By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
Just when the National Lacrosse League season ended for the Washington Stealth April 28 at Comcast Arena, business started to pick up for the remaining eight teams in the league. In the past week several season awards have been handed out as well as the NLL’s first-round playoff games taking place last Friday and Saturday.
Here is the week in review starting with the games.
The West Division playoffs saw two upsets as the Edmonton Rush defeated the top-seeded Calgary Roughnecks 19-11 to advance to the East Division final. The Rush had lost to the Roughnecks all four times the teams had played in the regular season, but finally scored the upset when it mattered most.
The Rush’s opponent in the West Division finals is also unexpected after the Minnesota Swarm scored a 14-10 victory over second-seeded Colorado. The Swarm overcame five goals from Mammoth forward John Grant Jr. to continue their late season charge and move just two wins away from a championship.
Things held serve in the East Division playoffs, but it wasn’t easy for either team. Toronto got back to the East Division final with a 7-6 victory over the Buffalo Bandits led by goalkeeper Nick Rose. Rose stopped all 21 shots he faced in the second half to lead the Rock to the victory. With a win this weekend, the Rock would make their third consecutive appearance in the NLL championship game.
The Rock’s opponent in the East Division final will be the second-seeded Rochester Knighthawks. The Knighthawks narrowly defeated the Philadelphia Wings, 14-13 to set up a date with the Rock.
Both NLL semifinals will take place this Saturday.
Before we get to the yearly awards, Toronto’s Garrett Billings and Minnesota’s Jordan MacIntosh earned Player of the Month honors for April. Billings was named the Player of the Month as he scored nine goals, dished 19 assists and picked up 16 loose balls as the Rock went 3-1 and entered the playoffs as the East’s top seed. Billings also made a run at the NLL’s single season points record, coming up just short of John Grant Jr., who broke the record this year with 116 points. Billings finished the season with 114.
MacIntosh was named the Rookie of the Month after helping the Swarm’s late season charge into the playoffs. He was twice named Transition Player of the Week in April.
The NLL kicked off its yearly awards last Thursday with a bang, handing out the league’s Most Valuable Player award to Grant Jr. The 37-year-old helped the Mammoth to the league’s second-best record to go along with his all-time points record, a feat he accomplished in just 14 games after missing two games due to injury.
Colorado stayed on the podium when the league handed out its second yearly award the following day to Adam Jones. Jones was named the league’s Rookie of the Year after leading all rookies with 76 points on 29 goals and 47 assists.
On Monday, the league honored Rochester rookie Johnny Powless with the Sportsmanship award which encompasses stellar play and respect of the game.
Minnesota’s John Arlotta won the General Manager of the Year award on Tuesday. Arlotta has his Swarm in the West Division finals after a roster overhaul at the end of last season and a coaching change. Arlotta’s shift to a youthful lineup appears to have worked out after the Swarm scored an upset over Colorado last weekend to get within one game of the NLL Champion’s Cup.