NLL Week 15 Team Reports: ‘It’s getting to that point in the season where everything is left on the turf,’ – Rush coach Derek Keenan
It’s turning into crunch time for the National Lacrosse League. With 4 weekends left and 2 playoff spots already clinched (Edmonton and Rochester), that leaves 7 teams battling for the final 4 spots. Calgary and Buffalo can take care of their own playoff destiny with a variety of scenarios this weekend that we spell out after the jump. And as you well know, teams would much rather walk into the playoff party on their own power rather than back in, so there’s a lot of motivation for both clubs. And wouldn’t you know it? They happen to play each other this weekend. But the twist here is that Calgary has 2 games this weekend, so the opportunities are there for both teams to lock up berths on their own accord. But there are 9 teams total in the NLL and all are playing this weekend, so let’s take a look at the Week 15 Team Reports.
|Calgary Roughnecks at Philadelphia Wings|
|Friday, April 4 - Wells Fargo Center- 7 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Calgary 8-5; Philadelphia 5-9.
Broadcast: YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last week: Calgary defeated Minnesota, 15-11; Philadelphia defeated Colorado 14-12.
History: Calgary leads all-time series, 3-2 (2-1 in Philadelphia).
Playoff picture:Calgary can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Philadelphia or Buffalo, or a loss by Vancouver.
Goals for: Calgary 169 (2nd); Philadelphia 157 (4th).
Goals against: Calgary 157 (tied 4th); Philadelphia 171 (7th).
It’s not often that these teams meet, but coach Curt Malawsky is very aware of what the Wings bring, especially considering this is the first of 2 East Division road games this weekend. “This is our toughest trip of the season,” said Malawsky. “Philadelphia does a good job of making you settle for the outside shot and when you settle for that, they can come back and ram it down your throat.” … D Jon Harnett says the mood in Calgary is upbeat after consecutive wins for the Riggers. “The vibe is pretty positive heading into the weekend,” he said. “We’re facing a Philadelphia team that needs a win and it’s going to be a real track meet.” … The Riggers can count on one more scoring option with the return of F Scott Ranger, who hasn’t played since late January because of work commitments … Calgary will also get some defensive re-enforcements back with Mike Carnegie, who hasn’t played since March 8, and Travis Cornwall, who last played on March 14. “It’s exciting to have a full complement of guys to go to battle against Philadelphia,” said Malawsky.
The Wings also are winners of 2 straight and hope to keep that momentum rolling. But with 2 teams coming together in Philadelphia that love to run, we could be out of breath just watching. “Every game’s been a crazy game for us this year,” coach Blane Harrison said. “But we’ve clawed ourselves back into playoff contention. We have to take care of business but we have a lot of heavy lifting in front of us.” … Part of that heavy lifting will fall on the a defense that ranks seventh in goals-allowed going up against a Calgary offense that ranks No. 2 in goals scored and has averaged 14.5 goals in its last 4 wins … Part of the recent success for Philadelphia is the emergence of transition, a key element that must continue its upward trend if the Wings want to stay with Calgary. “We’re finding our stride in transition,” said Harrison. “We’re where we thought we could be, and should be. We had been a little tentative … but once our defensive guys got comfortable running the floor, that’s created a lot of opportunities for us and injected some energy into our game.” … D Eric Hoffman said the transition success has been contagious because they’re learning the only thing that works better than the gameplan is executing it. “It’s just a matter of sticking to the team concept and not getting stuck out on an island,” he said.
friday and saturday
|Rochester Knighthawks vs. Minnesota Swarm|
|Friday, April 4 - Xcel Energy Center- 8:30 p.m. (EST)|
|Saturday, April 5 - Blue Cross Arena- 7:30 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Rochester 9-4; Minnesota 3-10.
Broadcast: Friday’s game: UniversalSports.com; Saturday’s game: YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last week: Rochester lost to Edmonton, 15-11; Minnesota lost to Calgary, 15-11.
History: Rochester leads all-time series, 11-5 (5-3 in Minnesota, 6-2 in Rochester).
Playoff picture: Rochester has clinched a playoff berth and at least 1 home playoff game.
Goals for: Rochester 149 (tied 5th); Minnesota 129 (9th).
Goals against: Rochester 119 (2nd); Minnesota 157 (tied 4th).
