NLL Notebook: Zack Greer's Amazing Night
by Neil Stevens | Twitter
The Saskatchewan Rush had two schedule byes in January so it took the reigning champs a while to get going but they are firing on all cylinders now, especially Zack Greer.
His seven-goal feat in a 19-12 win over Calgary last Friday included five consecutive goals in just two minutes 47 seconds. The only word for that is Incredible.
“We’re starting to put things together on offense,” he says. “With the breaks in the schedule last month, it took some time to get going. But a lot of the guys were getting (scoring) looks last game. That was my night for having them fall.”
He might have had a seven-goal game before, at Duke or in his final NCAA season at Bryant, he said, but never before in the NLL. The single-game league record is 10 and is shared by the NLL Hall of Fame twins, Gary Gait and Paul Gait.
Greer has scored 14 goals on 46 shots, giving him a .304 shooting percentage that is superior to other top goal scorers in the league. The closest anybody comes is Georgia’s Johnny Powless, who has 15 goals from 57 shots for a .263 shooting percentage. Calgary’s Curtis Dickson has a league-best 18 goals on 100 shots for a .180 shooting percentage.
Greer does not come by this level of shooting accuracy by accident.
“Over the last few years and going back to my college days, putting the ball on net has been one of my strengths,” he says. “I take pride in taking good shots. It is definitely something I’ve worked on.”
Greer lives in Los Angeles and is an investment analyst when not playing lacrosse. Every game is a long road trip. To get to home games, he flies from LA to either Calgary, which takes just under three hours, or Minneapolis, which takes three hours. A connecting flight then takes 69 minutes from Calgary or two hours from Minny. So, counting ground time, it takes him at least five to six hours each way. It helps to have a considerate weekday boss who affords him scheduling flexibility. He loves lacrosse so he keeps making the weekend treks.
“We’re having a blast in Saskatoon,” he says. “The city has been great, fan support has been great.”
Greer has won a world field championship, a world indoor championship, the MLL title, the NLL title and the Mann Cup summer club championship of Canada, and that one was special because he won it with his brother Bill Greer, the Toronto Rock defenseman. The Team Canada experiences, working the left side of offenses alongside Rush teammate Mark Matthews, have improved his overall play.
Zack Greer (center) after Canada's triumph in the 2015 Federation of International Lacrosse World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. (Neil Stevens)
“From a confidence standpoint, knowing you can play at that level has been important,” he explains. “I learned a lot playing with the best players in the world. It’s definitely been invaluable to my all-around game. The way you prepare for those kind of games, you learn to take nothing for granted.”
The Rush (3-1) will be in Denver to play the Colorado Mammoth (4-2) on Thursday.
“First place (in the West) will be on line and they’ll be out for revenge because we beat them last time” (12-10 in Saskatoon on Jan. 29), adds Greer.
RARE WINS FOR PENNEY, POULIN AND DIRUSCIO
Eric Penney stopped 40 of the 47 shots he faced to help Vancouver to a 15-7 home win over Vancouver. It was his finest NLL game. He began the season with one career NLL goaltending victory, which induced critics to wonder if a club relying on a goalie with such little pro experience could prosper. If he repeats what he did last Saturday, the Stealth could be a contender.
Other goalies who picked up rare wins Saturday were Mike Poulin and Dave DiRuscio.
Poulin was replaced by Frankie Scigliano as Calgary’s No.1 goalie last season and Scigliano has started every game this season but it was Poulin in a relief role who starred in the Roughnecks’ 12-11 win over visiting Georgia. The Swarm were up 7-3 when Poulin was summoned from the end of the bench. He shut the door and earned his 50th career win. He’s only 30 so he’s far from over the hill. Maybe this will earn him more floor time. Tyler Digby and Curtis Dickson, with five and four goals respectively, also had big hands in the come-from-behind thriller.
“We had to battle and we were able to pull it out,” said Digby.
