February 27, 2013

NLL Notebook: Suitor Will be 'Terribly Missed' by Swarm

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Minnesota captain Andrew Suitor is shelved for the rest of the 2013 season after injuring his ACL against Edmonton on Feb. 22.
© Alex Carroll/Minnesota

It was a simple twist of fate.

Andrew Suitor was running during a game in Edmonton last Friday night and made a split-second decision to make a quick turn. His body zigged one way, his knee zagged the other way, damaging a ligament, and now the Minnesota Swarm are without their captain for the rest of the National Lacrosse League season.

It's a blow that could be crushing. After all, Suitor was the 2012 NLL transition player of the year. He's a star. But coach Joe Sullivan is hoping for the best.

''He's going to be terribly missed,'' Sullivan said. ''In fact, he's not replaceable. It's going to take more than one person to fill his shoes and we're going to need guys to step up. The positive light on the whole thing is that it will give other people an opportunity to show us what they have. I'm confident that we can have those people in our mix. That will be the challenge for our team.''

The shock of losing Suitor was immediate as the Swarm fell behind 9-0 in the Sunday rematch with the Rush and lost 14-9. Jordan MacIntosh had a great game in taking up some of the slack created by the absence of Suitor and he's a leading candidate to assume a greater role.

Suitor isn't going away.

''I'm going to be the No. 1 cheerleader for the rest of the season,'' he said.

Minnesota lost two one-goal decisions to open the season while Suitor served a two-game league suspension. Suitor is worth, at the very least, a goal or two a game so the 3-5 Swarm might well be 5-3 had he been in the lineup for the first two.

The only team below the Swarm in the West Division standings is Colorado, 2-5. Colorado beat Minnesota 15-9 in Denver back on Feb. 2. They lock horns to finish their 16-game schedules: April 13 in Denver and April 20 in St. Paul. Those two games might well determine which of the two might be the one team in nine in the league missing the playoffs.

Bold's perfect half

The final score in the Edmonton-Minnesota game Sunday, 14-9, masked an exceptional performance by Rush goalie Aaron Bold.

Bold blanked the Swarm in the first half and did not allow a goal until well into the third quarter while his teammates built a 9-0 lead. The Swarm finally got on the scoreboard at 7:35 of the third when Ryan Benesch whipped a sidearm shot past Bold from the top of a power-play setup.<

Vinc has best save percentage

Defending-champion Rochester is a disappointing 3-5 and last in the East Division but Matt Vinc has the best save percentage among goalies who have played at least 200 minutes. How they stack up:

1. Matt Vinc, Rochester, .813; 2. Tyler Richards, Washington, .802; 3. Nick Rose, Toronto, .800; 4. Brandon Miller, Philadelphia, .781; 5. Anthony Cosmo, Buffalo, .753; 6. Aaron Bold, Edmonton, .752; 7. Tyler Carlson, Minnesota, .750; 8. Mike Poulin, Calgary, .749; 9. Evan Kirk, Minnesota, .748; 10. Matt Roik, Colorado, .720.

Mammoth roll the dice

Matt Roik's unflattering save percentage will stand as his final stat as a member of the Mammoth. He has been released. Tye Belanger, 22, has been brought back and partners with Dan Lewis, 24, as GM Steve Govett goes with two young players with scant NLL experience.

''I am very confident in our young goaltending tandem and I see them backstopping this team well into the future,'' Govett said in a team news release.

Govett had little choice. The team was increasingly frustrated with Roik in the nets. He was lifted in the second quarter after allowing eight goals in Philadelphia last Sunday. The Mammoth lost the game 14-12.

Govett had high hopes for Roik when he signed him last October but now they've gone through two No. 1 goalies in half a season. Vet Chris Levis was the starter when the season began but he was quickly jettisoned in favor of Roik.

Roik was Toronto's No. 1 goalie when the 2012 season began and was released March 19 when Nick Rose was acquired. Now he is once again a midseason roster casualty.

Duch, Matthews top goal scorers

Washington's Rhys Duch and Edmonton rookie Mark Matthews lead all goal scorers with 25 each. Colorado's John Grant Jr. and Calgary's Curtis Dickson are next with 23 each.

Goals galore

How NLL offenses rank:

1. Calgary, 14.2 goals a game; 2. Minnesota, 12.4; 3. Washington and Edmonton, 12.3; 5. Toronto, 12.1; 6. Buffalo and Colorado, 11.1; 8. Rochester, 11.0; 9. Philadelphia, 10.9.

Wings flying high

Despite having the lowest-scoring offense in the NLL, the Philadelphia Wings dispelled their February blahs by winning two games last weekend — 10-8 in Rochester and 14-12 at home against Colorado.

''After our previous two outings at home when we got spanked by Rochester and Calgary, that was a real nice weekend for the players, coaches and fans, for sure,'' said GM-coach Johnny Mouradian. ''That's the results you get when everybody works hard together.''

The Wings are on the road against the Bandits on Friday and that game looms large: because they split two earlier meetings, the winner will hold the standings tiebreaker between the two teams. The game marks the 16-game schedule's halfway point for both clubs.

''We're banged up after two hard games,'' said Mouradian.

Jeff Reynolds turned an ankle when he stepped on a ball in the warmup Sunday and Brett Manney had to sit down with a sore hamstring.

''When you win, those things aren't as painful,'' Mouradian said during an interview.

''We have a very athletic team. We always have to remember that if we use our assets — size, strength and speed — we're going to have our best chance at being successful.''

The Wings should have Brendan Mundorf (ankle) and Eric Hoffman (knee) back in the lineup before their schedule ends. Jordan Sealock, who coaches at Robert Morris, also should be available during the latter stages of the season.

''The March 12 roster deadline is creeping up and we'll be needing depth going into the playoffs,'' said Mouradian.

Rabil steps it up

Paul Rabil's three-goal game last Sunday is further evidence he's adapting well to the new role the Wings gave him this season.

''When Paul was in San Jose and in Washington he was a D-tranny player,'' said GM-coach Johnny Mouradian. ''Talking with Paul at the beginning of the year, we made a commitment with him to play strictly O with the option to go back and play some D when necessary.

''When he was D-tranny, when he got into the offense it was a Paul Rabil play and a lot of the time that meant he'd be running the floor but ending up in a corner. Now he's involved in an offense, reading and reacting to situations, and he's working in those situations rather than going one on one against a defender. Also, he's been working a lot on shooting overhand to compliment his underhand and sidearm shots. So he's not going low as often as he once did. He's learning that part of the game. He's such a big strong athlete and he's so eager to learn.''

Losing streak over

Philadelphia's win in Rochester last week ended an 11-game, regular-season losing streak against the Knighthawks going back to 2009.

Not to worry

The Knighthawks are 3-5.

One year ago, they were 3-5, and they went on to win the championship.

''Every single week we need to keep on getting better and stick with that mentality,'' said star forward Cody Jamieson. ''We're at the halfway mark right now and there's a lot of hill still left to climb. That's a positive we can take out of it — we're only halfway through.''

Wings top Week 8 attendance

Biggest crowd last weekend was in Philadelphia where 8,606 — not counting all those dogs in the upper bowl — watched the Wings beat Colorado 14-12.

Elsewhere: 6,882 in St. Paul, Minn., where Edmonton beat the Swarm 14-9; 6,674 in Rochester, N.Y., where Philadelphia upset the Knighthawks 10-8; 6,292 in Edmonton for Minnesota's 13-8 win over the Rush; and 3,819 in Everett, Wash., where the Stealth edged Calgary 16-14.

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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