April 7, 2014

NLL Notebook: Teams Organize Touching Tributes 

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

Video piece on Andrew Suitors tribute to Kati Miller from Kare11.com

NLL teams have a commendable background in good works with charities and the latest deeds that created positive vibes occurred in St. Paul and in Buffalo during the weekend.

Season ticket holders Mike and Michele Miller and family members were recognized during the ceremonial ball drop prior to the opening faceoff of the Rochester-Minnesota game last Friday night. A daughter, Katy Miller, passed away last September due to a heart condition at age 23. Swarm captain Andrew Suitor wore "K. Miller" on his jersey in her memory during the game, which was signed by all of the Swarm players afterwards and will be presented to the family at this Saturday's home game.

"I was definitely playing for their family," said Suitor. "It was an honor to be out there, shake hands and give them a hug before the game. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the win but everyone battled and showed a lot of pride towards that. It was something that really hit home for our team and our organization."

A team news release last week conveyed how much Katy Miller enjoyed being at Swarm games.

"Katy would always be dancing and singing in her seat to the music," her mother said. "Fan participation was a must in Katy's world. Going to Swarm games became a favorite Miller family event."

Meanwhile, it was Tucker Out Lymphoma Night in Buffalo on Saturday. Tucker Williams, the son of Bandits forward Shawn Williams, plays lacrosse and hockey. He was diagnosed with Burkett's Lymphoma in January at age seven and a surgeon removed a tumor in his mouth and throat area. Tucker was at the Calgary-Buffalo game and received a rousing ovation from the 16,000-plus crowd when he was introduced.

"He was a little shy at first but then he decided, 'Yeah, I'll take it," his dad said afterwards. "He actually wasn't supposed to be here. His last treatment of chemo was supposed to be on Thursday but his numbers were a little low. We were obviously a little upset because you don't want to delay a treatment but then it just popped into my mind, 'Hey, I think he might be able to come to the game."

TAVARES FINALLY GETS 800th GOAL

John Tavares got the ball to the left of Calgary goalie Mike Poulin, stepped towards the middle of the floor and bounced a ball into the net during a third-quarter power play. It was his 800th goal. After going without a goal in Buffalo's previous game and having mixed shooting success for the previous three, the 45-year-old leftie finally hit this amazing career milestone.

"The nice thing about scoring the 800th is that there's no pressure for the next 99," he quipped afterwards.

A measure of Tavares' greatness is that the number of goals scored by the next player on the all-time list is 635 by retired NLL Hall of Famer Gary Gait. Colorado captain John Grant Jr. is third with 595, Toronto captain Colin Doyle is fourth with 513 and Buffalo forward Shawn Williams is fifth with 442.

SCORING TITLE UP FOR GRABS

League points leader Garrett Billings suffered a season-ending knee injury over the weekend.

Garrett Billings of the Toronto Rock had just earned his seventh assist in the game to become the first player in NLL history to amass 100 or more points in three consecutive seasons when he stumbled after being checked by Tyler Garrison during the second quarter of his very first NLL game in his home city of Langley, B.C. He had to be helped off the floor, putting no weight on his right leg, so everybody knew it was a serious injury. Billings had helped the Rock to a big early lead and his teammates cruised to a 17-9 win Saturday night.

Word spread afterwards that Billings had probably torn the ACL in his right knee. An MRI would confirm the obvious. The league's player of the month for February and also March won't be able to play another game this year.

The former NCAA star at Virginia had been on pace during this expanded 18-game season to break John Grant Jr.'s 2012 league record of 116 points in 16 games. Billings has a 13-point cushion in the scoring race with three Rock games remaining but he'll be a bystander when Philadelphia arrives Saturday night to battle for the third and final playoff berth in the NLL East. So, who will win the scoring race now?

