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Quarterfinal Power Rankings

When the NLL announced the unified standings, who among us assumed the insanity that would ensue? I say insanity in a good way – these last few weeks have been some of the most exciting the league has ever seen, with five teams still battling for the final playoff spot on the final weekend of play. After some luck, and a statement win in their final game against Philadelphia, Rochester took that spot. But four other teams were this close to taking that final seed for themselves. Did the right team win? Let’s look at how our playoff-bound teams stack up in our quarterfinal power rankings.

 

#8 Panther City Lacrosse Club 

Week 21 Result: 11-9 loss at Calgary
Final Record: 9-9
Quarterfinal Opponent: at San Diego

“Championship or bust” were Tracey Kelusky’s words to his squad at the start of the season, and they’ve completed step one: make the playoffs. But they’re not going in with a high seed like they wanted after finishing with an even 9-9 record and having lost their final game to a non-playoff team. PCLC has got some issues to work out this week and they need a solid strategy in place to have a chance of getting by the determined San Diego Seals.

#7 Albany FireWolves

Week 21 Result: 16-10 win at New York
Final Record: 11-7
Quarterfinal Opponent: vs Halifax

Oh, Albany. Whether the FireWolves win their quarterfinal or not, this will be a season to remember. It’s already their most successful season since moving to Albany, and they’ll be even stronger next season when Dyson Williams joins rookie of the year favorites Alex Simmons and Tye Kurtz. But this season might not be theirs – as good as the FireWolves’ young players are, the experience of the Thunderbirds might be too much to overcome.

#6 Rochester Knighthawks

Week 21 Result: 12-3 win vs Philadelphia
Final Record: 8-10
Quarterfinal Opponent: at Toronto

Having slid in at the eighth spot in the last possible moment, you might wonder why Rochester isn’t in the same final spot in these power rankings. Sure, they finished eighth by the skin of their teeth, but it’s the grit they showed in their last few games that has bumped them up. That, and Connor Fields. If I was the Rock I wouldn’t want to face a red-hot Fields right now – or a recovered and returned-to-form Rylan Hartley in goal, who stopped 30/33 shots on Sunday.

#5 Georgia Swarm

Week 21 Result: 11-10 loss vs Rochester
Final Record: 10-8
Quarterfinal Opponent: at Buffalo

Georgia is a solid team led by a powerhouse offense, but they’re in tough, having to go to Banditland for their quarterfinal. Lyle Thompson and Andrew Kew tied for the team lead in points, with 87 each, but that puts them 21st in overall league scoring. Of the eight playoff teams, the Swarm have the second-lowest goal differential at +1. The Swarm’s standing here reflects their final league standing: right in the middle of the playoff-bound teams, and I don’t know if even Lyle Thompson will be enough to get by the surging Bandits.

#4 Halifax Thunderbirds

Week 21 Result: 14-10 win vs Colorado
Final Record: 10-8
Quarterfinal Opponent: at Albany

Though Halifax started the season strong, they ended up in sixth place in the league standings. We have them at number four because this team still exudes confidence. They’re explosive when they’re playing well – you can tell that every goal means something to this team. Several of their players, including captain Cody Jamieson and goaltender Warren Hill, won a Canadian national championship last summer. When you’ve gotten a taste of life as a champion, it’s contagious, and they’ve passed that passion onto their teammates. Their matchup with Albany is winnable, and if they get to host a second-round game in The Nest, they might just be unstoppable.

#3 San Diego Seals

Week 21 Result: 16-9 win vs Vancouver
Final Record: 13-5
Quarterfinal Opponent: vs Panther City

The Seals have been at the top of the standings and power rankings for most of the season and yet they still somehow seem underrated. It’s almost like at this point, we know they’re good. We don’t have to worry about them. Maybe it’s the chill California vibes. Either way, the Seals have experienced disappointment over the last few playoffs, and they’re hoping they’ve finally got the team to get them to the championship. They’ve got the offense, defense, goaltending and experience from their past playoff losses that it’s high time they get over the hump.

#2 Buffalo Bandits

Week 21 Result: 14-5 win at Las Vegas
Final Record: 11-7
Quarterfinal Opponent: vs Georgia

In mid-March, the Bandits had a 7-7 record. They were having a middling season, and were not looking like their team that won the championship last season. But they ended their season on a four-game win streak. None of those wins were against playoff-bound teams, but the Bandits have their energy and swagger back, and that’s a big part of their identity. Finishing the season by winning a Tucker Out Lymphoma game is all the motivation they need to keep elevating their play, and the deeper they get in the postseason, the more dangerous they will become.

#1 Toronto Rock

Week 21 Result: 12-11 win at Saskatchewan
Final Record: 15-3
Quarterfinal Opponent: vs Rochester

The Toronto Rock have been the strongest and most consistent team throughout the whole season, and are deserving of their number one spot in both the league standings and these power rankings. They don’t have the flashiest offensive players – Matthews, Schreiber and Small are known more for their direct shots on net – but they are the most reliable. They leave the flash to the defense, which is dangerous in transition. And let’snot forget Nick Rose, who has been the backbone of the team and the best goaltender in the league this season. Rochester will have their hands full this weekend.

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