It was an exciting week two in the National Lacrosse League over the weekend, starting with the odds on favourite Calgary Roughnecks losing 16-11 in a lopsided affair versus the Toronto Rock and finishing with a nail biter that saw the Colorado Mammoth edge the Vancouver Stealth 13-12.
The Rock had several standout players in their home opener on Friday. Garrett Billings was the set up man of the weekend, finding open teammates anywhere and everywhere; he chipped in with 9 assists to go along with a goal. Jesse Gamble played a stellar defensive game, showing off his speed on several occasions while adding a goal, 8 loose balls and 3 forced turnovers. Colorado’s Adam Jones (3 goals 1 assist), Vancouver’s Rhys Duch (4 G, 2 A) as well as Calgary’s Jeff Shatler (4G, 2A) and Shawn Evans (1 G, 7 A) also stood out from the pack but were all nudged out slightly by these clear standouts; here are the NLL Three Stars for Week 2.
Third Star: Dillon Ward of the Colorado Mammoth.
Although he has yet to get a start, Dillon Ward has seen action in both Mammoth games this season. Ward picked up his first NLL win on Saturday versus the Vancouver Stealth after he came in to relieve starter Tye Belanger at 4:14 into the second quarter with his team trailing 4-3. Ward let in a quick one shortly after coming in but then stood strong for the remainder of the game. He made big saves in the second half which allowed his team to mount a comeback and gain their first lead going into the final quarter. Midway through the fourth the Stealth would tie the score at 11 but thanks to Ward they would never get their lead back.
Second Star: Stephan Leblanc of the Toronto Rock.
Standing out for the Toronto Rock in a game they controlled for three quarters is a tough task but Stephan Leblanc managed to do just that on Friday night. Leblanc had five nice goals on 11 shots while notching two assists in Toronto’s decisive 16-11 home opening win against Calgary. He scored his biggest goal at 7:48 into the third as Calgary was on a 4-1 run and looked to be staging a comeback. That goal shifted momentum temporarily and got Toronto to the end of the third before any more damage could be done in that quarter. Leblanc would add two more goals in the final frame as he was named the game’s first star.
First Star: Alex Gajic of the Vancouver Stealth.
Gajic returned to action Saturday night after suffering a near career ending eye injury in the off season following the 2011 NLL campaign. His former team the Colorado Mammoth placed him the injured reserve to start the 2012 season and his future was up in the air. Gajic did return that year but only for two games and before Saturday he hadn’t played since February 24, 2012. There was no rink rust on Gajic though as the 26-year-old looked poised, comfortable and confident out there while picking up a goal and 7 assists. Gajic’s successful return to lacrosse has earned him the First Star for Week 2.
Honourable mention goes out to Roughnecks goalie Mike Poulin. Although he took the loss in a 16-11 defeat in Toronto, Poulin was exceptional between the pipes. After a shaky start he was able to regroup and make some big saves as the Rock peppered him with 60 shots.
Drew Westervelt of the Colorado Mammoth had 3 goals on just 5 shots with his third goal being one of the sweetest goals you will ever see. He took the ball down the left and appeared to be circling around the Stealth net when he performed a dunk move from behind the net, fooling goaltender Tyler Richards. Westervelt also assisted on two other goals.
Scott Arnold is Lead Writer for In Lacrosse We Trust and the Director of Broadcasting for the Lacrosse Radio Network. He is also the play by play voice for the Canadian Lacrosse League (CLax), Major Series Lacrosse (MSL) and the Peterborough Jr. ‘A’ Lakers. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottArnold12.