NLL Week 14 Team Reports: ‘This could come down to a loose ball in the fourth quarter,’ Knighthawks coach Mike Hasen
It’s an interesting observation at this point of a National Lacrosse League season. Of the 5 games on tap, there are some real beauts and the one that stands out the is taking place in the barn down by the river. The Edmonton Rush are in Rochester to play the Knighthawks. The Rush are 11-0 and in first place in the West Division, while the 9-3 Knighthawks are in first place in the East even though they didn’t play a game last weekend. They have Buffalo’s 0-2 weekend to thank for that. But beyond that biggie matchup, we have a few other showdowns that will play big roles in determining who gains ground in the playoff race, and who loses it. So now that we’ve got the proper ingredients for a solid NLL weekend, let’s get to it and see what happens.
|Edmonton Rush at Rochester Knighthawks|
|Saturday, March 29 - Blue Cross Arena- 7:30 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Edmonton 11-0; Rochester 9-3.
Broadcast: YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last week: Edmonton defeated Buffalo, 14-5; Rochester did not play.
History: Edmonton leads all-time series, 5-1 (1-2 in Rochester).
Goals for: Edmonton 134 (6th); Rochester 138 (4th).
Goals against: Edmonton 85 (1st); Rochester 104 (2nd).
The Rush can clinch the West Division title with a win on Saturday in Rochester, a win on Sunday in Toronto, and a Calgary loss to Minnesota on Saturday … This will be an interesting matchup between the top 2 defensive teams in the NLL and although the Rush won the earlier matchup this season in Edmonton, it was by just 1 goal, 8-7, on Feb. 1. “It’s so close when it comes to that,” Rush GM/coach Derek Keenan said of the defensive showdown … It’s patience and that’s what I like about the Rochester team. They don’t give up a lot of transition and they score goals at the end of clocks.” … Keenan believes the game could come down to who eliminates their mistakes and who finds the time and space to shoot … Whatever it comes down to, though, Keenan said his team still measures itself against Rochester. “They’re the ones with the trophy,” he said. “We’ve got a big hill to climb this weekend.” … Edmonton F Zack Greer has had the hot hand lately with 3 goals in each of his last 2 games … How effective is the Edmonton defense? G Aaron Bold is averaging just 32 saves per game and that may not look impressive, but he’s facing just 39 shots per game … D Brett Mydske the stretch of tight games taught the Rush a lesson and it’s resulted in a more comfortable margin of victory as evidenced in their wins by 9 and 8 goals the last 2 times out. “We were struggling a bit a few games ago, but we refocused,” he said. … D Jarrett Toll is available for the Rush now that his hockey season is over, and Keenan said it’s nice to have a player like that on the roster for the Rush to fall back on in case of injury to someone else. “He knows our system and can take faceoffs if needed,” he said. “We’re happy that his hockey season is over.”
Rochester can clinch a playoff berth with a win Saturday over Edmonton, a Toronto loss to Edmonton on Sunday, or a Minnesota loss to Calgary on Saturday … Rochester outscored Edmonton 5-3 over the final 3 quarters of their Feb. 1 matchup after the Rush took a 4-2 lead after the first quarter. “They do everything well,” said coach Mike Hasen. “Aaron Bold is phenomenal and the defense is second to none. They are high-tempo, physical and run the ball well … This will come down to the little things and being focused … This could come down to a loose ball in the fourth quarter, it’s going to be a tight one. We talked about this after the last game (vs. Edmonton), if we can eliminate 1 mistake each, maybe we’ll come out on the right end of this one. We have to get off the lfoor and try to capitalize on our transition.” … The Rochester defense held Edmonton F Mark Matthews to 1 goal on 16 shots on Feb. 1 … The Knighthawks have won 4 straight by an average of 4 goals … F Cody Jamieson was held to 1 goal on 13 shots in the Feb. 1 game against Edmonton … F Stephen Keogh was without a goal on 8 shots against Philadelphia, Rochester’s last game, after scoring 16 goals in his previous 5 games … The Knighthawks have had just 36 power-play chances, fewest in the league 12 chances (Calgary is next at 48) … D Mike Kirk calls this a benchmark game and says there’ll be no shortage of energy. “Any game we play at home,” he said. “We’ve got a strong team coming in and we’ve had a week off. We’re fired up to get back out there.” … Kirk echoed Hasen in that personal responsibility against the Rush is key. “Everybody needs to focus on their job and their job only,” he said. “If everyone does their part, it’ll be a good game again.”
|Minnesota Swarm at Calgary Roughnecks|
|Saturday, March 29 - Scotiabank Saddledome- 9 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Minnesota 3-9; Calgary 7-5.
