March 29, 2012

Levis Busy, Holding Strong in Colorado Net

by Neil Stevens |

Chris Levis and the Colorado Mammoth are the first team to clinch an NLL playoff spot this season.
© Colorado Mammoth 

Chris Levis is thriving under a heavy workload.

The Colorado Mammoth goaltender has made more saves, 471, than any other National Lacrosse League goalie in helping his team become the first to clinch a playoff berth. Levis has recorded a league-best nine wins for the 9-3 Mammoth.

''We're meeting our expectations,'' says Levis. ''We're playing well. It feels good to have that playoff spot clinched. Now we want to lock up home floor going down the stretch.''

The battle for first in the West Division and first overall is far from finished, however, as the Calgary Roughnecks, 8-3, remain just one-half a game behind Colorado. They are the only teams among the nine with records above .500.

Colorado's four remaining games: Saturday afternoon at Rochester; April 14 at home against Toronto; April 20 at home against Edmonton; and April 28 at Minnesota.

Calgary's five remaining games: Friday at Minnesota; Saturday at home against Washington; April 6 at home against Rochester; April 14 at Rochester; and April 28 at Edmonton.

How the Goalies Stack Up

Calgary is allowing a league-low 10.4 goals against, on average, and Mike Poulin has logged most of the minutes in the nets. His 9.84 GAA is best in the league.

As for save percentages, considering goalies who have logged a minimum 180 minutes, Minnesota's Evan Kirk's .811 is best although he's played far fewer minutes than the others. Poulin is second with a .790 save percentage, and the .789 by Washington's Tyler Richards is remarkable given his team's 4-8 record.

Levis and Edmonton's Aaron Bold have identical .768 save percentages and Rochester's Matt Vinc comes in at .766. Next are Buffalo's Mike Thompson, .751, and Philadelphia's Brandon Miller, .750. Tyler Carlson is last at .732 in sharing the Minnesota job with Kirk.

Steve Toll Returns

The stats line for Steve Toll upon his return to the NLL with the Edmonton Rush last Saturday night was unimpressive: no points, no loose balls and one turnover in a 10-9 home win over Washington. He couldn't have cared less.

''We got the win and that's all that matters,'' says Toll. ''It had been eight months since I played so I eased into it. I'm not there to get points. I'm there to help the younger guys and help the team get into the playoffs.''

Edmonton signed the 37-year-old unrestricted free agent last week. He played for Colorado last season and had been idle until Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan lured him back to help his team make a late-season push.

''I think I fit in quite nicely,'' Toll said during an interview. ''They play a pressure defense, which I'm familiar with, and their goaltender, Aaron Bold, has played well all season.

''They've had the defense. They've just needed to get the offense winning.''

Zach Greer's four-goal effort got things going Saturday.

''Winning is contagious and fun so, hopefully, we can keep it going,'' says Toll.

Toll introduced himself to his new teammates when they all showed up for a practise last Friday night, and Toll admitted to feeling a few aches and pains on game day. Toll and Keenan defined his role before he pulled on the sweater.

''He'll help our penalty kill and he's a great guy on the bench and in the room,'' says Keenan.

''I know my limitations,'' says Toll. ''Hopefully, I'll get another championship out of the deal.

''I wouldn't come back if I felt they didn't have a chance. We're 3-7 and we have a game in hand. This league will go down to the last weekend. It doesn't matter if you finish fourth. Anybody has a chance to beat anybody. Look at Rochester. They're fourth in the East and they've beaten Philly twice. And five of Edmonton's losses have been against the league's two top teams, Calgary and Colorado.''

Toll wore the 17 he's sported most of his pro career.

''It was wide open after Brodie Merrill left last year. I got my number and away we went.''

Mac Allen Back in Action

The Colorado Mammoth were happy to welcome Mac Allen back into the lineup.

The veteran defenseman was cleared to play Friday, took part in the shootaround Saturday and was activated for the Sunday game, which Colorado won 16-15 on an OT goal by Adam Jones.

Jones hadn't played this season while recuperating from a knee injury while playing for Peterborough in Ontario's summer league last August. He had surgery in November.

''Mac is one of the top defenders in the NLL,'' says defense coach Sean Ferris. ''He brings a lot of leadership to our mix of veterans and young defensemen. He's very vocal and the guys listen.''

Allen was used in 5-on-5 action throughout the game. Come overtime, he was used every second or third shift and held up well.

''When he's in top form, he's one of our top five defensemen,'' says Ferris. ''He was a big piece of our puzzle last year and now that he's recovered from the knee injury he's just got to get back fully to game shape again.''

Jordan Hall Tears ACL 

Rochester will likely have to play out its schedule without transition speedster Jordan Hall. During a scrum for the ball in the 'Hawks' 13-7 loss to Toronto last Saturday night, Hall blew out an ACL.

