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GAME PICKS: NLL Week 3

After this weekend every National Lacrosse League franchise will have seen action as we get ready to turn the calendar to 2019. A busy five game schedule gives fans a pile of late Christmas presents and it all starts Friday night!

 

NLL staff members Andy McNamara, Renee Washington, Devan Kaney, and Brian Shanahan deliver their game predictions every week.

 

Send us your picks @NLL on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using the specific game hashtags for each match-up below.

 

Last Week’s game picks results:

 

Andy: 1-2

Shanny: 2-1

Renee: 0-3

Devan: 2-1

 

Let’s get to the game predictions!

 

Saskatchewan Rush (0-0) at New England Black Wolves (0-1) – Friday, 7:30pm ET

 

Andy

Well the reigning NLL champs finally take the floor Friday to begin their title defense and it comes on the road. Despite Sasktel Centre having an incredible atmosphere, the Rush actually were dominant away from Saskatoon with a 8-1 record in 2018. Saskatchewan continues to be stacked on the attack, in their backend and on transition.

 

The Black Wolves do possess weapons, but Week 1 displayed some of the same frustrating inconsistencies that plagued the club last year. Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan told me at the start of last season that the goal was to come out of the gate fast and take control of the division early. I doubt that idea’s changed. Saskatchewan sends a message in New England.

Pick: RUSH

 

Shanny

Pick: RUSH

 

Renee

New England has a tough start to the season playing Georgia in game one and now the defending 2018 NLL Champions, Saskatchewan, in game two. Head Coach Glenn Clark said they’ve have been preaching off ball movement and being dynamic offensively, so this is good early test for their offensive players like Callum Crawford, Tyler Digby, and Reilly O’Connor.

 

For Saskatchewan, in my opinion, after being top of the league in scoring last season, with players like Mark Matthews, Rob Church, and Ben McIntosh, Jeff Shattler returning, Saskatchewan will pick up where they finished. Between having a strong, organized defense that was also top in the league for goals against last season and the talented offensive threats, The Rush will defeat New England this weekend.

Pick: RUSH

 

Devan

I gotta go with the reigning champs on this one. In their first game against the Swarm, Black Wolves Head Coach Glenn Clark was pretty frustrated with his team – and rightfully so. New England didn’t score at all in the second quarter and didn’t settle into the game until it was too late. While I do think New England will hit the ground running this game, they just can’t match the talent on the Rush. Saskatchewan still has Head Coach of the Year, Derek Keenan, MVP Mark Matthews, Jeff Shattler, and they just signed Robert Church to a three-year deal. I don’t think New England’s defense can hold off the Rush enough to get a Win.

Pick: RUSH

 

Tweet at @NLL using #SSKvsNE

 

Georgia Swarm (1-0) at Toronto Rock (1-0) – Friday, 7:30pm ET

 

Andy

After a sluggish first quarter the Rock’s offense took over in Buffalo and never looked back. Toronto’s attack was clicking almost at the same clip it was before Tom Schreiber’s injury last year, where they averaged 20.5 goals over a four game stretch. This squad feels they own the horses to make a real run at the Champions Cup.

 

We all know how dangerous the Swarm can be led by thoroughbred Lyle Thompson and Georgia would love to remind the rest of the East why they owned the best record in the division a year ago. The Swarm swept Toronto in the 2018 season series, but two of the three victories came by a single score. These crews always put on an entertaining battle head-to-head and I expect nothing less. I’m giving a slight edge to the home side.

Pick: ROCK

 

Shanny

Pick: ROCK

 

Renee

This is a tough game to pick a winner this early in the season. I picked against Toronto last week, but am going to have to do it again. Nick Rose had a tremendous game in net versus Buffalo last weekend. Rose and the Rock’s organized defense held the Bandits scoreless for long stretches of time, including the second quarter Toronto run. This week with the depth and talent of Georgia, players like Challen Rogers are going to have their hands full. It will be fun to watch Tom Schreiber and Rob Hellyer on one end of the floor with Lyle Thompson, Randy Staats, and Miles Thompson on the other end.

 

The Swarm have the ability to be versatile offensively, sometimes getting into more of a passing game versus more 1 v 1 isolation offenses at times. I pick Georgia to win over Toronto.

Pick: SWARM

 

Devan

The Toronto Rock are coming into this game hot off a season-opener win against the Bandits while the Swarm had a bye week. Tom Schreiber proved he hasn’t missed a beat since coming back from injury – leading Toronto’s offense last week with 3 goals and 4 assists. Not to mention other Rock talent like Challen Rogers and Billy Hostrawser who played one of his best games last week. That’s not to say the Swarm won’t put up a good fight. With Bryan Cole leading Georgia’s defense and Poulin in goal, this team could be hard to beat, but I think Toronto will find a way.

Pick: ROCK

 

Tweet at @NLL using #GAvsTOR

 

Vancouver Warriors (1-1) at Buffalo Bandits (1-1) – Friday, 7:30pm ET

 

Andy

Buffalo’s big offseason acquisition of legendary goaltender Matt Vinc has gotten off to a shaky 1-1 start. I believe Vinc, and this team as a whole, is still getting accustomed to one another and the veteran netminder will find his groove soon. Soon as in this week at home. However, Vancouver is no joke and is playing like a group with something to prove. They’ll need to put on a better effort than the eight tallies they buried in the loss to Calgary this past Friday.

 

Overall the Warriors will be dangerous, but I’m feeling a statement game by Buffalo to remind the rest of the league that you don’t want to play in Banditland.