The grit shown by all the Roughnecks to pull out that win was not surprising. It seems most men who play for coach Curt Malawsky play that way. Can he get water from a stone? Probably.
Meanwhile, DiRuscio, who seldom gets a start with Buffalo, got one Saturday when a lower body injury kept Anthony Cosmo from manning the creases. The backup stepped in to stop 43 of 53 shots in a 12-10 win over New England. One got the impression at times that it didn’t matter where Black Wolves forwards shot from because DiRuscio was not going to let a ball get past him.
The Stealth, looking to shore up their goaltending, announced Tuesday that they have signed goaltender Tyler Richards to a one-year contract.
Richards announced his retirement last spring citing concussion concerns but informed the team last month that he’d like to attempt a comeback. He participated in two practises so the coaching staff could assess his progress. It was thumbs up.
“I am so thankful for this opportunity from ownership and the coaching staff to allow me to come back to the team out of retirement,” he said. “I am really excited and can’t wait to run out on the floor with my teammates again.”
Richards, 29, will begin his eighth NLL season. The Stealth play in Rochester on Saturday. He was the winning goalie when the team won the Champion’s Cup in 2010. Last February, he became the first goalie since 2009 to score a goal.
“My body feels great and hopefully it doesn’t take too long for me to shake some of the rust off,” he said.
As for vying for playing time with Eric Penney, this is what he says: “First and foremost, I don’t want to enter the room and disturb any chemistry the team has going right now, especially after that big win last weekend against Colorado. As for Eric and myself, I hope we push each other the rest of the year as that is the recipe of having a successful goaltending tandem. He is a good young goaltender with a great future and is playing well this year.”
To make room for Richards, backup goalie Chris Levis was released.
SANDERSON IS BACK
The 0-5 Toronto Rock will have Josh Sanderson in the lineup for a road game against New England on Sunday.
The 38-year-old forward was banged up early in camp last autumn and unavailable for January games but after working with a trainer and participating in the last two Tuesday night practises he’s good to go.
“I expect to play Sunday,” he says. “I’m going to grind through what’s left (of the 18-game schedule) and do my best to help turn things around.”
Sanderson was the team’s leading point-getter last season, helping the Rock to the Champion’s Cup finals. He’s fourth on the all-time NLL career scoring list with 1,315 points, which is why he’s known as Shooter.
“I want to do a bit of everything,” he says as he contemplates his return. “I’m hoping to get loose balls, set picks, try to produce offensively, do whatever I’m asked to do. I’ll do whatever I can.”
After a weekend off, the Rock are approaching the trip to Mohegan Sun as a fresh start, which they’ll need if they want to make the playoffs out of a 0-5 start.
“It starts with one win,” says Sanderson. “We’ve got to be ready to go Sunday. Hopefully, we can get that first one, gain some confidence, and build off of it.”
BENESCH ON INJURED RESERVE
Buffalo star Ryan Benesch took a hit to the head in his previous game and was not in the lineup when the Bandits defeated New England 12-10 last Saturday. It was the first time in four years he’d missed a game. Benesch, who turned 31 last week, had scored nine goals in four games. He scored a league-high 55 last season.
FIRST NLL GOALS
With Benesch out, Tyler Ferreira got into his first NLL game, and he scored his first goal with an overhand shot from the top of the left side of the attack to put the Bandits up 8-2 in the second quarter. The six-foot-two lefty was the 18th player picked in the 2014 entry draft out of the Jr. A summer team in Brampton, Ontario. He is wearing No. 21.
Meanwhile, Vancouver put 21-year-old defenseman Ryan Wagner in its lineup for the first time and the first time he touched the ball he ran the floor and beat goalie Alex Buque over the right shoulder with an overhand shot on a breakaway for the game’s first goal at 1:21. It was an unbelievable baptism for the fifth-round draft pick, 42nd overall, from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. He attends Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is wearing 16 with the Stealth.
