National Lacrosse League 2014: Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Jim Flannery@@calgaryjimboAnalyst IJanuary 24, 2014

The Rochester Knighthawks remain the team to beat in the NLL.
The Rochester Knighthawks remain the team to beat in the NLL.B. White/Getty Images

After a very busy Week 4 schedule, with seven games played, the National Lacrosse League's Week 5 slate is a little less hectic, with just three games on tap, all on Saturday.

The Rochester Knighthawks and Edmonton Rush will both put their undefeated records on the line this weekend, both on the road. The Knighthawks will visit the surging Buffalo Bandits, while the Rush travel to Vancouver to face the Stealth.

The third game features the Calgary Roughnecks hosting the Colorado Mammoth in a game that is important for both teams to win in a tight West Division.


Rochester Knighthawks (3-0) at Buffalo Bandits (3-1)

The Knighthawks are looking very good right now in their quest to three-peat as NLL champions. They have not given up more than nine goals in any of their games, averaging 7.7 goals against, while scoring 11 goals per game.

The centerpiece of the team once again is Matt Vinc, the defending Goaltender of the Year. Vinc's 7.67 goals against average is best in the league, as his .833 save percentage.

Dylan Evans and Scott Self are gobbling up loose balls in front of Vinc, with both having collected 18 so far this season.

Dan Dawson (5 G, 14 A) and Cody Jamieson (7 G, 9 A) remain the movers and shakers on offense for the K'Hawks. 

The Bandits are looking better and better every week, having run off of three straight wins following a Week 1 defeat. Last weekend they put the hurt on the Mammoth, winning 16-9 in Denver.

Sophomore Dhane Smith is leading the scoring parade with 10 goals and 13 assists, while Ryan Benesch (7 G, 14 A) seems to be getting more and more comfortable with his new team after the Minnesota Swarm traded him to the Bandits in the offseason.

After a rough start to the year, goalie Anthony Cosmo has rebounded nicely, having given up only 10 goals per game in the last three, compared to 13 in just three quarters in the season opener.

Head coach Troy Cordingley seems to have the Bandits on track now, but I still don't expect them to be able to match the skill level of Rochester, particularly if veteran forward John Tavares is unavailable for a second-straight game. I give the one goal edge to the Knighthawks.


Colorado Mammoth (1-5) at Calgary Roughnecks (2-2)

The Mammoth are in a bit of a tailspin in the midst of a gruelling start to the season. They've already played six games in just four weeks and have lost four in a row.

The good news is that the offense is still looking pretty good and could be ready to show some significant improvement. Adam Jones has been a beast so far, leading the NLL in points (29), goals (16) and even forced turnovers (11). John Grant Jr. is just one point behind Jones at 28. 

The addition last week of sniper Athan Iannucci should start to pay dividends as he gets more comfortable with the team. He has a modest four points in two games but could easily catch fire and give Colorado another serious rightie threat. 

The Roughnecks have been up and down so far this year, getting blown out twice and winning solidly at home twice. Their first win of the season was against this same Mammoth squad, so they do have that in their favor, but question marks still remain. 

The Roughnecks have already given up 33 penalty kill situations in four games, putting serious pressure on goalie Mike Poulin to come up big. If they hope to remain competitive in a tough division, they're going to have to cut down on the penalties.

Shawn Evans is once again leading Calgary with 23 points, while Dane Dobbie has 14 goals scored.

If the pattern holds for Calgary's see-saw season, this is a game where the team will come out flat. Colorado, meanwhile, is desperate for a win and should come out of the gate with all guns a-blazing. I'm expecting the Mammoth to win this one by two goals.


Edmonton Rush (3-0) at Vancouver Stealth (2-2)

After losing Corey Small to a season-ending knee injury over the summer, it was looking like the Edmonton Rush might be in some trouble this year. That hasn't been the case. 

The Rush are currently plus-21 in just three games and have yet to look seriously challenged. 

Aaron Bold has been terrific in net, with an 8.00 goals against average, while Mark Matthews is averaging seven points per game on the other end of the floor. 

The Rush have a great offense, relentless defense and a goalie who makes all the stops.

Vancouver still seems to be trying to find its way. All of the Stealth's games have been decided by three goals or fewer, but they still aren't looking like the team that represented the West Division in the Champion's Cup three times in the last four years.

The Stealth's offense runs five players deep and is once again led by Rhys Duch, with 11 goals and nine assists. 

Tyler Richards has been solid in net, posting an 11.39 goals against average and giving Vancouver a shot at winning every game.

In my opinion, the Rush are simply too strong right now to be denied. I'm looking for Edmonton to win by three.


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