NLL Week 18

The playoff picture is still pretty murky though getting a little clearer. The Rock have joined the Bandits in the “clinched the playoffs” club, and the Knighthawks became the first team to be eliminated from the playoffs. A few awesomes this week and only one not awesome, but that one really sucks.

Awesome

Vancouver Warriors

Keegan BalLet’s face it. The Vancouver Warriors and Stealth have been pretty terrible for a long time. The Stealth played five seasons and were a combined 25-65, making the playoffs once. Before this season, the Warriors had played two seasons (well, 1⅔ I guess) and were 9-22. That’s a total of 34-87, more than 50 games below .500. This year’s Warriors are 6-9 and still may not make the playoffs but man, are they a different team. Alex Buque is having a career year and is giving them the best goaltending they’ve had since they were the Washington Stealth, and when he’s not at his best Steve Fryer has been excellent backing him up. Mitch Jones played four great games before they lost him for the season, but without Jones the offense as a whole has stepped up their game. Keegan Bal and Kyle Killen are each having their best seasons and Logan Schuss is on pace for one of his best as well. Brett Mydske was an excellent choice as captain and is also having a great season. Reid Bowering is in the Rookie of the Year talk but looks like a seasoned vet on the floor, and Tyrell Hamer-Jackson is still in the top 5 in the league in faceoff percentage even though he’s now done for the year.

We always talk about how any team in this league could beat any other team, but the truth is that that wasn’t always entirely true about about a few teams, and Vancouver was one of them. No more.

It seems odd to choose a team that lost twice this weekend and put them in the Awesome category, but I want to give credit where it’s due.


Toronto Rock

The Rock had a tough weekend ahead of them. First they had to play the Georgia Swarm, winners of four straight including at Rock City the previous weekend, and then immediately fly home to take on the San Diego Seals, who are in first place in the West. Making matters worse was the news that Dan Dawson would be out on Friday night. But the Rock came to play, and despite being down 3-0 after seven minutes, they rallied back and took the lead in the second and never looked back. Schreiber scored four, Manns and Craig had a couple each, Forster scored his first NLL goal, and the transition came through huge, with two goals from Kri and one each from Rogers and Harris. The defense was strong as well, and Nick Rose continued what is so far the best season of his career.

(Aside: the number of players with Rock ties on the Seals is amazing: Brett Hickey, Brodie Merrill, Drew Belgrave, Reid Reinholdt’s brother Tor, Jason Noble’s brother Jeremy, plus the entire coaching staff which consists of Patrick Merrill, Josh Sanderson, Bill Greer, and Bob Watson.)

24 hours later they were back in the Hammer to face the Seals, still without Dan Dawson but this time also without Rob Hellyer. But while missing two of their top offensive threats, Dan Craig picked up a sock-trick, Challen Rogers had five assists while playing mostly offense, Latrell Harris scored twice more, and Rose had another solid night in net. It was a great all-around team win.

Also awesome: the Rock scored a shorthanded goal while down 5-on-3. Shorthanded goals are
great enough but when two men down, you’re usually just trying to kill time, not
worrying about actual scoring opportunities.

Quick ones

  • Charlie Kitchen’s goal – three defenders draped all over him and while falling, he has the presence of mind to shoot around the world and bounce it by Steve Fryer. Incredible.
  • Colorado Mammoth – in their previous seven games, they were 2-5 including losses to the struggling Roughnecks, the struggling Rush, and two to the expansion Panther City LC. Then they beat the powerhouse Bandits in an offensive battle and then switch to win a defensive battle against the Riptide.
  • Philly Wings – they managed to hold the strong offense of the Riptide to five goals, including none for Jeff Teat.

Not Awesome

News about Neil Stevens

NLL Hall of Fame (and Hockey Hall of Fame) writer Neil Stevens passed away this past week. This is a huge loss to the lacrosse community. Mr. Stevens was basically the only professional writer in Canada covering lacrosse in the days of the Ontario Raiders and the early days of the Toronto Rock. From what I understand, the Canadian Press was not interested but allowed him to write about the NLL mostly due to his own insistence that lacrosse should be covered. The very existence of lacrosse media in Canada is partially thanks to Neil Stevens.

I never met Mr. Stevens, nor did I ever talk to him on the phone, though I had a few twitter exchanges with him and he was always friendly, respectful, and clearly knowledgeable. Oddly, his twitter handle was @EddiesTop100, named for a novel he wrote that had nothing to do with lacrosse. Initially, his twitter bio didn’t even list his real name so for a while I thought he was just some music writer named Eddie who happened to like lacrosse. Once I discovered who he really was, I was honestly a little starstruck. An NLL Hall of Fame writer (one of only two, the other being Tom Borrelli), actually talking to me over twitter about stuff I had written? I’ve talked to other NLL players and coaches over twitter in the past, which is awesome and one of the great things about the NLL, but Hall of Fame, man.

My sincere condolences to the Stevens family.

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