so many weapons out there. If we don’t do what we need to do, we’re going to be in the same hole again.”

Rush notes

Much like the Knighthawks, the Rush staged a big rally but the Rush were able to pull out a win by outscoring the Stealth 7-1 in the second half last week. “They did some really nice things on offense and we had to make some adjustments and I thought Tyler Richards was outstanding as well,” said coach/GM Derek Keenan. “Eventually, we kept grinding away at it … it was a real character win for us.” … Now, with the back-to-back champs coming to town, Keenan said the Rush will have an even bigger test in front of them. “They’re a measuring stick for sure,” said Keenan. “I think they’re one of the most disciplined and well-coached, well-structured teams in the league. They make it hard to play all over the floor.” … Rush F Zack Greer says the Rush offense faces a tough Rush defense in practice, which could come in handy against a tough Rochester defense. “We go pretty hard in our practices,” he said. “We do a lot of 5-on-5 stuff and try to work on that game in our system just to take advantage of the guys that we have in our back end.” … As well as the Rush have played, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. “We saw a lot of things from last weekend that I think we can be better at,” said Keenan. “We got a little bit complacent on offense and finishing some of our sets … little things that we need to do better. They’re minute, but they’re also very important.”

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 bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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