NLL Division Finals Preview: Minnesota-Rochester, Washington-Calgary
The CBS Sports Network has both division finals live on Saturday: Minnesota at Rochester at 4 p.m. ET and Washington at Calgary at 6:30 p.m. ET.
MINNESOTA AT ROCHESTER
Rochester advanced with a 10-8 home win over Philadelphia last Saturday. Dan Dawson led the way with four goals, and 2013 NLL goaltender of the year Matt Vinc was his usual stingy self.
''They've got a real dynamic offense and a great power play,'' said Swarm coach Joe Sullivan. ''We're going to have to beat them 5 on 5 and hope that our transition can do what it has done all year and put in three or four. That's probably going to be a difference maker for us.''
Cody Jamieson, the Knighthawks' leading point-getter during the regular season, left with an injured left foot late in the second quarter and did not reappear. Sullivan says he'll prepare his team as if Jamieson is going to play. The 'Hawks can't afford to lose Jamieson now, especially with Cory Vitarelli iffy after missing the last game.
Minnesota advanced with a 20-11 blowout in Toronto last Saturday.
''Minnesota certainly made a statement last week coming in and beating Toronto so handily,'' said Rochester coach Mike Hasen. ''We're expecting another tough bnattle from them . . . They're running on all cylinders right now so we're going to be in tough.''
In the win in Toronto, 2013 NLL transition player of the year Jordan MacIntosh and Shayne Jackson scored four goals each, Kiel Matisz and Ryan Benesch added three each and Callum Crawford had six assists, while goaltender Tyler Carlson was MVP.
''We're trying to score by committee,'' said Matisz. ''Crawford and Benesch are the two key guys but they're doing a really good job this year distributing the ball, too. It helps when we're scoring by committee. That makes the defenders not just key in on them.''
''We're going to have to run with those guys,'' said Rochester defenseman Mike Kirk. ''I don't know if we have the speed to match them but I think we can put some principles in place that maybe limit their opportunities. They're young and fast and can put the ball in the net so we're going to have to be smart and maybe make some adjustments to limit them.''
These teams did not meet during the regular season, and they've never previously met in playoffs. They met twice during the 2012 season and each team won at home: Feb. 4, Minnesota 14 at Rochester 16; and Feb. 12, Rochester 6 at Minnesota 9.
''It's interesting,'' said Swarm defenseman Greg Downing. ''Rochester is the only team in the league that we haven't played this year so we're going to have to study the video. We know a lot of the players but we don't know how they play as a team so we're going to have to study up and see how we match up against them.''
The decisive win in Toronto gives Minnesota momentum.
''We're kind of peaking at the right time,'' said defenseman Jeff Gilbert.
But there's no mistaking the difficulty of the challenge.
''They're the defending champs so we're going to have our hands full,'' added Gilbert. ''We're going to approach it the same way we did the one in Toronto. We gave Toronto a lot of respect. We know the kind of team Toronto has. They've got veteran guys with playoff experience and that's no different from what we're going to see this weekend so we'll make the same preparations.''
WASHINGTON AT CALGARY
Calgary is 4-5 at home this year including its 15-10 win over Colorado — Shawn Evans, Jeff Shattler and Scott Ranger scored three goals each — in the first round last Saturday. It was 7-7 at halftime.
''We held our composure really well,'' said head coach Curt Malawsky. ''We had a five-minute major against us early in the third quarter and the guys didn't panic. We just dug in and focused on the process to stop their power play as best we could and eat the clock up at the other end and we were fortunate enough to get a couple of short-handed goals. That was the big turning point. Once we grabbed the momentum we were able to maintain it.''
Washington edged Edmonton 12-11 last Saturday despite trailing 6-0 early and 7-2 at halftime. Rhys Duch came through with some huge goals in the second half.
''There really wasn't a whole heck of a lot to say,'' coach Chris Hall replied when asked to describe the talk with his players during the break. ''We had a large task ahead of us and we knew we only had 30 minutes to get it done. It was one of those do-or-die sort of things. We got the momentum swing we needed and it kept going.''
Washington won the season series 2-1: Feb. 23, Calgary 14 at Washington 16; March 30, Calgary 13 at Washington 11; April 6, Washington 12 at Calgary 11.
''We've got a big rivalry going with Washington,'' said Calgary faceoff specialist Geoff Snider. ''They always play us really well. They've got great goaltending and an awesome transition game so we're going to have our hands full.''
Washington is 4-4 on the road this year.
''It's fun to play playoff lacrosse in there,'' Stealth defenseman Kyle Sorensen said in looking ahead to another big game in the Saddledome.
Hall offered a philosophical outlook when asked if he'd like his team to get off to a better start in this one than it did last weekend.
''You want to get off to a good start but if you don't then you can't sort of call it a day,'' he said. ''You've got to dig in and try to turn the tide around a little bit. Is it nice to get off to a great start? Absolutely. Do we want to? Sure. But I don't want to put all the eggs in that basket because if you don't get off to a good start for whatever reason it doesn't mean you're out of it.''
It is the third time in four years that Washiington has advanced to the division final, and goaltender Tyler Richards has come up big in the past in the high-pressure contests. Calgary's Mike Poulin has a title on his resume as well.
The winner gets to play the championship game at home.