It’s easy to track players in the National Lacrosse League who score goals and players who stop them. It’s the guys in between that can be trickier because they don’t have the stats over which to drool. But that doesn’t mean they’re not having a solid impact. For instance, Karsen Leung. Calgary’s first pick of the second round has been praised in recent weeks by the coaching staff for his work in the transition game and this past weekend may have been his most productive of the season, at least stats-wise. So as we check out all the rest of the 2014 rookies, let’s not forget about the men in the middle and the work they do, with little fanfare.
1. Tyler Digby (Vancouver): The right-hander out of New Westminster had a strong weekend, points-wise. He had 9 points (2-7) over 2 games, dropping 1 goal and 5 assists in Friday’s road win over Colorado, then scoring 1-2 in Saturday’s road loss to Calgary. He also had a combined 3 loose balls and now stands second in scoring for the Stealth with 35 points (16-19). He’s scored at least 1 goal in 9 of the team’s 10 games this winter.
2. Dillon Ward (Colorado): The goalie out of Orangeville did not have a good go in Friday’s home loss to Vancouver. He gave up 6 goals on 14 shots and played just 11 minutes in a game that ended up being a 19-9 loss to the Stealth. He and the Mammoth have until March 1 to think about it before the Knighthawks come to town.
3. Riley Loewen (Edmonton): The right-hander out of Burnaby, B.C., scored 2 goals and scooped 3 loose balls in Saturday’s road win over Minnesota. His first goal was the game’s first and continued his solid stretch after a short cooling off period. Since scoring just 1 goal in the Week 3, 4 and 5 games, he’s scored 4 goals in his last 2.
4. Karsen Leung (Calgary): The right-hander out of Victoria scored 1 goal and assisted on 2 others while also scooping 9 loose balls and forcing 3 turnovers for the Roughnecks in Saturday’s home win over Vancouver. He’s scored 3 goals in his last 2 games after going 3 games without, but that’s not a concern. The Riggers have plenty of guys who can score, but Leung’s season-high 9 loosies and 3 forced turnovers – which doubled his season total — is the type of engine Calgary wants from him and lately, he’s providing that and more. His 33 loose balls for the season rank No. 2 on the team.
5. Logan Schuss (Minnesota): The left-hander out of Ladner, B.C., had 2 goals and 1 assist while also scooping 4 loose balls and forcing a turnover in Saturday’s home loss to Edmonton. It’s the fourth time this season he’s scored 2 goals in a game and his 18 points (10-8) rank him third in team scoring. He continues to be a steady producer and remains on pace for a 46-point season, but that wouldn’t even put him near the Top 10 in overall scoring among NLL rookies through history.
6. Robert Church (Edmonton): The right-hander out of Coquitlam, B.C., scored 1 goal and assisted on 2 others in Saturday’s road win over Minnesota. He also scooped a pair of loose balls. He’s scored 3 goals in his last 2 games, matching his output in the first 4 games of the season.
7. Cody Bremner (Vancouver): The left-hander out of Victoria, B.C., did not play in Friday’s win over Colorado, but scored 1 goal and scooped a loose ball in Saturday’s road loss to Calgary. He’s struggling a bit with his scoring touch. Since scoring 5 goals on 27 shots (185) in his first 3 games, he’s got 2 goals on 34 shots (.05%) in his last 6 games.
8. Jason Noble (Minnesota): The left-hander out of Orangeville scooped 8 loosies in Saturday’s home loss to Edmonton, tied for second-most on the team in the game. The 8 loose balls are the most for him in a game since he gathered 9 in his second game of the season.
9. Garrett Thul (Philadelphia): The undrafted left-hander out of West Point got back on track, scoring a pair of late goals for the Wings in their road loss on Saturday to Buffalo. The performance broke a 2-game slide in which he didn’t score any goals.
10. Ethan O’Connor (Toronto): The right-hander out of Milton, Ont., continues to be a solid presence for the Rock in the back end and middle of the floor, scooping 7 loose balls in Saturday’s home loss to Rochester. His impact doesn’t really show up on the stat sheet, but his hustle and physical play help set the tone for Toronto, whether it’s showing it won’t back down during a loss, or keeping the foot on the throttle to protect a lead.
Honorable mention: Vancouver F Chris Wardle scored his first NLL goal in Friday’s road win over Colorado, showing great balance and presence of mind by taking a pass right on the crease and keeping his feet clear of the line as he gave the Stealth a 12-3 lead in the second quarter. He also had 1 assist and scooped 3 loose balls, then had 2 assists and 1 loose ball in Saturday’s road loss to Calgary … Vancouver T Nick Weiss had 1 goal, 1 assist and scooped a team-high 7 loosies in Friday’s road win over the Mammoth. In Saturday’s road loss to Calgary, he scored 1 goal … Minnesota T Cam Flint scooped 2 loose balls and forced 1 turnover in Saturday’s home loss to Edmonton … Minnesota F Scott Jones assisted on 1 goal in Saturday’s home loss to Edmonton, and also had 3 loose balls and 1 forced turnover … Minnesota G Zach Higgins got 26 minutes in Saturday’s home loss to Edmonton and did well, making 15 saves on 20 shots, but he was still tagged with the official loss … Toronto G Zak Boychuk got 20 minutes of relief time for starter Nick Rose and made 10 saves on 13 shots in Saturday’s home loss to Rochester … Philadelphia D John Ranagan had 1 assist and scooped a pair of loose balls in Saturday’s road loss to Buffalo … Buffalo D Mitch Wilde made his NLL debut, scoring 1 goal and assisting on another while scooping 2 loose balls and forcing 1 turnover for the Bandits in their home win over the Wings on Saturday. He’s the first rookie to suit up this season for the Bandits, leaving Rochester as the only team to not field a rookie in the lineup for a game this season … Calgary T Garrett McIntosh had 2 assists, 1 loose ball and 1 forced turnover in Saturday’s home win over Vancouver … Philadelphia D Brian Megill was place on the Physically Unable to Perform list … Calgary T Tor Reinholdt, the team’s first draft pick (No. 6 overall), was inactive for a second straight game.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 firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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