Buffalo wins Game 2 15-13 to clinch Back-to-Back Titles; Byrne is Finals MVP

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Four Close Games Open Up Week 19

It was a fun, highlight filled Friday night as Week 19 kicked off with four games. Let’s take a look at each one.


The Battle of The Prairies, Part I 

The Saskatchewan Rush and Calgary Roughnecks took the field at Scotiabank Saddledome for the first instalment of a Friday/Saturday home-and-home matchup, with 11,000 fans witnessing the host club walk away with a 12-10 victory on Tiki Party night. Dressed in beach-themed jerseys, the Roughnecks jumped out to a 4-0 lead, increasing their advantage to 9-4 after 45 minutes of play. The Rush got it going in the fourth quarter, outscoring Calgary 6-3, but never drawing closer than the end game two-goal deficit.

Reigning MVP Christian Del Bianco was stellar, stopping 52 shots and collecting an incredible assist on a nearly full-field pass to Harrison Matsuoka for a fast-break goal. Haiden Dickson added three scores and one helper, while Tanner Cook assisted on seven of his team’s triumphs. Not to be outdone, Jesse King and Tyler Pace combined for four goals and seven assists. Thomas Hoggarth had the goal of the game, firing the ball through his own legs to beat Frankie Scigliano.

Clark Walter and Ryan Keenan each scored two for the fellas from Saskatoon, but this one belonged to Calgary from the get-go. 


Dhane and Josh Put On A Show in the Mile High City

A rematch the of last two NLL Finals occurred at Ball Arena in Denver on Friday night with the defending champion Buffalo Bandits paying a visit to the 2022 league champion Colorado Mammoth. 11,252 fans took in an early see-saw scenario with the Bandits securing the 13-11 win.

Buffalo opened up a 3-0 lead, only to watch the Mammoth flip the switch and take a 4-3 reward. The game was nip and tuck throughout with a Zed Williams’ fourth quarter score providing Colorado with an 11-10 lead against their postseason rivals. But, like the champions they are, the historic duo of Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith decided it was their collective time to shine, as Byrne connected on the tying goal, followed by Smith securing the go-ahead and insurance tallies. All told, Byrne notched three goals and four assists, alongside Smith’s five scores and one helper. 

Connor Kelly put his best foot forward for the Denver guys posting four goals and one assist, while the previously mentioned Williams found himself a hat trick. Dylan Kinnear added a highlight-reel goal, pulling off a nasty one-handed catch and no-look BTB finish. The Bandits move to 9-7, as the Mammoth fall to a disappointing 5-10. 


The San Diego Seals Are On A Roll 

Pechanga Arena was the setting for a thriller between the hard-nosed Panther City Lacrosse Club and the streaking San Diego Seals, who find themselves right on the tail of the Toronto Rock for the NLL’s best record. This conflict was super tight until late in the fourth quarter when the Seals made the call to leave the visitors from Fort Worth in their dust, in a 14-10 celebration.

PCLC’s Jason Knox and Will Malcom combined to tie and give their team a 10-9 lead halfway through the final 15 minutes. At that point, it was the high-scoring pair of Austin Staats and Wesley Berg that evened up and later took the lead back. San Diego then blasted three more balls into the back of the net for a convincing four-goal realization. Staats scored four times, bringing his season total to 47, with Berg’s hat trick advancing his goal total to 37. Face-off genius Trevor Baptiste declared victory in 25 of 27 of Friday’s faceoffs, amid scoring his first two goals of the season. In a night of firsts, former Mammoth stalwart Chris Wardle added his first goal as a member of the Southern California franchise.

Panther City Lacrosse Club v. San Diego Seals 04-05-2024 (Photo: Jake Whiting)

The great Callum Crawford played a whale of a game boasting three scores and three helpers, while Phil Caputo etched two goals, including a dramatic late first-half buzzer-beater. Panther City played well, but San Diego’s talent won out on this night. 


The Warriors Have Found Their Stride

The Vancouver Warriors knocked off the visiting Halifax Thunderbirds 15-13 at Rogers Arena, with more than 10,000 Western Canadians enjoying the spectacle of their once moribund team climbing to 7-9, thanks to a four-game win streak. Keegan Bal continued his torrid stretch of goal scoring, typing another five goals and one assist onto the front page of his ever-expanding resume. Ryan Martel scored four in a game that involved the Warriors mounting a theatrical comeback, erasing shortfalls of 4-0 and 7-2, eventually outpacing the playoff focused Thunderbirds 10-5 in the second half. Curt Malawsky’s Warriors are the team that nobody wants to play at the moment.

Randy Staats and Austin Shanks gave everything they had in defeat, with Staats scoring four goals, while Shanks’ display involved three scores and four helpers. The Thunderbirds will have to wait until next week to try to clinch a playoff berth.

The Warriors’ miracle second half of the season continues next weekend when the New York Riptide set up shop in B.C.