March 6, 2013

NLL Notebook: Wings Take Tiebreaker Over Buffalo

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

The Wings are in position to host a playoff game for the first time in 11 years.
© Philadelphia Wings

The Philadelphia Wings have ridden a three-game winning streak into second place in the NLL's East Division standings and, if they can hold on to it, they will earn a home playoff date for the first time in 11 years.

Their latest coup was a sensational 11-10 triumph in Buffalo last Friday night. The Wings trailed by three goals with six minutes left, tied it on a Jordan Hall goal with 3.7 seconds remaining in regulation time, and won it on a Drew Westervelt shot 2:14 into sudden death. Dramatic late saves by goalie Brandon Miller made the comeback possible.

''When it was 10-7, I'm still thinking to myself, 'I've got to keep it at 10 as long as I can.' We've done it before and, who knows, maybe we can just push it to overtime,'' Miller told Al Rosenhoch, the Bandits' beat writer for NLL.com. ''That's what I thought.''

And that is exactly what happened.

The win did more than move Philadelphia (5-3) ahead of Buffalo (5-4) into second place behind East leader Toronto (6-3). It gave the Wings the season series 2-1 over the Bandits, which will be the standings tiebreaker should the teams end their 16-game schedules with the same records.

Philadelphia plays its next two games at home — against Washington this Saturday and against Toronto one week later. The Wings rallied to win their first game against the Rock 8-7 back on Jan. 19 in Toronto so would bank another standings tiebreaker with a second win over the Rock.

GM-coach Johnny Mouradian's team is at Minnesota and Colorado on the March 29-30 weekend and another two-game weekend follows April 6-7 when the Wings are at Rochester (4-5) and at home against Minnesota. They finish up April 13 at home against Toronto and April 20 at Washington.

The last home playoff game was in 2002 when the Wings dropped a 12-11 decision to the Washington Power.

Prout reaches 300-goal milestone

Colorado captain Gavin Prout scored his 300th goal during the second quarter of his team's 12-11 home loss to Rochester last Saturday. He nearly got No. 301, which would have forced overtime, but the ball entered the net a split second after time expired.

''That's just the type of year it's been,'' Prout said of the 2-6 Mammoth. ''Right now, we've got to battle through those unfortunate incidents and, hopefully, we get some bounces our way the next few games.''

A challenging weekend lies ahead as the Mammoth play in Toronto on Friday and in Buffalo on Saturday.

Rubisch finds net

Kyle Rubisch's first goal of 2013 was a strange one.

The score was 2-2 when the Edmonton defenseman intercepted a Calgary pass deep in his end in the closing moments of the first quarter. The Roughnecks's net was empty because they had lifted goalie Mike Poulin and sent out an extra attacker for what they intended to be the quarter's last scoring chance.

Rubisch stuck out his stick to pick off a pass and quickly tossed the ball the length of the floor. It bounced just inside a post with one second remaining. The Rush led the rest of the way in winning 18-13.

Rubisch, 24, from Brampton, Ontario, was NLL defensive player of the year in 2012. He currently leads all defensemen with 29 forced turnovers.

Going back to Rochester

Edmonton's win in Calgary ended a 12-game losing streak against the Roughnecks in regular season play and we asked Rush defenseman Chris Corbeil to describe the team's post-game mood.

''The best word to describe the mood of the team following Saturday's win is relieved,'' said Corbeil. ''We managed to rid ourselves of the monkey on our back by finally beating the Roughnecks in a regular-season game.

''We'd felt almost cursed playing against the Roughnecks the past couple seasons so it was a major relief to get a convincing win.''

Corbeil said the Rush defense corps aims to finish games with greater oomph.

''Our defensive group needs to finish games stronger,'' he said. ''We aren't playing our best for the full 60 minutes. Our fourth-quarter performance has been atrocious as of late. Fortunately, it hasn't cost us any games because our offense has been providing us with large enough leads heading late into games. However, we know that as playoffs approach games will become tighter and it is essential that we don't let our foot off the gas late in games.''

Edmonton is off this weekend. On March 16, the Rush return to the site of their championship game loss last May.

