National Lacrosse League 2012: Week 7 Preview and Predictions
On Saturday, we have eight of the league's nine teams doing battle in several very interesting matchups.
They feature teams that are up, teams that are down, and one team that has suffered a major blow due to suspensions.
We'll start with my predictions:
Philadelphia Wings (3-2) vs. Toronto Rock (3-2)
The Philadelphia Wings are coming off a big win last week against the Buffalo Bandits. The Rock, meanwhile, just spent their bye week feeling pretty good about a 15-6 thrashing they gave the Wings on Feb. 4.
The Wings, therefore, will be looking to extend their winning streak and will be itching to get some vengeance. The winner takes sole possession of first place in the East Division.
Philly's offense is being powered by big Dan Dawson (31 pts), team goals leader Drew Westervelt (14 goals), and Rookie of the Year candidate Kevin Crowley (23 pts).
The Wings will be looking to this combination to continue to score the ball early and often.
Who Will Win?
Brodie Merrill is continuing to stand out on transition, leading the Wings with 50 loose balls, and goalie Brandon Miller is settling in between the pipes with a solid .747 save percentage.
On the Toronto side, the offense has been paced by Josh Sanderson (28 pts) since Colin Doyle and Blaine Manning went down with injuries.
Shooter is doing a good job of picking the pace up after a slow start and, along with team points leader Garrett Billings (29 pts), should provide the scoring punch for the team.
Matt Roik has gotten better and better in the net as the season has progressed and is currently sitting with the second best goals against average in the NLL, at 10.70.
Although Toronto will be looking for payback on their home floor, I think Philadelphia is playing too well for a banged up Rock squad. Look for the Wings to prevail, 13-10.
Washington Stealth (1-4) vs. Rochester Knighthawks (2-4)
Washington travels across country for a visit to Rochester Saturday night, and will be facing a team that is reeling after the indefinite suspensions of five of their players.
Who Will Win?
This should give the struggling Stealth squad a massive advantage going into the game.
The Stealth dropped a game last weekend to the Calgary Roughnecks that featured over 160 minutes in penalties, most of which were assessed during seven first quarter fights.
Despite that setback, Washington also made headlines by making a major deal with Edmonton, sending top notch transition player Paul Rabil north in exchange for scorer Athan Iannucci, who has been a holdout so far this year.
The addition of Iannucci to the Stealth offense instantly makes them one of the deadliest offenses in the league.
Mixing his scoring touch with Rhys Duch (27 pts) and Lewis Ratcliff (22 pts) gives Washington three players who can score the ball almost at will.
Although he took the loss last weekend, goalie Tyler Richards had an outstanding night, turning aside 59 shots. Look for more of the same this weekend.
Rochester, meanwhile, is facing some major adversity in the midst of a tumultuous start to the season.
Who Will Win?
Following a bar brawl in Minnesota after their Saturday game, Knighthawks Tyler Burton, Cody Jamieson, Jordan Hall, Travis Hill and Sid Smith were arrested and hit with various charges.
The NLL has suspended the five players indefinitely for their involvement in the altercation.
The upshot is that Rochester will be without their top scorer (Jamieson); their No. 1 faceoff man (Burton); their No. 2 faceoff man (Hill); a key scorer (Hall); and a key defenseman (Smith).
Just fielding a team will be a challenge; fielding a competitive one will be nearly impossible.
Short of goalie Matt Vinc (11.95 GAA) stepping up and having the game of his life, expect Washington to win this one pretty easily.
I'm calling it 14-9 for the Stealth.
Who Will Win?
And now for Shea's predictions:
Minnesota Swarm (3-2) vs. Colorado Mammoth (5-0)
The first game of my prediction is the Swarm vs. the Mammoth at Minnesota (Saturday Feb. 18, 6 p.m. MT)
This will be an interesting game involving a surging Swarm team, and the rested Mammoth program.
The latter will be coming off a week long rest, while the Swarm had two games last weekend.
The Mammoth is still being led by its tandem of John Grant and Adam Jones, while the Swarm is led by Callum Crawford at 33 points.
One key for the Swarm is its No. 2 faceoff man in the league, Jordan Macintosh.
The Mammoth must delegate faceoffs by committee, as they do not have a solid faceoff player. This could create important possessions for the Swarm.
This game will have the No. 3 and No. 4 best goaltenders in the goals against average stat category—Chris Levis and Tyler Carlson.
Look for the rested Mammoth to take it to the Swarm 14-10 on the road.
Edmonton Rush (1-3) vs. Calgary Roughnecks (3-2)
This west division game will be one most of the fans in the league will be watching (Calgary, Saturday Feb. 18, 7 p.m. MT).
That is due mainly to one big addition to the Rush—Paul Rabil.
As most of you know, Paul Rabil was sent there from the Stealth in exchange for Athan Iannucci.
In my opinion, Paul Rabil will be a major factor in this game—a major addition to Shawn Williams, Zack Greer and Ryan Ward.
On the other side of the floor, the Roughnecks are in a good spot at 3-2 in the young season. They are led by Jeff Shattler, who has amassed 22 points over the first five games.
I think this matchup will involve several altercations throughout. These are bitter rivals with playoff positioning on the line.
The referees will be busy throughout this game.
Look for a defensive battle with the Rush pulling off the victory 10-7.
Shea Haney 6-6
Jim Flannery 4-7
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