By Nick Powers | 4/9/13 3:15 PM
As the National Lacrosse League regular season winds down teams are beginning to secure their spot in the playoffs, while others fight for survival and try to avoid elimination.
To start the weekend, the Rochester Knighthawks bested the Philadelphia Wings, 14-7 at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY on Saturday, April 6, bringing them back to .500 and room to breathe in the Eastern Division rankings. Currently second, the Knighthawks’ Joe Walters (of the MLL’s Hamilton Nationals) had four assists in the victory, which brought Rochester to 6-6 on the season and gave Philadelphia their fifth-straight loss. The Wings fared well for themselves individually, as multiple MLL stars had standout performances: Paul Rabil of the Boston Cannons had three points on a goal and two assists, while his teammate Kevin Buchanan (also of Boston) had a goal and assist each. Meanwhile, Brendan Mundorf (Denver) and Drew Westervelt (Chesapeake) both also had three points on two goals and an assist, but it was not enough to overcome the stifling defense of the Knighthawks.
Although the Knighthawks had momentum heading into Sunday’s game, they could not capitalize and fell to the Toronto Rock, 10-9 at the Air Canada Centre. Garrett Billings (Hamilton) led the way for Toronto with six points on two goals and four assists while his Hamilton teammate Roger Vyse contributed three points on a tally and two assists. Walters added a goal for the Knighthawks and despite an 8-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Toronto scored three times to Rochester’s two in the last frame to come back and secure a victory as well as the Eastern Divisional title.
In the biggest blowout of the weekend, the Minnesota Swarm trounced the Buffalo Bandits, 21-7 at home in the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, MN. A number of MLL players contributed to the rout, such a Jordan MacIntosh of the Hamilton Nationals who contributed nine points on five goals and four assists for the Swarm. In addition, Shayne Jackson (Charlotte) had seven points on three goals and four assists and Kiel Matisz (Hamilton) had five points on two goals and three assists.
The next night Minnesota met Philadelphia, who rebounded in a big way from their loss to Rochester by coming back to defeat the Swarm, 15-13 and snap their five game losing streak in the process. Westervelt and Kevin Crowley (Hamilton) led the Wings to victory by notching eight points apiece on four goals and four assists each. For the Swarm, Matisz contributed five points on four goals and an assist in the loss, while MacIntosh impressed yet again with three assists, a game-high 18 loose balls and a 72% success rate on face-offs, going 23-for-32. Their efforts, however, were not enough to clip the Wings.
A pair of close games closed out Saturday night’s NLL lineup, starting with the Colorado Mammoth edging the Edmonton Rush, 9-7 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, AB. John Grant, Jr. (Chesapeake) led the way for the Mammoth, notching a tally and three assists for four points on the night, while Casey Powell (Hamilton) had three points on two goals and an assist. In a losing effort, the Rush’s Mark Matthews and Zack Greer (New York) both contributed three points apiece with a goal and two assists each, but could not carry the team themselves or force overtime, as Grant Jr. secured a two-score lead with nine seconds left on the clock.
Rounding out Saturday evening was another close contest between the Washington Stealth and the Calgary Roughnecks, which saw Washington triumph 12-11 on the road in the Scotiabank Saddledome and secure them a playoff spot. Rhys Duch (Hamilton) was the spotlight player for the Stealth, scoring seven points on three goals and four assists while Brett Bucktooth, also of Hamilton, had five points on a goal and four assists. On the other side of things, the Roughnecks saw great play from Curtis Dickson (Denver) who scored three times throughout the course of the game. Despite the efforts of Dickson and the rest of the Calgary squad, Washington secured the victory, taking the regular season series with the Roughnecks and earning them the postseason tiebreaker, which will bring the Stealth back to the playoffs following an absence in 2012.