Money Ballers: Big weekend pushes Billings to weekly win; Grant remains overall leader

Toronto's Garrett Billings had 9.5 Money Baller points over 2 games last weekend. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Toronto's Garrett Billings had 9.5 Money Baller points over 2 games last weekend. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

Week 6 of the National Lacrosse League season was one of extremes in the Money Baller world. In one case, the first go-ahead goal of the game turned out to be the only one, and another game had exactly one go-ahead, one game-tying, and one game-winning goal. Then there were two others that had 16 and 18 such goals, with the lead bouncing back and forth like a tennis match. In the end, if you were to take a guess at the clutch goal scorers for this week, you’d probably think of guys like your John Grant, your Ryan Benesch, your Garrett Billings. And you’d be right.

The only Friday night game featured the Toronto Rock hosting the Vancouver Stealth. The Stealth dominated the first quarter, scoring six against Nick Rose, but Rose and the Toronto D stepped up their game and held the Stealth to only six the rest of the way. For the Rock, Billings had 9 points and Stephen Leblanc and Josh Sanderson each had 8, but in terms of clutch goals, as it so often has been the last couple of years, it was the Billings show. The Rock scored six Money Baller goals (ones that either tied the game or put the Rock up by one) in the game; Billings scored three of them and assisted on two of the others.

In Edmonton, the 4-0 Rush hosted the 3-1 Knighthawks in what ended up being a really close low-scoring game — wow, who saw that coming? Oh right, everyone did. With two of the best defenses and two of the best goalies in the league facing off against each other, this game was unlikely to be a blowout. Aaron Bold only allowed two Rochester goals in the first half, including none in the second quarter.

Meanwhile Matt Vinc allowed four in the first but then settled down and only gave up a single goal in each of the second, third, and fourth quarters. Unfortunately for the Knighthawks, that "one Edmonton goal per quarter" trend continued in overtime, as Mark Matthews scored the game-winner only a minute into the extra frame. Matthews’ goal obviously won the game for the Rush, but Stephen Keogh’s game-tying goal with just over a minute remaining in regulation time might have been even more clutch, since the Rush had led for over 56 minutes in this game. Keogh’s goal negated all that and gave the Knighthawks new life and a new game. But after tying the first game, Rochester lost the second game 1-0. That’s why they call it sudden death.

Toronto’s second game of the weekend was their second game of the season in the home of their arch-enemy, the Buffalo Bandits. Buffalo led for more than half the game while Toronto only had one lead, but it wasn’t a runaway victory by any stretch. Other than a Toronto run of 3 goals in 1:24 to start the second half, neither team could get any momentum. The real turning point was Kasey Beirnes‘ missed penalty shot with two minutes left in the 4th. Sanderson scored a minute later; had Beirnes scored, the Rock would have been down by one with a minute left and we could have had a very different finish. Toronto scored six game-tying goals in this one, but it wasn’t quite enough as Buffalo had seven go-ahead goals. Of those seven, Benesch scored two, Mark Steenhuis scored two and assisted on another, and John Tavares scored one and assisted on another. The game-winner was scored by, who else, Benesch from Steenhuis and Tavares.

It’s happened to every team. They either trade or release a player who later makes a much bigger impact in the league. Sometimes the player needs a change of scenery to excel, other times there seems to be something personal there — the desire for the player to show his former team that they gave up too quickly. It’s too early to say which is the case with Kyle Buchanan and the Vancouver Stealth, but Buchanan is certainly making the most of his playing time with the Philadelphia Wings. He’s fifth in league scoring after 6 games, and only three players have higher points-per-game ratios — and one of those (Casey Powell) has only played one game.

Buchanan scored four goals against his former team on Saturday night as the Wings had their second-straight 15-goal victory while the Stealth lost their fourth straight. The clutch goals weren’t so clutch in this one, as the Stealth were down by 2 early in the second and only got that close once more for the rest of the game. Pat Saunders’ third goal of the game (and third of the second quarter) at 14:59 of the second put the Wings up by five, and since Evan Kirk only allowed four goals in the second half, that proved to be the game winner.

While there were only two Money Ballers goals in Philadelphia, there were eighteen of them in Colorado. This was a close one — in the first three quarters, the Swarm had three leads as big as two goals, and all three of them combined lasted two minutes. The Mammoth had a one-goal lead for three minutes, but that was it for them until the fourth. The game was tied at 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11 before Colorado took the game’s first 3-goal lead late in the fourth and held on for a 14-12 win.

The Mammoth welcomed Powell and Drew Westervelt back to the team, and Powell’s return couldn’t have been better timed, since Adam Jones separated his shoulder and the league’s leading scorer will be forced to miss several weeks. Just like last week, John Grant scored the game-winner for the Mammoth, though this time he did it in regulation time.

With his 8 MB points in Friday’s game and another 1.5 on Saturday, Toronto’s Billings is the winner of Week 6. Grant finished second with 8.5, and Benesch, Steenhuis, and Powell tied for third with 7. Grant’s second-place finish was certainly enough to keep him on top of the overall standings. In fact, he now has a 7.5 point lead over teammate Jones and 8 over Tavares.

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

  As of Week 6   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 Grant Jr. (T1) COL 0 3 1 4 0 0 0 0 3 1 1 1 1 0 26.0
2 Adam Jones (T1) COL 2 2 2 3 0 0 0 0 2 1 1 0 0 0 18.5
3 John Tavares (T27) BUF 1 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 1 1 0 18.0
4 Ryan Benesch (T8) BUF 1 0 2 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 1 16.5
  Drew Westervelt (T8) COL 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 16.5
6 Rhys Duch (3) VAN 3 2 2 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 13.5
7 Lewis Ratcliff (T17) VAN 0 1 1 1 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 12.5
8 Garrett Billings (T6) TOR 1 3 2 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 12.0
  Dhane Smith (T6) BUF 0 3 3 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 12.0
10 Mark Matthews (T11) EDM 1 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 11.5
11 Jarrett Davis (T24) EDM 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 11.0
12 Cody Bremner (T36) VAN 1 1 0 2 1 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 10.5
  Dane Dobbie (T15) CAL 0 2 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 10.5
14 Cody Jamieson (T13) ROC 1 1 1 2 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 10.0
  Mark Steenhuis (T15) BUF 1 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 10.0


  Weekly leader Overall leader
Week 1 Joel McCready Joel McCready
Week 2 Adam Jones Adam Jones
Week 3 John Tavares John Tavares
Week 4 Lewis Ratcliff John Tavares
Week 5 John Grant John Grant
Week 6 Garrett Billings John Grant

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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