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Bandits’ Benesch among finalists for league MVP

The National Lacrosse League has announced three finalists for the 2015 NLL Most Valuable Player Award. The Buffalo Bandits’ Ryan Benesch, Calgary Roughnecks’ Shawn Evans and Edmonton Rush’s Mark Matthews were voted as the top trio of players in the league this season.

Bensch is the latest Bandit to be nominated for an all-league honor. Others nominated for NLL hardware include teammate Steve Priolo (best defenseman) and front-office personnel men Steve Dietrich (General Manager of the Year) and Director of Lacrosse Operations Scott Loeffler (Executive of the Year).

The winners will be announced at the NLL Season Awards Ceremony on Sept. 29 in Toronto.

Benesch won the NLL goal-scoring title with 55 and finished third in the scoring race with 113 points, including 58 assists, which were ninth-most in the league. Benesch tied for the league lead with four game-winning goals and tied for second with four shorthanded goals while his .229 shooting percentage was ninth among all players with 10-plus goals.

Benesch scored at least one goal in all 18 games played, including 11 hat tricks, and had five or more points in 15 games. The nine-year NLL veteran recovered 99 loose balls, which led all forwards, ranked 10th among non-faceoff men and 18th overall.

The Kitchener, Ont. native, the first overall selection in the 2006 NLL Draft who won rookie of the year in 2007, was NLL Player of the Month for April.

Evans, who won NLL MVP honors in 2013, set the new NLL single-season scoring record with 130 points, tied the league record with 83 assists, and ranked sixth in goals with 47. The 10-year veteran from Peterborough, Ont., led the league in shorthanded goals (5) and power play assists (31) while his 96 loose balls ranked third among forwards, 12th among non-faceoff men and 21st overall. Evans, 29, scored at least two goals in 15 of 18 games played, including nine hat tricks, had four or more points in every game, and four-plus assists in 13 games.

Matthews recorded 115 points, which were second-most in the league in 2015 and third-most all-time, while his 53 goals were second-most in the NLL. The 25-year-old added 62 assists and 64 loose balls in 18 games played for the Rush, who later went on to win the Champion’s Cup with Matthews as the Finals series MVP.