The Top 10:

1. Garrett Billings, Toronto, 102

2. Cody Jamieson, Rochester, 89

3. Shawn Evans, Calgary, 88

4. John Grant Jr., Colorado, 81

5. Dan Dawson, Rochester, 78

6. Stephan Leblanc, Toronto, 76

7. Dane Dobbie, Calgary, 74

8. Jeff Shattler, Calgary, 72

9. Callum Crawford, Minnesota, 71

10. Rhys Duch, Vancouver, 68

DOBBIE DELIVERS

It looks as if Calgary' Dane Dobbie will be the only NLL player to score more than 50 goals this season. With eight goals in two wins last weekend, Dobbie upped his total to 45. Next is Toronto's Stephan Leblanc, who has 36 after a five-goal outing.

NEVER GIVE UP

Here are another two examples of why NLL games are so unpredictable: Colorado is down 11-5 but fights back and drops a 12-11 decision in Edmonton; and Calgary falls behind 4-0 and is losing 8-4 but rallies to win 16-13 in Buffalo on Saturday.

"You're never out of it in the NLL," said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. "That's what is exciting for our fans and that's what makes this league unique. You can be down by five or six and, as long as you stick to the program and you're resilient, good things can happen."

COSMO HAS BEST SAVE PERCENTAGE

Buffalo was outscored 7-1 in the fourth quarter in falling 16-13 to visiting Calgary last Saturday night, but don't blame goaltender Anthony Cosmo. He's having an exceptional season.

Save Percentages of NLL Goalies:

Minimum 180 Minutes

1. Anthony Cosmo, Buffalo, .803

2. Aaron Bold, Edmonton, .797

3. Matt Vinc, Rochester, .789

4. Mike Poulin, Calgary, .770

5. Tyler Richards, Vancouver, .763

6. Dillon Ward, Colorado, .762

7. Evan Kirk, Philadelphia, .761

8. Nick Rose, Toronto, .760

9. Zack Higgins, Minnesota, .744

10. Tyler Carlson, Minnesota, .726

11. Tye Belanger, Colorado, .630.

Brandon Miller has started two games for Toronto since being a trade deadline acquisition and he earned his first victory with his new team when the Rock won 17-9 in Vancouver. The confidence of the entire team has spiked up with Miller in the crease.

Another goalie with minutes that are too limited to merit inclusion on the save percentages list is Rochester's Angus Goodleaf. He's been great when in limited floor time. He got a win in Toronto last month in relief of Matt Vinc and in his first start since 2011, he played an important role in a 12-9 home win over Minnesota on Saturday.

SCHUSS A RISING STAR

The game-by-game progress of Minnesota rookie Logan Schuss has been impressive. He now stands a good chance off finishing the season with more than 30 goals. He leads all first-year players with 56 points including 26 goals.

He was the league's rookie of the month for the second straight month in March.

"Logan has adjusted to the league very well," coach Joe Sullivan stated in a club news release. "We knew how good he would be. It was only a matter of time before he began having a direct impact on our team on and off the floor and he has done that to an excellent level. He's been everything we could hope for, both as a first-round draft pick and as a person. Look for him to be a figurehead of the Minnesota Swarm for years to come."

Vancouver's Tyler Digby is second with 49 points including 19 goals and Edmonton's Robert Church is third with 36 points including 14 goals.

RUBISCH BREAKS RECORD

Edmonton Rush defenseman Kyle Rubisch had eight forced turnovers against Colorado last Saturday to increase his season's total to 46, which breaks his own league record of 44 set last year.

RUSH FIFTH IN ATTENDANCE

Despite their amazing 14-0 record, the Rush have not made significant attendance gains. The fan count Saturday of 8,275 was slightly above their season average. Alberta rival Calgary has a 10-5 record but the Roughnecks are doing much better than Edmonton at the gate. It takes upwards of 10,000 per game for an owner to avoid red ink on the season.

Average Attendance Around the League:

The league-side average after 66 games is 9,402.

1. Colorado 15,530

2. Buffalo 14,054

3. Toronto 10,344

4. Calgary 10,046

5. Edmonton 7,763

6. Rochester 7,677

7. Minnesota 7,169

8. Philadelphia 6,749

9. Vancouver 3,716

TIMELINE

April 12, 1997: Steve Dietrich got the MVP nod after making 54 saves to help the Rochester Knighthawks win their first pro indoor title, 15-12 over the Bandits, in front of 18,055 spectators in Buffalo's Marine Midland Arena.


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