February 25, 2016
If Buffalo Bandits star Dhane Smith can maintain his pace of 8.3 points per game, he will shatter the single-season record of 130 set last season by Shawn Evans. (Larry Palumbo)
If Buffalo Bandits star Dhane Smith can maintain his pace of 8.3 points per game, he will shatter the single-season record of 130 set last season by Shawn Evans. (Larry Palumbo)

NLL Notebook: Smith on Pace to Shatter Points Record

by Neil Stevens | Twitter

Dhane Smith has opened up a 20-point lead in the scoring race and is the player everyone is talking about as the schedule reaches its midpoint.

The Buffalo Bandits star has 69 points, including 29 goals. Colorado's Callum Crawford is closest with 49 points. Both have played eight games. If Smith can somehow maintain his pace of 8.3 points per game, he will shatter the single-season record of 130 set last season by Shawn Evans when he was with Calgary.

Get this: Smith has either scored or assisted on 65 percent of his team's goals. No wonder they call the 6-foot-3 forward "The Great Dhane" in Banditland.

The other NLL players with more than 20 goals: Calgary's Curtis Dickson (24), Georgia's Johnny Powless (22), and Colorado's Adam Jones (21).

Smith has taken the most shots on goal (139). Others with more than 100 include Dickson (135), Jones (118), Evans (115), Toronto's Rob Hellyer (112), Crawford (110), Vancouver's Rhys Duch (107), and Vancouver's Corey Small (101).

APOLOGY TO DICKSON

The Vancouver Stealth apologized to Curtis Dickson for disrespectful remarks made by an in-game announcer after the Calgary player was named second star following a 14-13 overtime win over the Roughnecks last Saturday. It won't happen again, the Stealth promised.

Dickson scored five goals in the first half and was blanked in the second half, which enabled the Stealth to rally from a 12-5 deficit with eight consecutive goals in the last 20 minutes of regulation time. Corey Small's third goal of the night 1:16 into OT ended it. It was the most compelling comeback of the season to date and the biggest comeback win in Stealth franchise history.

GOALS BY GOALIES

Toronto's Nick Rose is the fourth active NLL goaltender to score a goal.

"I looked right and there was nobody there," he said of his big moment last Friday night. "Then I looked left and there was nobody there."

So he tossed the ball towards the empty Buffalo net, which was empty after an extra attacker had been sent on. It bounced in. Rose raised his arms in celebration and his teammates ran to his crease to congratulate him and Rock fans applauded the rare goalie goal. It was Toronto's last goal in its first win, 14-12 over visiting Buffalo, after starting 0-6.

"That was an awesome moment," said Rose. "I'm happy we were able to seal the deal."

Teammate Brandon Miller has scored twice – in 2009 when he played for Philadelphia and in 2004 when he played for the Stealth when they played out of San Jose, California. Tyler Richards scored a goal for the Vancouver Stealth last Feb. 28, and Rochester's Matt Vinc got one in 2008 as a member of the New York Titans.

The record for most goals by a goaltender (4) is held by the much-travelled Rob Blasdell. The now-defunct teams he scored them for: Albany (2), Philadelphia (1) and Arizona (1).

Rose's goal was the first by a goalie in franchise history, which goes back to 1998 when the team spent its first and only season playing out of Hamilton as the Ontario Raiders.

"We were kind of hoping that [Buffalo] would get one more and we'd hang on so not only would [Rose] get the goal but he'd also get the GWG," said coach John Lovell.

A WIN, FINALLY

Beating Buffalo ended the worst start, 0-6, in franchise history. What a relief.

"It feels good to win a game," said captain Colin Doyle. "It felt like we were real close last time but things just weren't working for us, so getting this one feels good. We battled through a lot against a great team to earn two points and hopefully that goes a long way for us."

Making the playoffs will be a longshot proposition now.

"We know we've dug ourselves an incredible hole," said coach John Lovell. "But you have to win one to get two so we'll just go from here. We haven't lost faith. The guys have been working just as hard in practises as always. There's no quit in there."

GOALIES TAKING HITS

During the fourth quarter of the Calgary-Vancouver game last Saturday, Calgary forward Wes Berg ran into and knocked down Stealth goalie Tyler Richards in his crease. No penalty was assessed.

During the second quarter of the Georgia-Buffalo game last Saturday, Shayne Jackson of the Swarm charged into the Bandits crease and toppled goalie Anthony Cosmo. No penalty was assessed.

It is a fine line. The league does not want to discourage forwards from diving into creases to try and score because fans love watching such attempts, yet, something more should be done to protect goalies from being upended on their goal lines and possibly suffering season-ending injuries.

COSMO SETS RECORD

With his 41st save last Friday, Cosmo moved past retired Toronto Rock goalie Bob Watson and became the league's all-time leader in regular-season saves.

"I'm honored to have the record, but unless I hoist the Champion's Cup as a starter, it's all for naught," said the 38-year-old resident of Orangeville, Ontario.