Alex Buque got the nod to start in goal for the Mammoth because Dillon Ward had a flu. Trying to mount a rally, the coaches sent in Ward in the third quarter but he allowed six goals on 14 shots and the game was lost.
SCHUSS AT HIS BEST
Vancouver forward Logan Schuss had three goals and six assists in the 15-7 win and has amassed 18 points in his last two games. The No. 1 overall draft pick of 2013 via Ohio State is loving playing in his home province.
1,400 FOR GRANT
A four-point night pushed John Grant Jr.’s career points total to 1,401. John Tavares, with 1,748 when he retired last year, is the only other player with more than 1,400.
JONES' STREAK EXTENDED
Adam Jones managed a goal with just under four minutes remaining to stretch to 53 his consecutive-games streak of scoring at least a goal a game.
RANKING THE OFFENSES
Goals for per game: 1. Saskatchewan and Colorado 13.0; 3. Georgia 12.8; 4. New England 12.2; 5. Buffalo and Rochester 11.8; 7. Calgary 10.8; 8. Vancouver 10.6; 9. Toronto 8.4.
RANKING THE DEFENSES
Goals against per game: 1. New England 9.0; 2. Rochester 10.3; 3. Saskatchewan 10.8; 4. Buffalo 11.0; 5. Calgary 11.8; 6. Georgia 12.0; 7. Colorado 12.6; 8. Vancouver 12.8; 9. Toronto 13.6.
Pat Maddalena scored three goals in a 15-minute Bandits alumni game at halftime Saturday and left without threatening to come out of retirement. So little defense was in evidence that even Flip Sanderson scored a goal. Randy Mearns claimed his Orange team won 9-7 before adding, “But I could be wrong.”
There are five games. Every team is in action. Colorado plays twice. All times EST:
SASKATCHEWAN (3-1) AT COLORADO (4-2), 9:30 p.m.
This will be the second of four meetings. Saskatchewan won 12-10 in Saskatoon on Jan. 29.
Saskatchewan, getting seven goals from Zack Greer, won 19-12 at home over Calgary last Friday. Colorado is coming off a 15-7 road loss against Vancouver. Mammoth captain Dan Coates to serve second game of two-game suspension.
VANCOUVER (2-3) AT ROCHESTER (2-2), 7:30 p.m.
This will be the only regular-season meeting. Rochester won 13-9 at Vancouver last April 18 in the only 2015 meeting. Vancouver is coming of a 15-7 home win over Colorado. Rochester had a bye last weekend. They play for in a row on the road after this one.
“We need to take care of business at home, for sure,” says defenseman Mike Kirk. “It’s a big game against an opponent who has done well on the road. They are coming off a big win against a very strong Colorado team so we need to be firing on all cylinders.”
COLORADO (4-2) AT CALGARY (3-3), 9 p.m.
This will be the first of three. The last time these teams played, in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, Calgary got three goals from each of Shawn Evans, Daryl Veltman and Curtis Dickson and 45-save goaltending from Frankie Scigliano to eliminate the Mammoth 11-6.
Colorado will have played at home Thursday against Saskatchewan.
Calgary played twice last weekend, losing 19-12 in Saskatoon before rallying at home from a 9-3 deficit to defeat Georgia 12-11.
BUFFALO (3-2) AT GEORGIA (3-3), 2 p.m.
This will be the first of three. Buffalo won both of the two it played against the Swarm in 2015.
Buffalo won 12-10 at home over New England last Saturday, while Georgia blew a 9-3 lead and lost 12-11 in Calgary.
TORONTO (0-5) AT NEW ENGLAND (3-2), 3 p.m.
This will be the first of two. Toronto was 3-0 against the Black Wolves in 2015.
Toronto had a bye last weekend and is looking to reboot its season with Josh Sanderson returning to the lineup. New England is coming off a 12-10 loss in Buffalo.
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