Broadcast: YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last week: Minnesota defeated Toronto, 10-9 (OT); Calgary defeated Vancouver, 13-8.
History: Calgary leads all-time series, 9-5 (5-3 in Calgary).
Goals for: Minnesota 118 (9th); Calgary 154 (2nd).
Goals against: Minnesota 142 (4th); Calgary 146 (5th).
Minnesota has won 2 of its last 4 games and all 3 wins for the Swarm this season have been by 1 goal but none have been bigger than Sunday’s win over Buffalo. “That was a huge lift for us,” said assistant coach Aime Caines. “We’re looking for that last playoff spot and looking to get some wins in the final part of this season and roll.” … The recent history between these teams has left a lot to be desired for defense as the Roughnecks won both meetings in 2013 by scores of 19-15 and 17-16. “It’s usually a shootout there,” said Caines. “So we’ll make some adjustments to our defense … we’re just hoping to ride the momentum we’re on and get off to a good start.” … Veteran F Callum Crawford has scored just 5 goals in his last 5 games, but his last goal was a big one, the OT winner over Toronto … F Shayne Jackson scored 2 goals against Toronto last week but has just 8 for the season after scoring 24 as a rookie. He had 15 goals through 12 games last winter and his shooting at just 7% (8-for-102) this season after shooting 18% (24-for-133) last year … D David Earl said the mood in the locker room is great after Sunday’s win because it’s restored hope. “We’ve had a lot of close games … and against Calgary, it starts with our defense. We have to trust in our defense and our system, put a lot of pressure on the ball to cause some turnovers.”
Calgary can clinch a playoff spot with a win on Saturday against Minnesota and a Vancouver loss to Buffalo … Coach Curt Malawsky knows what’s up against the Swarm this weekend because the 3-9 record does not reflect a lack of talent. “They always play us well in Calgary,” he said. “They’re a very good outside shooting team, and they have good transition that pushes the ball well.” … T Geoff Snider has been around the NLL long enough to know what Malawsky knows, and says a desperate team is a dangerous team. “They’re a group of guys that are hungry,” he said. “They’re scraping in the East but they’re coming along and they’re going to make it difficult for us.” … Calgary’s 154 goals rank No. 2 in the NLL but 88 of those goals, or 57% of the team’s total, comes from Dane Dobbie (35), Curtis Dickson (29) and Jeff Shattler (24) … Dobbie scored 4 goals in the win over Vancouver, the fifth time this season he’s scored 4 or more goals in a game … Shattler has scored at least 1 goal in every game this season,
|Philadelphia Wings at Colorado Mammoth|
|Saturday, March 29 - Pepsi Center- 9 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Philadelphia 4-9; Colorado 5-8.
Broadcast: Altitude, YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last week: Philadelphia defeated Toronto, 14-13; Colorado did not play.
History: Philadelphia leads all-time series, 32-16 (15-9 in Colorado).
Goals for: Philadelphia 143 (3rd); Colorado 137 (5th).
Goals against: Philadelphia 159 (7th); Colorado 170 (9th).
This series has been entertaining the last few seasons, to say the least. The Wings are 4-3 over the last 7 matchups with Colorado and 6 of those 7 games have been decided by 1 goal. The other game was a 2-goal game … Throw in the factor that both teams are gunning for playoff spots from the bottom half of their divisions and this game could take on some added urgency. “Every game is a playoff game right now,” assistant coach Jim Milligan said. “We’re in the middle of a dogfight. It’s a great place to play and they’re a very talented team … and like us, they’re working to put together a win.” … F Kevin Crowley scored a career-high 6 goals in last weekend’s win over Toronto and that certainly helped, but Milligan said the bigger picture was a bigger factor. “The offense clicked and our offense is a good matchup for their defense,” said Milligan of Toronto. “I think they were caught offguard a bit and they were chasing … The other part was Evan Kirk. He had a great night for us … and looked very comfortable. I think his confidence is back and he has improved and when you put up numbers (like the offense did) you have a good chance to win.”