The Knighthawks opened their season with an 8-6 win over Minnesota, but that was Dec. 28. “It’s all about now,” said coach Mike Hasen. “That was a long time ago. They’ve changed and we’ve changed.” … Hasen said last week’s loss to Edmonton was humbling, but educational. “Edmonton is real good,” he said. “They made us do a lot of things that we haven’t done in the past and exposed some things that we need to work on.” … The Swarm have struggled this season but have been on the cusp with a lot of natural talent that just hasn’t found its groove, but could at anytime. “We just need to refocus and do what we do,” said Hasen. “This is another good group and another good test for us.” … F Dan Dawson said it’s a matter of recognizing chances and making them count, something that didn’t happen against the Rush. “As soon as we left the dressing room, that game was over and done with,” he said of the loss to Edmonton. “But this weekend, we need to capitalize on our opportunities. It could have been a different game against Edmonton, so we really need to focus.”
There’s no fancy way to put it for the Swarm and this double-header weekend. “This is our season,” assistant coach Aime Caines said. “We’re approaching these as playoff games, this is our playoffs right now.” The Swarm are 1.5 games out of the third and final playoff spot in the East Division behind Philadelphia and Toronto, and they really can’t afford to let that gap widen and the key to keeping that from happening is doing something the coaching staff has been preaching all season: a complete effort. “I felt we played good for 3 quarters (against Calgary),” said Caines. “But we had a breakdown in the fourth. So we have to take the positives from that game. We shut down Calgary for a couple of quarters so we need to do that for an entire game.” … D Alex Crepinsek said there’s a bit of a comfort zone for some Swarm players in coming to Rochester. He joins Jordan MacIntosh and Andrew Suitor on the list of Swarm players who played for nearby RIT. “I love playing in Rochester,” he said. “It’s a good crowd and we’ll have some family and some old teammates there to support us.”
|Calgary Rughnecks at Buffalo Bandits|
|Saturday, April 5 - First Niagara Center- 7 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Calgary 8-5; Buffalo 8-5.
Broadcast: TSN2 in Canada, ESPN3 in the U.S.
Last week: Calgary defeated Minnesota, 15-11; Buffalo lost to Vancouver 12-8.
History: Buffalo leads all-time series, 4-3 (1-0 in Buffalo).
Playoff picture: Calgary can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Philadelphia or Buffalo, or a loss by Vancouver; Buffalo can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Calgary, or losses by Philadelphia and Toronto, or 1 Minnesota loss to Rochester.
Goals for: Calgary 169 (2nd); Buffalo 141 (7th).
Goals against: Calgary 157 (tied 4th); Buffalo 137 (3rd).
The Roughnecks have their hands full with a resurgent Wings team the night before and know it won’t get any easier in Buffalo. “It’s pretty exciting in Buffalo,” said D Jon Harnett. “It’s a loud arena and their fans are great. The Bandits are looking to re-establish themselves so we’re expecting their best. Their offense has been a bit snakebit of late and they could break out at any time.” … On the other end of the floor, coach Curt Malawsky said it’s imperative the Riggers keep the motion constant, but with the ball and their feet. “They’re very big and physical on defense,” he said. “If you stand around, you’re going to get pounded. And their transition game is second to none.” … The Roughnecks are just 2-3 on the road this season but are 4-1 against the East Division … At 58%, Calgary’s power play ranks No. 1 in the NLL but the Riggers have scored just 7 of their 29 overall power-play goals on the road.
It’s a special night in Buffalo as “Tucker Out Lymphoma” night will help raise funds for the son of F Shawn Williams, whose 8-year-old son Tucker is battling lymphoma. “He’s done great,” assistant coach Rich Kilgour said of Shawn’s approach during this trying time. “He never mentions a word about it unless he’s asked … He’s just been a complete and total professional.” … T Andrew Watt continues to recover from a separated shoulder and could be back for this game against Calgary, although Kilgour said that remains a game-time decision … D Derek Suddons missed last week’s game because of the death of a close friend, and could be back to play against Calgary … With 3 straight losses, D Steve Priolo said the Bandits are not thinking about last year, when a 6-game slide cost them their season. “It’s not something at worries us,” said Priolo. “It’s something that we need to recognize that the season’s not over. You get a couple wins in a row and it doesn’t mean anything, right? You don’t win championships in January, February or March. You need to get the next win, look forward to the next shift, the next play … We just have to keep pushing and pushing.” … Slumps happen, said Priolo. “But it’s nothing we can’t fix,” he said. “It’s a perfect time for a home game.” … There is some familiarity here as Kilgour has coached Calgary goalie Mike Poulin in summer lacrosse recently. “We want to come out and re-establish ourselves because if we want to get something done this year, now’s the time to do it.”
|Colorado Mammoth at Edmonton Rush|
|Saturday, April 5 - Rexall Place- 10 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Colorado 5-9; Edmonton 13-0.
Broadcast: YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last week: Colorado lost to Philadelphia, 14-12; Edmonton defeated Rochester, 15-11, and Toronto, 13-10.
History: Colorado leads all-time series, 14-9 (7-3 at Edmonton).
