While first place in each NLL division has been sewn-up for a while, second and third place will be determined on the last day of the regular season. The penultimate evening of play saw one team eliminated from contention and another lose ground in the race for home floor. What will Saturday bring? A whole lot of emotion, that’s for sure.
Georgia 13 @ Rochester 10
Who would have thought, after the first month of play, that the Rochester Knighthawks would be challenging for a playoff spot? A four-game losing streak in February cast serious doubt on their ability to compete, but the team fought through player turnover and a multitude of player injuries to make a real run. Facing the first-place Georgia Swarm was the worst-case scenario for them as they would have had to have won both games in their home and home series this weekend to make the playoffs.
Three straight goals from the Swarm to open the game took the crowd out of Blue Cross Arena, but the Hawks rallied for four straight to take a 4-3 lead in the second quarter. Georgia retook the lead until Cory Vitarelli finished a pass from Kyle Jackson behind the net, going Air Dogger and scoring on a wraparound with most of his body still behind Mike Poulin’s net. Jordan Hall scored with six seconds left in the half to retake the lead for the Swarm at 6-5.
This was a game of runs, and while the Hawks tied it early in the third, the Swarm scored four straight to go up 10-6. Two from Rochester ended the third, but another Swarm three goal run, bolstered by undisciplined play from the Hawks to start the fourth, put the game out of reach.
For the Swarm, Shayne Jackson had two goals and five assists. Johnny Powless had three goals and two assists. Lyle Thompson and Jordan MacIntosh had two goals each and singles were scored by Hall, Kiel Matisz, Bryan Cole and Randy Staats, who also added four assists. Poulin made 50 saves.
Joe Resetarits led the Knighthawks with a hat-trick and four assists. Vitarelli and Jackson had two goals each, with Jackson also adding three assists. Dan Dawson, Jarrett Davis and Dan Lomas each had a goal. Matt Vinc made 41 saves.
Saskatchewan 10 @ Colorado 9
The Colorado Mammoth had a chance to take second in the west on Friday night but lost to first-place Saskatchewan Rush 10-9, meaning if Vancouver beats New England Saturday, Vancouver will take second place and home-floor advantage in the first round of playoffs. Colorado can do nothing now but wait for that final score.
The Mammoth desperately tried for a fourth quarter comeback, down 10-7 with five minutes to go. Joey Cupido scored on a fast-break at 11:14 and Eli McLaughlin put one in with the extra attacker at 13:45.
With 11 seconds to go, Jeremy Thompson threw himself on the ball but it popped free. Cameron Holding scooped it up and ran down but Bold stopped the shot.
Colorado had a 4-2 lead after the first quarter but a strong second quarter from the defending champions had the Rush up 6-5 at the half.
Ben McIntosh led the Rush with a hat-trick. Mark Matthews, Marty Dinsdale and Curtis Knight had two goals each. Ryan Keenan added a goal and four assists. Bold stopped 44 of 53 shots.
McLaughlin had three for the Mammoth. Chris Wardle and Jeremy Noble had two each with singles going to Cupido and Callum Crawford.