''I'd personally love to be playing this weekend and keep the momentum going, especially with how great our offense has been playing,'' said Corbeil. ''It probably will be good to get some rest this weekend and allow some bumps and bruises to heal. Regardless, I can guarantee we'll be prepared for Rochester as we have something to prove given how things ended last season.''

Home floor woes

Home-floor advantage evaporated for most teams last weekend as Colorado, Buffalo, Toronto and Calgary all took it on the chin from visiting clubs.

Biggest crowd was in Denver where 16,118 watched the Mammoth lose their fourth consecutive game, 12-11, to Rochester. Most of the 14,036 fans in Buffalo were shocked into silence by Philadelphia's 11-10 OT stunner the night after the Bandits trotted into Toronto and bashed the Rock 15-13 in front of 8,213 witnesses. The Thursday night experiment resulted in one of the smallest crowds in Rock history. In Calgary, where 11,385 showed up, Edmonton led all the way in an 18-13 romp that ended a regular-season losing streak of 12 against the Roughnecks.

The only home team to win was Washington. The Stealth defeated Minnesota 11-8 in front of only 2,663 spectators in Everett.

Piling up the points

Shawn Evans, Calgary's five-foot-nine sparkplug, continues to lead the scoring race with 64 points (22 goals and 42 assists) in 10 games. With six games left, he is on pace to shatter his previous career best of 79 points, which he amassed last season with the Roughnecks and in 2009 when he played for Rochester.

Evans is the only player in lacrosse history to be on teams that won the Canadian junior and senior titles (2006 Peterborough, Ontario) and the NLL's Champion's Cup (2007 Rochester) all within 12 months.

Toronto's Garrett Billings is second in the NLL scoring race with 59 points (19-40) in nine games. Billings was named player of the month for February by the league after amassing 30 points (12-18) in four games.

Washington's Rhys Duch is third with 57 points (26-31) in 10 games.

John Grant Jr., the 2012 scoring champion and MVP, is tied for seventh with 46 points (25-21).

Matthews scores again

Sensational Edmonton rookie Mark Matthews scored three more goals during the weekend to increase his league-best total to 28 in 10 games. He's the rookie of the month for the second month in a row.

The 20-Goal Club has seven members so far: 1. Matthews 28; 2. Rhys Duch, Washington, 26; 3. John Grant Jr., Colorado, and Curtis Dickson, Calgary, 25 each; 5. Dane Dobbie, Calgary, 24; 6. Shawn Evans, Calgary, 22; 7. Athan Iannucci, Washington, 20.

The ball stops here

Rochester's Matt Vinc and Washington's Tyler Richards each have a .807 save percentage, which is best among all goalies who have played at least 300 minutes. How they stack up: 1. Vinc and Richards .807; 3. Nick Rose, Toronto, .793; 4. Brandon Miller, Philadelphia, .784; 5. Anthony Cosmo, Buffalo, .756; 6. Tyler Carlson, Minnesota, .753; 7. Aaron Bold, Edmonton, .743; 8. Mike Poulin, Calgary, .738.

Rock Activate Vyse

Toronto has moved Roger Vyse to the active roster from the practice squad, releasing Brandon Ivey because he has an ankle injury. Vyse, 31, who appeared in nine games with Buffalo last year and scored 10 goals. He spent seven years with the Bandits before being released in December.

''This gives us another weapon on the left side,'' said GM Terry Sanderson. ''He's a veteran guy and proven scorer in this league.''

Bauer grows lacrosse component

Bauer Performance Sports Ltd., a major supplier of hockey equipment, is expanding its lacrosse operations after recognizing that lacrosse is the fastest-growing team sport in North America.

The number of registered players in the United States is about to top the country's 500,000 registered hockey players.

''We are really excited about the growth of the market, in addition to our ability to bring high-performing products to those athletes,'' Bauer chief executive Kevin Davis told the Toronto Star.

An annual investment of $14 million in research and development will lead to equipment innovations, Davis said. For instance, he said, some of the pocket webbing on some brands of lacrosse stick heads is still being made from hockey skate laces.

''Clearly, with $14 million in R&D, I think we can do a little better.''

Looking back

March 13, 1986: Chris Fritz and Russ Cline incorporate the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League, which was the original name of what has evolved into the NLL.


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