Last weekend saw the first action of the 2015 NLL season as the first round of preseason games came and went. What did we learn from the action?
Rochester Knighthawks: The Knighthawks packed the barn. While the tickets were free, it was a great way to get the 2015 hype going for the defending champs. Over 10,000 were in attendance for the preseason game against the Minnesota Swarm. They also had their “7th Man” ceremony as a long time season ticket holder won a 2014 championship ring identical to that of the team. It’s great to see the relationship between the City of Rochester and the Knighthawks continuing to grow after all these years.
Toronto Rock: Unfortunately for Rock fans, the new look offense didn’t get a look. Many of the big names were out for their one game against the Calgary Roughnecks as the younger players were under evaluation. We didn’t get to learn much as they only put five goals together on the day, so we’ll have to wait and see what they do in the coming weeks.
Buffalo Bandits: The Bandits hosted the New England Black Wolves, winning by a late goal from Jerome Thompson. Again, with a limited roster, they were paced by Aaron Wilson who had six points on the night (2 G, 4 A) which is particularly impressive given his 2014 total of 13 points. Especially encouraging was the lefty Thompson, who had two goals and three assists, since a stated goal for the Bandits is to build depth on that side behind Ryan Benesch and John Tavares.
New England Black Wolves: In their first real action of the preseason, the Black Wolves had a good showing against the Bandits. Only losing by a goal, it shows they are immediately in a good spot at this point in the preseason. A big (literally) story is free agent defender Bill O’Brien. His physical play was noticed in training camp, and his name might get some recognition in the league as he delivered a hit to the Bandits’ Jamie Rooney that left Rooney without four of his teeth. It cost him a major which led to multiple goals for Buffalo, so we’ll see if the coaching staff might have to ask him to dial things back a little bit.
Minnesota Swarm: Where to start? The Swarm’s weekend went about as well as planned. Recently acquired goalie Brodie MacDonald was stellar against the Knighthawks. While facing nearly the full starting offense in Rochester, he turned away shot after shot. What overshadowed MacDonald was Miles Thompson’s huge weekend. He was virtually automatic on the outside if his hands were free. He didn’t show much interior work, but if he shoots all year like he did for the weekend, he may not need to.
Calgary Roughnecks: This offense is dangerous. With Shawn Evans, Jeff Shattler, and Curtis Dickson not playing against the Rock, Dane Dobbie led Matty Dinsdale, Casey Jackson, and others to a dominating win. As mentioned before, the Rock were not at full strength, but the Roughnecks look ready to fight their way back into the Cup finals. Geoff Snider also seemed completely unaffected by the new faceoff rules being tried out, so have fun with that, NLL. The next day, they would fall to the Swarm, who continued their high scoring ways.
Edmonton Rush: The Rush ran most of their full roster in a 13-6 win over the Stealth. The Rush had virtually no holes in their team last year and didn’t lose much to free agency. What’s even more encouraging is their number one draft pick, Ben McIntosh notched a few goals and should be an immediate contributor. Based on this performance, Rush fans can keep their optimism high.
Colorado Mammoth: In their only action this weekend, the Mammoth visited the Stealth in what would prove to be the stealthiest lacrosse game this weekend. There was no broadcast, neither team published rosters, neither team’s website posted a recap, but we know that they won 14-11. After the game, the Mammoth’s GM posted a blog on the team website about optimism, so things must have been good! Go Mammoth! I think!
Vancouver Stealth: While the Stealth lost both games this weekend, they took the opportunity to do a lot of community outreach. The first game was a season ticket holder event that was very well attended at their practice facility. They then spent some time on Sunday visiting with the Squamish Nation, who are just north of Vancouver. The Stealth are still trying to gain a foothold in the British Columbia community and are doing great things helping to grow the association between lacrosse and the first nations in the region.
Refs in helmets? It’s not a first for indoor lacrosse, but it looks like the refs will be wearing helmets without cages, similar to what you see in hockey. While I don’t know of anything specific last year that may have caused this, it’s an easy and good move for safety. With all the attention towards concussions and helmet safety in lacrosse (see Helmet Gate), the old saying of “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly fits here.