Same Old Swarm Tease?
It feels like every year, the
Minnesota Georgia Swarm are hyped for their young players. How many prospects have the Swarm produced now? It’s countless. Are the four Swarm rookies this season more of the same? Randy Staats had one of the best NLL debuts in recent memory with a seven-point night on Friday against the Colorado Mammoth. Lyle Thompson scored a hat trick in his first-ever game. Jesse King and Chad Tutton each also scored their first NLL goals. All in all, the Swarm scored 15 goals, and eight of them came from the rookies. Georgia might be a dynamic and interesting team to watch in 2016, but let us not forget the teases of the past; the Swarm haven’t won more than seven games since the 2013 season.
Alex Buque’s Time to Shine
It came as a surprise on Friday night when Dillon Ward did not get the nod in net for Colorado. However, maybe it should not come as quite a shot. Alex Buque, a second-year goaltender, performed well when he played last season. He did play over 256 minutes with an impressive goals against average of 9.36, allowing just 40 goals and saving 168. Meanwhile, Ward, who before last year signed a five-year deal with the team, had a career worst 12.55 GAA. Maybe Ward isn’t being benched exactly, but for Buque to start the opener sends a message that the Mammoth might have more of a tandem than we expected.
Defense in Colorado and Georgia
Going into the season, it could have been expected that both the Swarm and Mammoth would struggle on defense, so a 16-15 final score between the two shouldn’t be surprising. However, seeing these defenses in actual application make the issue all the more visible. It doesn’t help that both teams, especially Colorado, have strong offenses. Georgia lost Greg Downing, and don’t have a veteran on D other than Mitch Belisle. It’s the inexperience of that defense that will remain an issue until they grow. In Colorado, it is simply a lack of personnel. Greg Downing, Robert Hope, and Creighton Reid are all good players, but another solid defender could put them over that edge.
Curtis Knight is Back, and He is a Playmaker
It might be easy to forget, since the
Edmonton Saskatchewan Rush are coming off of a title run, but the team was without 2014 leading goal scorer Curtis Knight. Knight returned on Saturday night in Calgary, and while he didn’t find the back of the net, he assisted on five tallies. Knight assisted on the first Rush goal of the season when Ben McIntosh scored in the second quarter. In fact, out of his five assists, they went to four different goal scorers; McIntish, Mark Matthews, Riley Loewen, and Robert Church. It took a while for Knight to look at home back in the NLL after missing a whole year, but his assist on the first goal of the game was the turning point for the Rush, and that’s no conicidence. There was some question as to where Knight would fit in on a stacked Rush offense, but a role as a playmaker might suit him nicely.
Where is the Calgary Offense?
The Roughnecks have been losing a lot for the past two seasons. Scott Ranger retired before last year, and Shawn Evans was traded away. Curtis Dickson is now the face off the offense, and though he is coming off of a 93 point season, is he enough to carry the team? In 13 shots attempted last night, Dickson only netted two goals. The Roughnecks are attempting to replace the 130 point production from Evans with three players; Tyler Digby, and rookies Wes Berg and Riley O’Connor. Digby produced 38 goals in Vancouver last year, but in his first game as a Roughneck, he had just a lone assist. Berg had three points in his first NLL game, one being a goal, while O’Connor had just an assist. Meanwhile, the rest of the Calgary scoring was also stagnant. Dane Dobbie had his four points, but former MVP Jeff Shattler just a goal and an assist. And secondary scoring was nonexistent, with zero points from Brandon Goodwin. The Roughnecks did face a tough Saskatchewan defense, but there has to be concern as to where the points are going to come from for the Riggers.