#1 – Buffalo Bandits (7-2)
Week 11 Result: Bye
Week 12 Opponent: vs Philadelphia (3-4)
Previous Ranking: 1st
The Bandits probably did plenty of scoreboard-watching during their bye week in Week 11. The Toronto Rock and Rochester Knighthawks have been battling for the top spot in the East Conference all season long and each of those teams not named the Bandits were playing last weekend. The Rock and Knighthawks both won, which means that three teams are now tied atop the East at 7-2. The Bandits will be hoping to continue their winning way in Week 12 when they host the new look Philadelphia Wings in Buffalo. If the Bandits win this weekend, that will make it four straight wins for them. Even without Josh Byrne in Week 10, the Bandits were still able to beat the Knighthawks 13-10. If he returns to the floor this week, that reunites the most dangerous duo in the league this season.
#2 – Toronto Rock (7-2)
Week 11 Result: 11-10 win at Georgia
Week 12 Opponent: vs Georgia (0-6)
Previous Ranking: 2nd
The Toronto Rock were so close to securing the top spot this week, but their lackluster second half against the NLL’s last remaining winless team was not the kind of performance to earn the title of top dog. The Rock jumped out to a 7-2 at the midway point of the second quarter and looked like they were going to cruise to another dominant road victory. However, the resilient and frustrated Swarm did not quit. They stormed back and by the end of the third it was 8-7. The Rock hung on for a 11-10 win, but had one or two more calls had gone the Swarm’s way, they might have pulled off an upset victory against the Rock. The Rock play the Swarm again in Week 12 – this time on their home floor. Depending on what happens between the Wings and Bandits, the Rock could jump back up to #1 with a fierce, bullying outing against their struggling opponents.
#3 – San Diego Seals (6-1)
Week 11 Result: Bye
Week 12 Opponent: vs Saskatchewan (4-3)
Previous Ranking: 3rd
Just like the Bandits, the Seals had the week off this past weekend. They remain at the 3-spot on the sheer facts that they have the fewest losses in the NLL and that their team is built to suffocate the opposition offensively. The fact that the Seals have still not completely been embarrassed offensively, should be freighting to any team in the NLL. When you have Dane Dobbie, Curtis Dickson, Wes Berg, Austin Staats and Kevin Crowley on your offense, there’s no way you can ever count this team out of any game. Now that Christopher Origlieri seems to be settling in between the pipes, the team is starting to look like a more complete team.
#4 – Calgary Roughnecks (6-3)
Week 11 Results: 13-6 win vs. Saskatchewan, 13-9 win vs. Colorado
Week 12 Opponent: at Vancouver (1-8)
Previous Ranking: 5th
The Roughnecks put the rest of the league on notice in Week 11. They won two games against a couple of their most bitter revivals in the NLL (Saskatchewan Rush and Colorado Mammoth). Winning back-to-back games against two teams that many believe will be playoff participants this year are the type of results you want your team to be producing at this point in the season. Jesse King has been a leader in every sense of the word on and off the floor and Tyler Pace has been equally impressive this season. The emergence of budding stars such as Tanner Cook and Haiden Dickson has been a welcomed addition on the attack. Zach Currier is playing out of his mind all over the floor and defensemen Shane Simpson and Eli Salama are really stepping up in front of Christian Del Binaco in net. From Del Bianco forward, this team is always looking to push the tempo and put defenses on their heels. If there’s one team in the league you don’t want to face right now, it’s the Roughnecks.
#5 – Rochester Knighthawks (7-2)
Week 11 Result: 16-14 win vs Halifax
Week 12 Opponent: Bye
Previous Ranking: 4th
This is a tough one because the Knighthawks beat a very formidable opponent in the Halifax Thunderbirds in Week 11, but the teams above them in rankings this week just couldn’t be overlooked. When Jake Withers was in the game for Thunderbirds, it was a much more competitive game. The Knighthawks did exactly what you would expect them to do by taking advantage of the Withers-less Thunderbirds (after he was ejected). However, the Knighthawks let their East Conference rivals back in the game when the Thunderbirds scored the last five goals of the game in the last five minutes. Nevertheless, the Knighthawks snapped their brief two-game losing skid and picked up a significant East Conference victory. They are now back to the top of the East tied with the Bandits and Rock for the best record in the East. With a Bye Week in Week 12, it takes the power out of their hands to move up the rankings, so they’ll need their rivals to be handed some Ls.
Next 3 In (in alphabetical order)
Halifax Thunderbirds (4-5)
Week 11 Result: 16-14 loss at Rochester
Week 12 Opponent: vs New York (2-6)
Previous Ranking: Next 3 In
The Thunderbirds had a tough weekend. Heading into Rochester, they had an opportunity to steal a potentially very consequential road victory, but to no avail. Tied up at 5-5 midway through the second quarter, it was anyone’s ballgame and then, following another score by the Knighthawks, Jake Withers was ejected. It flipped the game on its head. We’ve already seen a few instances this season where teams are affected when they lose one of their key players – it’s never a positive outcome. The fourth quarter blitz showed a lot of heart, but it wasn’t enough. With a top-heavy East Conference, trading wins and losses halfway through the season might not be good enough to sneak into the postseason. Going up against a hungry New York Riptide team in Week 12, the Thunderbirds will need to bounce back with a strong performance to spark a second half run.
Panther City Lacrosse Club (5-4)
Week 11 Result: 14-13 win vs. Vancouver
Week 12 Opponent: vs Colorado (4-4)
Previous Ranking: N/A
Panther City Lacrosse Club is winning the games that they are expected to win. If a team can win all of those types of games and then pull off a couple of victories against the teams ahead of them on the standings throughout the year, that will usually be enough to get you into the postseason (depending on a team’s preseason expectations). PCLC has taken care of business since their 17-9 loss to the Knighthawks in early January. They’ve now won three of their last four games and in that stretch their only loss was to the San Diego Seals and that game was a panther, I mean, dog fight. They are playing like an unselfish, complete unit of young, budding NLL talents at every position. When you’re as young as these guys (they are the youngest team in the league) mistakes will happen and players will need to problem solve new situations on the fly, but PCLC are handling themselves very well right now. Their next three games (Colorado twice and Saskatchewan) will be a good indictor as to if this team is a true playoff contender as we enter into this second half stretch.
Saskatchewan Rush (4-3)
Week 11 Result: 13-6 loss at Calgary
Week 12 Opponent: at San Diego (6-1)
Previous Ranking: Next 3 In
Rush Nation, this is your time to shine. Week 11 wasn’t the best result, but it was an uncharacteristic result. The 13-6 loss to the Calgary Roughnecks was very out of character. In fact, it was only the fourth time since the team moved to Saskatchewan for the 2016 NLL Season that the Rush lost a game by seven or more goals. The last time they lost by 7+ goals was April 20th, 2019. That’s not the type of result you want to have heading into a game against arguably the toughest opponent in the NLL, the San Diego Seals. Or, maybe it is. Maybe this is the type of loss that fuels the Rush to have one of their best outings of the year. The West Conference is very competitive this year with five of seven teams in the thick of the playoff race right now. Stringing together losses around this time of year won’t get this team to where they want to go. Getting back in the win column would boost this teams confidence as we enter the second half of this NLL Season.