Weird stat: In the Mammoth’s last 4 losses, they’ve scored just 9 goals in each of those games … Veteran F John Grant Jr. scored 4 goals, a season high, in Colorado’s last outing, a 12-9 loss to Buffalo. So not only are the Mammoth eager to get their high-powered offense on track, they’re eager to test the new systems installed by new coach Chris Gill, Pat Coyle and Dan Stroup “They’re coming off a big win,” said Gill. “They’re coached well and have a lot of talent on that roster.” … Grant said there’ll be no shortage of motivation. “Two teams desperate to get into the next season,” he said. “We are going to be fired up.” … The Mammoth are expecting the return of F Adam Jones, who has been out since Feb. 1 with an injury. At the time, his 40 points (25-15) led the NLL in scoring. “It goes without saying that he was having a season of seasons,” said Grant. “He’s been working hard and smart to get back.” … Gill said Jones will be evaluated at practice later this week to determine his status for the weekend.
|Buffalo Bandits at Vancouver Stealth|
|Saturday, March 29 - Langley Events Centre- 10 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Buffalo 8-4; Vancouver 3-9.
Broadcast: YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last week: Buffalo lost to Edmonton, 14-5, and Minnesota 10-9 (OT); Vancouver lost to Calgary, 13-8.
History: Buffalo leads all-time series, 10-5 (6-2 at Stealth).
Goals for: Buffalo 133 (7th); Vancouver 129 (8th).
Goals against: Buffalo 133 (7th); Vancouver 149 (6th).
Buffalo can clinch a playoff berth with a Saturday win at Vancouver and losses this weekend for Minnesota and Toronto … A 0-2 weekend wasn’t in the plans, but the Bandits are keeping their focus forward. “We’ll just take the positives, especially the Minnesota game,” said assistant coach Dan Teat. “We had about 3 or 4 quality chances (in overtime) and they made good on their only chance in OT. There was no shortage of effort.” … Teat and the coaches were especially pleased with the way the defense recovered after allowing 14 goals to the Rush, the highest total this season since allowing 17 in a Week 1 loss to Philadelphia. “Anthony Cosmo and our defense has been the backbone all season,” said Teat. “When they’re on, it’s real tough to get inside.” … Veteran F John Tavares saw his streak of 185 straight games with at least 1 point come to an end. “He gets a mulligan,” said Teat. “He had a couple of good looks but they didn’t go in. He always bounces back and he’ll find away on to the scoreboard next game.” … F Ryan Benesch has scored just 4 goals in his last 5 games, including 2 games with 0 goals. He’s on pace for 24 goals this season, which would be his lowest output since scoring 17 goals in 2009 … Buffalo is 2-1 against West Division teams this season … The Bandits have scored a league-high 8 short-handed goals … T Dhane Smith said the Bandits were their own worst enemy against the Rush with a lack of discipline that resulted in 22 PIM and Edmonton scoring 6 power-play goals on 9 chances. “We just have to make it known that the good penalties are the penalties we can kill,” said Teat. “The ones you can’t kill are the selfish, bonehead penalties. Credit to Edmonton. They stayed composed and wet strayed a bit off-center.”
