Sunday, May 4, 2008

It was the Best of Times and the Worst of Times

The 2008 NLL season was about as crazy of a season that the fans could get. The top four teams in the East were tied at 10-6 with Buffalo winning the four-way tie breaker and getting home field throughout. In the West, the Roughriders and Lumberjax both ended up with losing records but because the top four get in the playoffs and Edmonton was that much worse, they were able to make the playoffs. With all that being said, one could not possibly think that the playoffs could get an crazier. Well, sort of. Here are the games.


Philadelphia vs. Buffalo
This being the game that yours truly here attended, 9000 strong in Banditland cheered on Buffalo to a 14-12 win over the Philadelphia Wings. The keys to this win were a combination of things. Starting with Buffalo goaltender Mike Thompson. Thompson stood strong all night, allowing 12 goals on 58 shots, which is obviously monumental because his offense could not find their stroke in the beginnings of the halves, with Philadelphia outscoring Buffalo 8-3 in the first and third quarters while the Bandits outscored the Wings 11-4 in the second and fourth quarters. The second key was the play of Mike Accursi. Accursi acquired at the trade deadline from the Edmonton Rush was absolutely key in changing the momentum of the game all night long. Accursi netted four goals, his first coming when the Bandits were down by 2, second down by 1, the third to take the lead in the fourth quarter and his fourth to help keep that lead. His goals definitely put a spark back into this offense which he has been doing since he was acquired. The play of Rob Blasdell hurt the Wings in that he allowed 8 goals in the first 30 minutes on 22 shots. This led to the replacement to start the second half by Brandon Miller who played a solid game in net but it just was not enough to hold the Bandits off.


New York vs. Minnesota
The Titans have been the streaking team in the regular season, going 9-2 in their final 11 games to cement the third spot in the playoffs after starting the season 1-4. This momentum really carried against the Minnesota Swarm who started 6-0 but ended the season on a 4-6 note. The Titans really took charge in the fourth quarter, scoring three unanswered goals to beat the Swarm 11-8 in Minnesota. The Swarm have done nothing but struggle in the playoffs, not getting out of the first round in the history of the franchise. Tradition held true by the stick of Casey Powell who scored the first two of the three unanswered goals to keep the momentum on the side of the Titans. Overall, Powell had 4 goals and another 3 assists on the night to really lead the Titans and have them move on in the first ever playoff appearance for the franchise.

Calgary vs. Colorado
The first of the two shockers in the Western Conference saw the Roughnecks taking the win over the Mammoth in front of a stunned crowd in the Pepsi Center 15-13. Led by the strong play of Kaleb Toth who scored a hat trick and following the same formula the Bandits did by spotting the opponent the lead in the first and third quarters while stepping on the gas in the second and fourth, outscored 9-4 in the first and third compared to 11-4 in the second and fourth. Steve Dietrich started for the Roughnecks who look to be the favorite in winning the Western Conference title.


Portland vs. San Jose
In front of just a handful of people at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, the Stealth drop the second shocker of the playoffs by losing to the Lumberjax 18-16. The main player of the game was Sting rental Dan Dawson who scored 7 goals and had another 5 assists to carry the Lumberjax to the win. Dawson's final goal put the Lumberjax up 16-15 with about 4 minutes left and had Peter Morgan assist on the final two goals to take the lead. Morgan had 7 assists on the night while the Lumberjax as a team had 43 total points. For the Stealth, Anthony Cosmo was the victim for all 18 goals on the night, allowing them on 58 shots.

This sets up the Eastern and Western Conference finals for this weekend with the Titans traveling to Buffalo for the East final on Saturday while the Lumberjax travel to Calgary for a game to be announced. Another note of interest is that it is reported by being seen on a banner during the Wings/Bandits game that ESPN2 is supposed to carry the NLL Championship game. No word on when that will be or whether the game will be shown live because the league has not officially announced it as of yet.

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