ON THE ATTACK

Average goals for per game:

1. Georgia: 13.8
2. Buffalo: 13.4
3. New England: 13.0
4. Colorado: 12.5
5. Rochester: 11.8
6. Saskatchewan and Vancouver: 11.7
8. Calgary: 10.8
9. Toronto: 10.3

ON THE DEFENSE

Average goals against per game:

1. Saskatchewan: 10.0
2. New England: 10.2
3. Rochester: 11.2
4. Colorado: 11.3
5. Calgary: 12.3
6. Buffalo: 12.8
7. Vancouver: 13.3
8. Georgia: 13.5
9. Toronto: 13.9

DEFENSE SAGS

Buffalo is traditionally one of the NLL's top teams on defense, but that is not the case as the schedule's first half comes to an end. Losing both games it played last weekend in failing to seize the chance to take over first place in the NLL East did not sit well with Bandits coach Troy Cordingley.

"We're not playing well defensively right now," he said. "We're awful."

WILL RORY SMITH REAPPEAR?

Vancouver defenseman Rory Smith has yet to suit up for a game this season, but the oft-concussed Stealth D-man has not given up. He is living on the West Coast and hopes to resume his career.

"Rory is working hard to get ready to return," says GM Doug Locker. "We are not placing a time line on it."

TAYLOR'S DEBUT

Dan Taylor made his pro indoor debut wearing No. 41 with Saskatchewan and picked up two assists in an 11-8 win over Rochester last Friday. The Rush got him with their first pick, 12th overall, in the 2015 draft. The native of Calgary played NCAA lacrosse at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and honed his indoor game with the Maple Ridge Burrards of the Western Lacrosse Association last summer.

"We wanted a bit of a different look on our left side," GM-coach Derek Keenan replied when asked why he inserted Taylor into the lineup. "He's worked extremely hard in practice. He worked so hard that he deserved the opportunity."

"He's an intelligent kid," he added. "He's a big body who can really shoot the ball. He plays with confidence. You don't want a guy to come in and be hesitant. He was really good. He gives us some depth on that side. He did a real nice job for us."

ANOTHER THOMPSON

Ty Thompson made his NLL debut wearing No. 19 with Rochester against cousin Jeremy Thompson of the Rush. The University of Albany grad had three shots on goal, but remains without an NLL point.

WHAT’S NEXT: WEEK 9

Every team plays as the schedule's first half draws to a close. Saskatchewan plays twice. All times EST.

FRIDAY

BUFFALO (4-4) AT SASKATCHEWAN (4-2), 8:30 p.m.

This will be the only scheduled meeting this season. The last time these teams met, on Jan. 3, 2015, the Bandits edged the Rush 9-8 in Buffalo. 

Last weekend, Buffalo lost 14-12 in Toronto and 19-15 at home against Georgia, while Saskatchewan won 11-8 at home over Rochester.

SATURDAY

VANCOUVER (3-4) AT COLORADO (6-2), 5 p.m.

This will be the third of four scheduled meetings. The first two were played in Langley, British Columbia. Colorado won 14-5 on Jan. 23 and Vancouver won 15-7 on Feb. 6. The fourth will be a schedule closer April 29 in Denver.

Last weekend, Vancouver rallied at home from a 12-5 third-quarter deficit to defeat Calgary 14-13 in overtime. Tyler Hass was activated for his first game this season and Tyler Garrison went on injured reserve.

Colorado had a bye last weekend.

ROCHESTER (3-3) AT TORONTO (1-6), 7 p.m.

This will be the third and final regular-season meeting. Rochester won 12-7 at Toronto on Jan. 14 and 12-5 at home Jan. 16.

Last weekend, Toronto won at home 14-12 over Buffalo with right-side attacker Brett Hickey sitting out with an injury, while Rochester lost 11-8 at Saskatchewan with right-side attacker Craig Point on injured reserve.

SUNDAY

GEORGIA (4-4) AT NEW ENGLAND (4-2), 3 p.m.

This will be the second of four meetings. New England won 11-6 at Georgia on Jan. 17. They'll square off twice in April.

Last weekend, Georgia won 19-15 in Buffalo with Zach Higgins getting the goaltending win in relief.
"He made some big saves and gave us a chance to claw back into it," said coach Ed Comeau.

Did that earn Higgins this start? We will see.

New England did not play. Next goal by Shawn Evans will be his 300th. Defenseman Andrew Suitor is nearing return off injured reserve.

SASKATCHEWAN AT CALGARY (3-5), 4 p.m.

This will be the third of four meetings. Saskatchewan won 10-8 at Calgary on Jan. 2 and 19-12 at home on Feb. 5. They go at it again in Saskatoon on April 2.

Saskatchewan will have played at home Friday against Buffalo.

Calgary lost in OT, 14-13, at Vancouver last Saturday. Dane Dobbie has missed two games and remains on injured reserve.

With Mike Poulin having relieved Frankie Scigliano in the fourth quarter against the Stealth, is it time he got a start? Perhaps.


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