February 26, 2014

NLL Notebook: Swarm Stay Alive in Philadelphia

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

The Swarm are 2-7, with both wins coming against the Wings, including this past weekend.

Minnesota should play all of its games in Philadelphia. It has won only two of its nine games, and both victories were achieved in Wells Fargo Center _ 15-14 Sunday and 11-10 back on Jan. 18.

Strong finishes have been a Swarm strength this season. They gave up the first four goals and trailed 11-6 Sunday but staged their second sensational rally in two nights to pull out a win. In Toronto the previous night, they were down 13-4 after three quarters and scored seven in a row to scare Rock fans before falling 14-12.

If they could only start games the way they finish them, their record would be much better. The late-game rallies prove one thing: this is not a group that is going to be throwing in the towel on a game or on the season. Despite the 2-7 record, captain Andrew Suitor and his teammates remain convinced that better days lie ahead, and coach Joe Sullivan keeps reinforcing that belief in his players.

''We've just got to keep moving forward,'' says Suitor.

The Swarm have a schedule bye this weekend. Their next home game is March 16 versus Toronto. They complete their 18-game schedule at home against Toronto on April 26. If they win both those games, they could still make the playoffs because they would have the edge in season-series tiebreakers with both Toronto and Philadelphia.

STEALTH DEFENSE DEPLETED

Vancouver defensemen Kyle Sorensen and Chris O'Dougherty were both to undergo arthroscopic surgery late this week and will be lost to the Stealth for six to eight weeks.

''Obviously, losing veterans players like Kyle and Chris for an extended period of time is not the news we wanted heading into the second half of the season,'' says GM Doug Locker. ''These guys are virtually impossible to replace but we have immense confidence in our defensive corps and will ask them to step up in a big way during the time that Kyle and Chris are out of our lineup.''

Locker has signed Jamie Lincoln, who was released by Colorado earlier this season, and Brad Richardson, who played for Colorado in 2010 and 2011, and placed both on the active roster. He also signed Brad Kri, recently released by Toronto, and assigned him to the practise roster.

RETHINK THIS RULE

Fighting in any team sport doesn't appeal to me. Concussions are a serious enough problem without punches to the head causing more of them. Lacrosse is about scoring goals and no player has ever scored from the penalty box.

All that aside, one has to question the fairness of the NLL rule that ejects a player cited by a referee as an instigator of a fight. Minnesota captain Andrew Suitor was sent to the showers at 9:09 of the first quarter in Toronto last Saturday night for being the so-called instigator in a fight with Billy Hostrawser. Now, Hostrawser is no shrinking violet. It does not take much more than a wink from an opponent for him to drop the gloves so to conclude that he was an innocent bystander outrageously set upon by Suitor was to stretch the imagination to its outer limits.

Hostrawser got into another fight later in the game and was ejected. He's an aggressive player. To deprive Minnesota of its captain and one of its best players for the last three quarters seemed over-the-top punishment for what these eyes saw.

DOBBIE CONTINUES HOT PACE

Calgary's Dane Dobbie leads the NLL with 26 goals after overtaking Colorado's injured Adam Jones, who had 25 before missing the last two games with a separated shoulder. John Grant Jr. of the Mammoth, Vancouver's Rhys Duch and Toronto's Stephan Leblanc are next with 22 each. Nobody else has reached 20.

Calgary posted one of the most exciting come-from-behind wins of the season by outscoring Rochester 5-1 in the fourth quarter and beating the visiting Knighthawks 12-11 last Saturday, and Dobbie scored the winning goal.

SCHUSS HAS BREAK-OUT GAME

Minnesota's Logan Schuss scored five goals Sunday to tie Vancouver's Tyler Digby for most by a rookie this season. They each have 16. Digby has played 10 games and Schuss nine. The previous single-game high for Schuss, the No. 1 draft pick out of Ohio State last September, was two goals. Seven of his goals have been scored on power plays, tying him for second spot in the league in that category.

BILLINGS HAS MOST POINTS

Toronto's Garrett Billings took over the league lead in points when he amassed nine assists in a 14-12 home win over Minnesota last Saturday night. The former Virginia star has 58 points while 2013 scoring champ Shawn Evans of the Roughnecks has 51 after eight games for each. John Grant Jr. has 53 points in 10 games.

AVOIDING PENALTIES

Brad Self of the Knighthawks, Curtis Hodgson of the Stealth and Alex Crepinsek of the Swarm are the only NLL defensemen who have played all of their teams' games without being assessed a penalty. As for the forwards, Kyle Buchanan has yet to sit in a penalty box after playing all 10 Wings games. Kasey Beirnes of the Rock and Daryl Veltman and Curtis Dickson of the Roughnecks have gone all eight of their teams' games without a penalty.

DON'T SHOOT !

Six players are in the running for the mythical award for best stay-at-home-defenseman: Buffalo's Billy Dee Smith, Calgary brothers Greg and Jon Harnett, and Rochester's Mike Kirk, Paul Dawson and Sid Smith. None of them have missed a game, and none of them have taken a shot on goal this year.

ATTENDANCE DOWN

After a slight increase in overall attendance last year, it is discouraging to see a dip 39 games into 2014. The average crowd is 9,389. It was 9,663 at the end of 2013.

Edmonton and Rochester are the only teams showing increases.

How the teams are faring (number of home games in parenthesis):

1. Colorado (5) 15,134
2. Buffalo (5) 13,011
3. Toronto (5) 10,185
4. Calgary (5) 9,934
5. Minnesota (3) 7,958
6. Edmonton (3) 7,695
7. Rochester (4) 7,535
8. Philadelphia (5) 6,457
9. Vancouver (4) 3,867.

The Stealth's move north hasn't paid off as yet. The team averaged 4,184 a game in Everett, Wash., last year.

HARD TO STOP

Rochester forward Dan Dawson gets bashed around during his frequent leaps into creases trying to score goals but, somehow, he avoids injury. When he suits up in Denver this weekend, he'll be playing in his 188th straight regular-season game. He'll move into a tie with Toronto's Colin Doyle and retired transition player Steve Toll for second place on the consecutive-games list. Buffalo's Shawn Williams is first with 220 straight games.

TIME LINE

March 16, 1986: Chris Fritz and Russ Cline incorporate the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League. Play begins in 1987 with the Washington Wave, Baltimore Thunder, New Jersey Saints and Philadelphia Wings.


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