February 13, 2014

Vancouver Double-Dips With Mammoth and Roughnecks

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Stevens Archive

Buffalo tries to hold onto first place in the East and West leader Edmonton attempts to remain the only undefeated team. This weekend's NLL games - with video embeds from The Lacrosse Network (live at game time):

FRIDAY

VANCOUVER (2-6) at COLORADO (4-5), 9 p.m. ET

This has been one of the year's most intense rivalries. This will be the fourth and final meeting. Colorado won 13-12 at home on Jan. 4, Vancouver won 14-13 at home Jan. 17 and Colorado went back to Vancouver to eke out a 10-9 win last Saturday.

Colorado stretched its winning streak to three despite the absence of leading goal scorer Adam Jones, who is out at least another two weeks while a separated shoulder heals.

''We want to keep improving each week,'' says head coach Bob Hamley. ''Dean (Hill) will be back in (in Jones' spot) this weekend. I thought he did a good job last weekend.''

Vancouver has lost five in a row and head coach Chris Hall is scratching his head.

''Our offense is struggling, obviously,'' says Hall.

Leading Stealth goal scorer Rhys Duch returns after serving a one-game suspension. Captain Kyle Sorensen is back on the active roster after being out with an injury for three weeks. Alex Gajic was released as Hall juggles his lineup looking for a winning combination.

''It's tough to pinpoint one thing that's been going wrong,'' says Sorensen. ''We've got our hands full again this weekend.''

SATURDAY

ROCHESTER (4-2) at TORONTO (3-3), 7 p.m. ET

This will be the second of three meetings. Rochester beat Toronto 12-8 at home on Jan. 18.

Rochester is coming off a 9-6 home win over Buffalo.

''It was tight the whole way through,'' Rochester head coach Mike Hasen said during the league's weekly conference call Wednesday. ''We moved the ball well and that's something we have to keep doing.''

Rochester will be looking for its first road win. A touch more firepower on the attack would help make it happen.

''We've got to make sure we take advantage of our opportunities early,'' said Knighthawks forward Mike Accursi, agreeing with Hasen that lack of scoring punch hasn't been a big deal so far. ''We're not putting a lot of numbers up but we're also not giving up a lot of numbers.''

Toronto feasted at home, 20-10, at the expense of Philadelphia last Friday, improving to 3-0 at home.

''We shot the ball extremely well and then things steamrolled for Philadelphia and we couldn't do much wrong on offense,'' said Rock coach John Lovell.

''We can't pat ourselves on the back too hard,'' said forward Garrett Billings. ''We've got to be ready for Saturday.''

Billings had a 12-point game against the Wings but scoring against Rochester will be more difficult.

''I really respect that defense,'' Lovell said. ''It's a solid team defense.''

Knighthawks transition player Joel McCready awaits the result of his appeal of a one-game suspicion to see if he'll be able to play in Toronto.

EDMONTON (6-0) at MINNESOTA (1-5), 7 p.m. ET

This will be the only meeting this year. These teams split 1-1 last as each won in the other's building. Despite the disparity in the teams' won-lost records, the Rush will pay a price if they take the Swarm lightly.

''We're going to have to bring our A game to be successful,'' said assistant coach Jeff McComb.

Edmonton is coming of an 8-6 win in Philadelphia with Zack Greer out with a neck injury.

''To go 6-0, I don't think looking at this league seeing how tight it is, you wouldn't think that going into the season,'' McComb said of the perfect Rush record.

Minnesota lost its third in a row last weekend, 15-13, against visiting Calgary. Swarm transition runner Tyler Hass (leg) remains on injured reserve.

''We still have a lot of confidence in our group,'' said Swarm forward Shayne Jackson.

''We have an opportunity to knock off the top team in the league and gain some confidence,'' said assistant Swarm coach Aime Caines.

Edmonton defenseman Nik Bilic returns will face his former team for the first time.

''It's not going to be about me this weekend,'' said Bilic. ''It'll be about getting to 7-0 and keeping the streak alive.''

PHILADELPHIA (3-5) at BUFFALO (5-2), 7:30 p.m ET

Philadelphia won the season opener 17-13 in Buffalo back on Dec. 28 but the Bandits' defense is a lot better today than it was that night. It'll have to be to ground the Wings.

''I really like their offense,'' said Buffalo GM Steve Dietrich. ''They really play unselfish lacrosse.''

Buffalo lost 9-6 in Rochester last Saturday.

''Anytime you go into Blue Cross Arena it's going to be a battle,'' said Dietrich. ''If our offense had of shown up in the first half it might have been a different outcome.''

Philadelphia is coming off a 20-10 loss last Friday in Toronto and an 8-6 home loss Saturday against Edmonton.

''We embarrassed ourselves, to a man,'' said head coach Blane Harrison. ''We bounced back against Edmonton and hopefully we can build off that.''

Jordan Hall returns after missing the last two games.

''We really missed him and we look forward to having him back in the lineup and giving Buffalo a good run,'' said forward Kevin Crowley.

VANCOUVER at CALGARY (3-3), 9 p.m.

Calgary beat Vancouver 15-12 at home on Jan. 18 and the Roughnecks, coming off a 15-13 win in Minnesota, will try to outrun Stealth players who'll be weary after flying in from Denver.

''The compete level was a lot better than it had been in previous weeks,'' head coach Curt Malawsky said of the win in St. Paul.

Calgary needs to win to firm up its grip on second place in the West.

''We've had some injury problems but we're starting to get some guys back into the lineup,'' said faceoff specialist Geoff Snider.

High-scoring forward Curtis Dickson is in top form after a slow start to the season.

''He's back to be where he needs to be to help our team be successful,'' said Malawsky.

The Stealth can't afford to lose both of their weekend games because falling to 2-8 would bury them in the West basement. If it happens, they might as well kiss a playoff berth goodbye.

''They took it to us earlier and we'll be looking to get one back from them,'' said Sorensen.

Added Hall: ''It's going to be another battle.''


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