May 5, 2012

Edmonton, Minnesota, Toronto Move On in NLL Playoffs


Edmonton 19, Calgary 11
The Edmonton Rush are headed to the West Division Final and a matchup with the Minnesota Swarm.

After going 6-10 in the regular season, the Rush upset the top-seeded Roughnecks 19-11 on Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The fourth-seeded Rush will face the No. 3-seeded Swarm at 9:30 p.m. ET next Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in a game shown live on CBS Sports Network.  Minnesota reached the division final for the first time with a 14-10 win over Colorado earlier on Saturday.

Edmonton has lost 10 straight regular-season matchups with Calgary in the Battle of Alberta, but has made it two straight wins in the postseason. Two years ago, the Rush eliminated the Roughnecks from the postseason with an 11-7 win in Calgary.

Ryan Ward had five goals and six assists while Corey Small tallied five goals with three helpers for the Rush, who also got 39 saves from Aaron Bold.

Calgary which went 12-4 in the regular season, got four goals from Scott Ranger and three from Dane Dobbie.

Minnesota 14, Colorado 10
The Minnesota Swarm’s late-season winning streak has extended into the playoffs.

The Swarm overcame four-second half goals by 2012 NLL Most Valuable Player John Grant Jr., and defeated the Colorado Mammoth 14-10 on Saturday night in a West Divisional Semifinal at the Pepsi Center.

The Swarm had never advanced past the first round in any of their five previous playoff appearances. Now, they’re a win away from a berth in the Champion’s Cup.

Minnesota will face Edmonton in the West Division Final next Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. ET in a game to be aired live on CBS Sports Network.  The Rush stunned the top-seeded Roughnecks 19-11 later on Saturday.

Minnesota, which had won four in a row to close the regular season, got off to a quick start in Denver by going on a 4-0 run to take a 5-1 first-quarter lead.

Grant lived up to his MVP status. He finished with five goals with the last one reducing Colorado’s deficit to 10-9 with 11:24 to play. He also had two assists for a seven-point night.

Minnesota, though, responded with three straight goals to end any hopes of a Colorado comeback. That run was started by power-play tallies from Jordan MacIntosh and Jay Card. Callum Crawford made it 13-9 with 2:49 to play.

Crawford had four assists to go with his lone goal and Ryan Benesch had three goals – all in the first half - and four assists for the Swarm.

Rookie Evan Kirk was came up big in his playoff debut for Minnesota by stopping 35 of 45 shots.

Colorado’s Chris Levis allowed 13 goals on 44 shots before being replaced by Tye Belanger late in the game.

The Swarm had a definitive edge in special teams. Minnesota capitalized on four of their seven power plays and added two short-handed goals. The Mammoth converted two of six chances with the man advantage.

Toronto 7, Buffalo 6
Thanks to Nick Rose and Brenden Thenhaus, the Toronto Rock have taken the first step in their bid to repeat as National Lacrosse League champions.

Rose stopped all 21 shots he faced in the second half and Thenhaus scored the winning goal with 95 seconds left as Toronto rallied from four down at halftime to defeat the Buffalo Bandits 7-6 on Saturday night in an East Divisional Semifinal at the Air Canada Centre.

The seven goals are the fewest by a winning team in NLL playoff history.

Buffalo appeared to tie the game with one second to play on a power-play goal by John Tavares, but it was waved off due to a crease violation by the Bandits' Tracey Kelusky.

The Rock will host Rochester in the East Divisional Final at 7 p.m. ET next Saturday at in a game to be aired live on CBS Sports Network. The Knighthawks advanced with a 14-13 win over Philadelphia on Friday night.

Buffalo dominated the first quarter, jumping out a 4-0 lead on goals by Kelusky, Scott Self, Luke Wiles and Mark Steenhuis.

On the defensive end, Anthony Cosmo – who had lost five straight playoff decisions coming in – turned away all nine Toronto shots.

Toronto ended Cosmo’s scoreless streak at 21 minutes, 37 seconds when Colin Doyle scored. Tavares answered just 28 second later, Toronto responded with a power-play marker from Josh Sanderson at 7:44.

Tavares, the all-time regular-season scoring leader, found the back of the net again with 4:03 left, giving him 77 career playoff goals – the most in the NLL.

That would be the last goal Rose allowed as he simply outplayed Cosmo, the 2007 NLL Goaltender of the Year.

Garrett Billings, the runner-up to John Grant Jr. in the Most Valuable Player voting and Player of the Month for April, made it 6-3 with 5:03 left in the third.

Kasey Beirnes took over after that. A 28-goal scorer in the regular season, Biernes notched his first of the postseason with 1:40 to play in the third. He scored again 2:11 into the fourth and capped his natural hat trick just over three minutes later.

Blaine Manning drew four assists for the Rock, who are headed to their third straight East Divisional Final.

Cosmo finished with 48 saves on 55 shots while Rose turned away 36 of 42.

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