April 18, 2013

NLL Notebook: Evans has Scoring Title Within Grasp

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Calgary's Shawn Evans should end the regular season as the league's point leader. He has 102 with one game remaining, a mark that's shattered his previous season-high of 79.
© Brad Watson/Calgary Roughnecks

Calgary's Shawn Evans has what appears to be an insurmountable lead in the points race after a 10-point effort in the Roughnecks' 15-14 home loss to Rochester last Saturday night. Evans has 102 points with one game remaining. Toronto's Garrett Billings has 100 points but the Rock's 16-game schedule is complete. Minnesota's Callum Crawford, who has at least eight points in each of his last six games, has zoomed into third place and has a game left but with 89 points is probably too far back to catch Evans.

Evans has 31 goals and a league-best 71 assists. The 5-foot-9 righty from Peterborough, Ontario, has shattered his previous single-season high of 79 points. He should get strong support for the league MVP award although all the clutch goals produced by teammate Curtis Dickson put him in the running, too.

Duch Leads Goals Race

Rhys Duch should also garner support when MVP voting takes place because the Washington Stealth star has scored more goals than any other NLL player.

The 12 players with 30 or more goals: 1. Duch, 41; 2. Dane Dobbie and Curtis Dickson, Calgary, and John Grant Jr., Colorado, 40 each; 5. Mark Matthews, Edmonton, 37; 6. Jeff Shattler, Calgary, and Kevin Crowley, Philadelphia, 32 each; 8. Evans, Ryan Benesch, Minnesota, and Kasey Beirnes, Toronto, 31 each; 11. Billings and Crawford, 30 each.

Dobbie Down

Dane Dobbie's right knee buckled when he charged the crease to score a third-quarter goal Saturday and he had to be helped off the floor by Calgary teammates. The 40-goal shooter was done for the day and his availability for the playoffs is iffy. Initial X-rays did not reveal ligament damage but more tests were to be conducted. To be without Dobbie, especially on power plays, would be a big loss. Dobbie, Billings and Grant are tied for the league lead in this category with 15 goals each.

Crowd Counts

Home teams won only two of the five games last weekend. Largest crowd was in Denver where 17,622 in the Pepsi Center watched the Minnesota Swarm drub the Mammoth 17-12. Elsewhere:

  • 12,340 in Calgary's Scotiabank Saddledome for Rochester's 15-14 win over the Roughnecks.
  • 7,437 in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center to see Jordan Hall score in OT to give the Wings a 10-9 win over Toronto.
  • 6,116 in Edmonton's Rexall Place for a 14-10 Rush victory over Rochester.
  •  3,442 in Everett, Wash., for Buffalo's 15-10 upset of the Stealth.

4,000 Save Club

Philadelphia's Brandon Miller and Rochester's Matt Vinc joined the 4,000 Save Club last weekend.

All-time saves list: 1. Bob Watson, retired, 6,471; 2. Pat O'Toole, retired, 6,464; 3. Dallas Eliuk, retired, 6,356; 4. Steve Dietrich, retired, 6,356; 5. Matt Disher, retired, 4,904; 6. Anthony Cosmo, Buffalo, 4,851; 7. Gee Nash, retired, 4,328; 8. Rob Blasdell, retired, 4,287; 9. Curtis Palidwor, retired, 4,075; 10. Miller, 4,044; 11. Vinc, 4,008.

Vinc has a league-best 636 saves this season and is nine shy of breaking the single-season record of 644 by Rob Blasdell for the Albany Attack in 2002.

''Vino has been dynamite for us,'' said Knighthawks forward Mike Accursi.

Save Percentages

How the goaltenders stack up in terms of save percentages: 1. Matt Vinc, Rochester, .806; 2. Tyler Richards, Washington, .799; 3. Nick Rose, Toronto, .791; 4. Tye Belanger, Colorado, .780; 5. Tyler Carlson, Minnesota, .779; 6. Brandon Miller, Philadelphia, .776; 7. Anthony Cosmo, Buffalo, .751; 8. Aaron Bold, Edmonton, .743; 9. Mike Poulin, Calgary, and Dan Lewis, Colorado, .739; 11. Evan Kirk, Minnesota, .735; 12. Kurtis Wagar, Buffalo, .717; 13. Matt Roik, Colorado and Washington, .713.

Getting It Right

Referee Todd Labranche has to be applauded for tossing Minnesota's Nik Bilic for ramming Colorado goalie Dan Lewis at 6:06 of the fourth quarter in Denver last Saturday. There was no hesitation on the part of the referee. We've seen too many cases this year where goalies have been roughed up by opponents leaping into creases trying to score yet allowed to stay on the floor. Goalies have to be protected. A round of applause for the crew of Labranche, Grant Spies and David Pratt.

Rock Await Opponent

Toronto has clinched the East title and is the only NLL team with a bye through the final weekend of the regular season but the Rock won't know the identity of their first-round playoff opponent until this weekend's games are done.

Colorado is a possible visitor on Sunday, April 28. How's that? Should Colorado lose in Minnesota and Buffalo lose at home to Rochester and they finish with identical 6-10 records, the cross-over rule would allow Colorado to bump Buffalo out of fourth place in the East based on the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Mammoth would get the nod because they won both regular-season meetings — 12-6 in Buffalo on March 9 and 16-13 at home on March 16.

Another scenario: Buffalo beats Rochester and Philadelphia loses in Washington, leaving all three with 7-9 records. In this case, order of finish in the East would be Toronto, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Rochester, which could send Rochester to Toronto for that April 28 playoff opener.

''I don't think anybody should try to pick their opponent at this time of year,'' said Rock GM Terry Sanderson. ''We all know what's at stake in a one-and-done game. We'll play whoever who shows up on the 28th.''

If the Rock are to get as far as they want to go, they'll have to generate more goals. They scored nine in an OT loss in Philadelphia and the week before managed 10 in eking past Rochester.

''Based on our last couple of games, I would think we'd like to see a few more going in the net,'' said Sanderson. ''We've been pretty consistent throughout the year but based on our last two games they haven't been falling for us as well as we would have liked.''

Two weeks between games is a blessing at this time of year.

''The week off certainly won't hurt us,'' said Sanderson.

Rush Could Finish First Overall

Edmonton would finish first overall, edging out Toronto, with a home win over Calgary on Saturday. That would earn the franchise its first home playoff game in its seven years in the league.

The Rush have announced that a first-round home playoff game would be played on Thursday, April 25. Friday, April 26, is unavailable because Rexall Place is keeping that night open for an expected junior hockey playoff game, there is an NHL game on the Saturday night and the arena is booked for a Motley Crue concert that Sunday.

The Rush would be 10-6, which would be a reversal of last year's 6-10, guaranteeing strong consideration for GM-coach Derek Keenan for both the NLL managing and coaching awards.

Champs Not in Yet

The defending champions go into the last weekend of the regular season without a playoff berth.

Rochester needs a win in Buffalo to get it. If it wins, it clinches second place in the East and home floor for the first round. If the Knighthawks lose, and Colorado goes into Minnesota and beats the Swarm, the 'Hawks will be the one team in nine to miss the playoffs.

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli — a longtime Lacrosse Magazine contributor — are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.


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