Playoff picture: Edmonton has clinched a playoff berth. Edmonton can clinch the West Division title and homefield advantage through the playoffs with a win over Colorado.
Goals for: Colorado 149 (tied 5th); Edmonton 162 (3rd).
Goals against: Colorado 184 (9th); Edmonton 106 (1st).
Colorado is 4-4 over its last 8 games but has lost 2 straight as it heads into its biggest challenge of the season. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” said rookie G Dillon Ward. … The Mammoth will try to do what no one else in the NLL has been able to do this season but coach Dan Stroup believes he has the horses to get it done and the Mammoth have no intention of mailing this one in. “It was a good game last week but obviously we’re not happy with the outcome,” he said of the close home loss to Philadelphia. “We have to score with the game on the line and learn how to win games.” … Learning how to do that means knowing how to come through when it counts, said Stroup. “We have to put it together now,” he said. “When we’re tied with 1 minute left, we’ve got to be able to take that shot and get that big goal. If we play like a team, everything will take care of itself.”
The Rush were 2-0 on their first back-to-back of the season with both wins coming on the road. “It was our biggest test of the season,” coach/GM Derek Keenan said. “Our guys battled through some adversity … and managed to pull 2 out. This group continues to work toward our objective to get better each weekend and we made some strides last weekend.” … Even at 13-0, though, Keenan and the Rush understand they can’t coast if they want to maintain that perfection, even if this weekend’s game is against a team struggling to find consistency like the Mammoth. “It’s getting to that point in the season where everything is left on the turf,” said Keenan. … F Zack Greer stated the obvious about the Rush after their big weekend. “It was a fun weekend,” he said. “Two great barns against 2 great teams … This is a fun group to be around and that reflects itself on the floor. We all get along and we all have the same goal.”
|Toronto Rock at Vancouver Stealth|
|Saturday, April 5 - Langley Events Centre- 10 p.m. (EST)|
Records: Toronto 5-9; Vancouver 4-9.
Broadcast: YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last week: Toronto lost to Edmonton, 13-10; Vancouver defeated Buffalo, 12-8.
History: Toronto leads all-time series, 7-3 (2-1 at Stealth).
Goals for: Toronto 171 (1st); Vancouver 141 (tied 7th).
Goals against: Toronto 180 (8th); Vancouver 157 (tied 4th).
The frustration for the Rock in last week’s loss to Edmonton is that they felt they played a good game. The offense put up 10 goals against one of the NLL’s best defensive units and the defense avoided giving up the crushing run that’s hurt the team in weeks past. But a 2-for-8 performance on the power play is pointed to as the culprit. “We did put in a good effort,” coach John Lovell said. “One of the better ones of the season. But the power play is a very important part of our game and in a nutshell, that was the story of the game for us and it wasted a good goaltending performance for us.” … Brandon Miller got his first start in a Toronto uniform and made 40 saves. Lovell was hesitant to name a starter for this weekend, noting that Miller played well but Nick Rose has also played well this season and doesn’t deserve to lose that No. 1 spot. Lovell said it’ll be a game-time decision as to who starts against the Stealth … The Stealth are similar to the Stealth in that both are fighting for playoff lives and positioning. “These are 2 deep teams,” said Lovell, who is not putting any stock in his team’s 17-12 win over the Stealth in late January except that “it was a good game so we expect a tough battle.” … Veteran F Kasey Biernes said with just 1 win in the last 6 games, it’s been a quiet Toronto locker room. “We need to figure some stuff out and keep everyone on the same page,” he said. “At the beginning of the year there was some finger pointing but we’ve all come clean on that. We need to work together as a team.”
The Stealth won for just the second time since Jan. 17, using an aggressive approach out of the gate to build an early lead against Buffalo. It worked, and the Stealth will be looking for more of that with the Rock coming to town. “It was a very important game for us,” assistant coach Dan Perreault said. “We were very focused for that game and we prepared for that game as if it was playoff game, like we have to do the rest of the way. Each game is so important to us.” … That’s an approach that could come in handy against a team like the Rock. “They’re going to be a very desperate team and very focused,” said Perreault, adding that the Stealth learned from the January game that the Rock “come at you pretty hard.” … D Matt Beers especially liked what he saw from his teammates last weekend because it followed a players’ meeting. “We needed to turn things around and turn them around quick,” he said. “We addressed a few minor problems to work on and that turned into success on the floor. So we’re going to continue to build off that.” … In the 2 games since he was a healthy scratch, F Lewis Ratcliff has scored 14 points (5-9). “He’s a pro. He’s worked hard … but the ball just wasn’t dropping for him,” said Perrault. “I’m happy for him because he’s worked hard and is being rewarded.”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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