''Right ACL torn,'' Hall confirmed on his Twitter account. ''I've been through this before but a tough road ahead.''

The Knigthawks are hoping the injury isn't as bad as first believed.

''We're getting a second evaluation this week,'' says head coach Mike Hasen.

Grant 28 Shy of Points Record

Colorado star John Grant Jr. retook the lead in the scoring race when he returned from a two-game injury absence with a sensational 19-point weekend in his team's split with Philadelphia. He was named offensive player of the week by the NLL on Wednesday.

Grant's 87 points, including a league-best 40 goals, are 28 shy of equalling the single-season record of 115 by Buffalo's John Tavares in 2001. Grant would have to average seven points a game in the four remaining Mammoth games to equal the record. He has been averaging 8.7.

Dawson Close to Assists Mark

Dan Dawson is closing in on his own single-season assists record.

The Philadelphia forward is second in the scoring race with 84 points including a league-best 68 assists. The record 74 set by in 2009 by Dawson when he was with Boston and by Josh Sanderson when he was with Calgary. The Wings are off this weekend so the record is safe until at least April 6 when Dawson will try to pick apart the Minnesota Swarm.

Nobody else is close. Toronto's Garrett Billings is second in assists with 52.

Doyle Nearing Gait

Toronto captain Colin Doyle increased his career assists total to an even 700 when he picked up four to go along with his three goals in a 13-7 Rock win in Rochester last Saturday night. His 1,148 points moved him within 18 of overtaking Hall of Famer Gary Gait for second all-time.

The 1,000-point Club: John Tavares 1,603; Gait 1,165; Doyle 1,148; Josh Sanderson, 1,067; John Grant Jr. 1,064; Shawn Williams 1,016. Grant closed in on fourth place when Sanderson sat out in Rochester with an upper body injury.

Weekend Games



After playing four in a row away, Minnesota gets its first home game since Feb. 18.

The Swarm has lost two in a row, 13-10 in Buffalo and 20-13 at Washington, since a 15-11 win in Calgary on March 3 in the only previous clash this year with the Roughnecks.

Slow starts and penalties have plagued the Swarm lately.

''We have to clean up the little things and if we do that I think we'll be fine,'' says assistant coach Aime Caines.

Calgary has won three in a row including last Saturday's 17-6 blowout of Buffalo that clinched a playoff berth and a win in St. Paul would lift the Roughnecks even with Colorado atop the overall standings.

''We're going to come with, hopefully, our best effort of the season,'' says Calgary coach Dave Pym.



John Grant Jr. will be on the Blue Cross Arena floor for the first time since being traded to Colorado on Oct. 27, 2010.

''John has been talking about this one since the schedule came out,'' says Mammoth coach Bob Hamley.

The Mammoth beat the Knighthawks 14-11 in Denver back on Jan. 28, and they are coming off a 16-15 OT win in Philadelphia.

Rochester was embarrassed 13-7 at home by Toronto last Saturday.


The Bandits won previous meetings 14-10 at home on Jan. 14 and 21-14 in Toronto on March 16 so, since they already own the standings tiebreaker, they can leapfrog over the Rock by beating them again.

''We had a good practice [Tuesday] . . . and I think our guys are going to respond,'' assistant coach Derek Graham said during the NLL's weekly coaches' conference call Wednesday. ''We love playing physical against Toronto and I think that's what you're going to see Saturday night.''

''It's our most heated rivalry in the league,'' says Rock GM Terry Sanderson. ''Saturday can't get here soon enough.''


Calgary won the previous meetings, both in Everett, 13-10 on Jan. 14 and 12-11 on Feb. 10.

''Calgary is obviously one of the top teams in the league and is playing very well,'' says Stealth coach Chris Hall. ''We have to continue to play the way we played last Sunday (in beating Minnesota 20-13), bringing that level of energy to the game. We've got eight losses already. We just can't afford any more losses. We desperately need to win.''

The Stealth power play has been clicking so Roughnecks coach Dave Pym will be asking his players to stay out of the penalty box.

''We've got to keep that team off the power play or they'll fill the net on us,'' says Pym.

Washington goalie Tyler Richards ''really seems to be settling into a zone again,'' says Hall.

''Our transition game was on the fly last weekend and it started with Tyler making some big saves,'' Hall added. ''He's a real catalyst in our transition game.''<


The only previous meeting saw Minnesota win 10-9 in overtime at home on Feb. 10.

Teams playing on consecutive nights have fared well this year so Rush coach Keenan knows his players will have their hands full.

''They play a fast game and have the skill level and athleticism to play that way,'' he says of the Swarm.

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