Bottom line for the Stealth? “We gotta find a way to win,” said coach Chris Hall. “We’ve come close, but an 8-0 lead for Calgary? How are you going to win when you give up 8 goals and you’ve got to battle back?” … Hall said the lack of offensive production has been an issue this season and a big part of that is a lack of cohesiveness for a lineup that’s gone through a lot of changes. “We just keep hammering away,” he said of what else can be tried to get the offense going. “It’s been a tough year with the personnel.” Brett Bucktooth has played just 5 games after missing the start of the season with injury, Lewis Ratcliff and Cody Bremner have struggled and now Jamie Lincoln is trying to find his groove for Vancouver’s left side. “We’ve been struggling to find the third lefty,” said Hall. “We’re just trying to find the right combination and it’s been a lot of mix and match for quite a while.” … After being a healthy scratch 2 weeks ago, F Lewis Ratcliff returned to the lineup last weekend and led the team with 6 points (3-3) against Calgary … Outside of a Feb. 15 game against Calgary in which he didn’t score, F Rhys Duch has scored at least 2 goals in every game this season … … Vancouver plays 4 of its final 6 games at home … T Ilija Gajic said desperation mode is taking over for the Stealth, but that doesn’t mean they can abandon their wits. “It’s no secret,” he said. “We’re both looking for a win. We just have to be fundamentally sound and we’re making too many dumb mistakes.”
|Edmonton Rush at Toronto Rock|
|Sunday, March 30 - Air Canada Centre- 3 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Edmonton 11-0; Toronto 5-8.
Broadcast: YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last week: Edmonton defeated Buffalo, 14-5; Toronto lost to Philadelphia, 14-13.
History: Edmonton leads all-time series, 10-5 (6-1 in Toronto).
Goals for: Edmonton 134 (6th); Toronto 161 (1st).
Goals against: Edmonton 85 (1st); Toronto 167 (8th).
This will be Edmonton’s first doubleheader weekend of the season, but coach/GM Derek Keenan isn’t worried. “It certainly won’t be easy, but we did a similar back-to-back with Buffalo last year and we did well so hopefully we can repeat that.” … Keenan said Edmonton’s 11-10 win over Toronto on Feb. 28 was one of his team’s biggest challenges of the season. “They broke us down better than anybody so hopefully we can be better this time around,” he said. … D Brett Mydske knows why, too. “They’ve got a couple of the best offensive players in the world,” he said. … Edmonton’s 11-0 record includes a 5-0 record against the East Division … G Aaron Bold leads the NLL in wins (10), save percentage (.814) and goals-against average (7.8) … The Rush have allowed just 19 power-play goals, tied for fewest in the NLL … Keenan said rookie F Riley Loewen may return this weekend, or even split the games, but that shouldn’t be a problem with the work fellow rookie Adrian Sorichetti has done, which included a hat trick against the Bandits. “He’s been really good for us. We knew he could play both ends,” he said, referencing the fact that Sorichetti’s first game this season was primarily on the back end, while last weekend he was coming out the front door … The doubleheader weekend is just 1 more test for the Rush that can legitimize the record-setting season so far. “It’s another opportunity to prove how good we are,” said Keenan. “We’ve had a fairly favorable schedule so far and now we’ve got 5 games over the next 3 weeks so this is a tough part of our schedule that a lot of teams have already faced. It’ll be a real test of character to see where this team is at.”
Toronto has lost 4 of its last 5 games and the first of those 4 losses was an 11-10 loss to the Rush in Edmonton. “Were not comfortable,” said F Garrett Billings “It’s getting to desperation point here in Rock Land.” … Still, the Rock come into Sunday’s game with some confidence in knowing they pair well with the Rush personnel on defense. “We just try to keep improving,” said coach John Lovell. “We try to build on the good things we do and avoid the bad things. Edmonton is a great team and we think we match up well with them. That’s what we take to the bank. We weren’t able to close the deal but that’s been our problem in a number of games this season.” … Even still, as Billings said, the Rock are eager to get back to winning. “We need a win in the worst way to hang on to our playoff spot,” said Lovell … Toronto has scored 33 power-play goals, most in the league … The Rock have scored the game’s first goal in 7 games, but are just 3-4 in those games … F Stephan Leblanc has scored just 1 goal in his last 3 games on 45 shots. He had 8 goals in his 3 games prior and had scored in 11 straight games to open the season … F Garrett Billings has scored 13 goals in his last 5 games, including hat tricks in each of his last 3 games. “It’s fun playing on our offense,” he said. “The ball moves and we know where each other is going to be.”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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