Pick: BANDITS

 

Shanny

Pick: BANDITS

 

Renee

The Bandits are back at home looking to figure things out on both sides of the ball. I think Buffalo is is going through a rough patch trying to get their defense and Matt Vinc on the same page.  It will be interesting to see how the squad responds to last game. They look disconnected or down on themselves at times which seems to carry into their attack.

 

I think Vancouver is playing much stronger as a team. We see players like Logan Schuss and Mitch Jones stepping up offensively along with Matt Beers, Zack Porter, and Colton Porter finding ways to disrupt opponents attacks on the other end. I think the Warriors will minimize their penalties throughout this game and continues to play with an underdog, determinate focus to get this win.

Pick: WARRIORS

 

Devan

Buffalo is hungry for a win! And they’ll get it…if the Bandits can hold onto a lead, which they have yet to do this season. The team is coming off of a too-close-for-comfort season open win over Philly, and a loss to the Toronto Rock. Matt Vinc isn’t playing his best game, but you know who is? Thomas Hoggarth. If Hoggarth has another outstanding game and players like Josh Byrne and Corey Small continue to shine, I don’t think the Warriors defense can hold them off.

 

However, the Warriors seem to be operating as one cohesive unit, which I think is a big advantage and why they have surprised a lot of people this season. If the Bandits want to bounce back from a rocky start, they need to start playing like a team.

Pick: BANDITS

 

Tweet at @NLL using #VANvsBUF

 

San Diego Seals (1-0) at Calgary Roughnecks (1-1) – Friday, 9pm ET

 

Andy

It’s difficult to predict how an expansion club will perform in their first ever franchise regular season matchup. Well all San Diego did was go into one of the loudest NLL buildings and win by five goals. I certainly underestimated them, and I’m not making that mistake again!

 

Calgary split a home-and-home with Vancouver, getting the better of the Warriors by holding them to just eight goals. Their stars on offense shone and the defense/goaltending shut down just about anything that came their way. The key for the Roughnecks will be to jump out to an early lead and try to clamp down. Problem is that the Seals are so diverse with the ball in their sticks. San Diego can really turn heads by beginning their existence with two victories on the road…and I’ll roll the dice that they get it done.

Pick: SEALS

 

Shanny

Pick: ROUGHNECKS

 

Renee

Another tough game to pick a winner! This could be a coin toss with how these two teams have been playing. San Diego made a statement in their debut into the league. They have a great combination of rookies in Austin Staats and Connor Kearnan along with veteran leaders Adrian Sorichetti, Turner Evans, and Brodie Merrill. On the other hand,
Calgary improved tremendously from week one to two. We saw Rhys Duch, Tyler Pace, and Riley Loewen step up offensively to work alongside Dane Dobbie to elevate the Riggers offense this past weekend. It will be two teams that move well off the ball with special goal scorers in Dobbie vs. Staats, but I think the Seals win in the end.

Pick: SEALS

 

Devan

Yes, the Seals have Austin Staats. Yes, the Seals have a stacked roster. But, I think the Roughnecks will test if San Diego really has what it takes, and that starts with shutting down Staats. Calgary has a fast and gritty defense led by captain Dan MacRae and I don’t think they will allow as many points on the board as Colorado did last week. No matter how hard Calgary’s defense plays, this game will come down to shots on goal, and if the Roughnecks want to win, they need every single guy on offense to step it up.

Pick: ROUGHNECKS

 

Tweet at @NLL using #SDvsCGY

 

Philadelphia Wings (0-1) at Rochester Knighthawks (0-0) – Saturday, 7:30pm ET

 

Andy

The Knighthawks kickoff their 2018/19 campaign with something to prove after a NLL Champions Cup final loss to Saskatchewan this past June. Rochester is one of the more complete groups with an enviable combination of youthful and veteran star power that blends into a physical concoction that can light up the scoreboard.

 

It’s great to see the league back in Philadelphia as the Wings search for their first “W”. Like any Philly sports franchise this expansion locker room is gritty and can never be counted out. It’ll be interesting to see the adjustments made off a bye and what second overall draft pick Chris Cloutier can do to follow up on his two goal, four assist debut.

 

The Knighthawks get my vote in this early season contest due to their chemistry and experience as a total unit.

Pick: KNIGHTHAWKS

 

Shanny

Pick: KNIGHTHAWKS

 

Renee

The Wings return after a bye week to play their first road game. We saw glimpses of greatness in the second half of their loss to the Bandits in the season opener, when they stormed back into the game with maturity and composure. However, Rochester returns several talented players with Joe Restetarits and Cody Jamieson offensively plus Graeme Hossack and 2018 Rookie of the Year Jack Withers on defense. The season opener marks the first game without Matt Vinc in net, but with those two smart, scrappy defenders grabbing loose balls and forcing turnovers I think last year’s NLL Finalists win over Philly.

Pick: KNIGHTHAWKS

 

Devan

This is Rochester’s home opener and first game of the season. We have a team that played in the NLL Cup Finals last year versus an expansion team. While I was very impressed by Philadelphia’s tenacity in their first game, I don’t think they have the experience to pull off a win away from home. Going with the Knighthawks on this one.

Pick: KNIGHTHAWKS

 

Tweet at @NLL using #PHIvsROC

 

 

Andy McNamara has been a play-by-play commentator for the NLL on TSN, NLLTV.com, and world lacrosse tournaments since 2011. He’s also a sport talk host and anchor on TSN 1050 sports radio. Follow Andy on twitter @AndyMc

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