#1 – Buffalo Bandits (10-2)
Week 15 Result: 10-9 OT win vs Halifax
Week 16 Opponent: vs Colorado (5-6)
Previous Ranking: 1st
Buffalo keeps finding a way to win. That’s why they still have the best record in the NLL. After surviving against the Thunderbirds for the second straight week – the Bandits have now won back-to-back 10-9 games against the Thunderbirds, including the Week 15 OT victory – Buffalo has now won three consecutive 1-goal games (one have gone to OT). In the win, we saw the return of Chris Cloutier and Josh Byrne, who have both missed ample time this season. MVP candidate Dhane Smith did everything he could to feed them the ball and the now-healthy duo managed to find the back of the net a combined seven times. The Bandits are still missing Tehoka Nanticoke, and, while Chase Fraser has re-signed with the team, he has yet to play since he put pen to paper. In Week 16, the Bandits have a chance to avenge their 2022 NLL Cup loss to the Mammoth. A win against last year’s champions would keep the Bandits on top of the rankings.
#2 – Toronto Rock (10-3)
Week 15 Result: 12-6 win vs Albany
Week 16 Opponent: vs Halifax (5-7)
Previous Ranking: 2nd
The Rock are essentially #1b thanks to their commanding second half against the FireWolves. Coming into their Week 15 matchup versus one of their East Conference foes, the Rock were expected to have a dominating performance against one of the league’s struggling teams. While the first half of the contest left a lot to be desired (offensive speaking), the team came to life in the second. The Rock were actually down 3-1 early in the second quarter and were only up by a slim margin at halftime – up 5-4. But, in the second half they allowed a mere two goals and scored seven for themselves. It was definitely much more of a Rock-esque performance in the final 30 minutes of the game. The 12-6 win was capped off by a 5-0 run that spanned nearly the last 20 minutes of the game. On top of their comfortable win, the Rock also made a key addition to their back-end earlier this week by adding 14-year veteran Greg Downing, who was acquired in a trade with the FireWolves.
#3 – San Diego Seals (8-2)
Week 15 Result: 12-11 win at Saskatchewan
Week 16 Opponent: at Vancouver (3-9)
Previous Ranking: 3rd
For the second week in a row, I was convinced that I would be putting the Seals in the #2 spot, but, once again, things didn’t work out that way. The Seals did hold on (barely) for a 12-11 win against their West Conference rivals, but, if you’re a Seals fan, the 4th quarter wasn’t for the faint of heart. The win was their third victory by 1-goal this season. Frank Scigliano did have a very solid game despite allowing seven goals in the 4th quarter (five goals within the final seven minutes) – he made 50 saves. This was Scigliano’s fifth game in his NLL career with 50+ saves. The usuals, Wes Berg and Dane Dobbie, led the way in the scoring department, but it was a complete team effort on offense to beat the Rush – nine different players scored for the Seals. If the Seals can win in Week 16 against the Warriors, they will match their best 11-game start in franchise history. Last season they started the year 9-2, as well.
#4 – Calgary Roughnecks (8-4)
Week 15 Result: 16-10 win at Colorado
Week 16 Opponent: vs Saskatchewan (5-6)
Previous Ranking: 5th
The Roughnecks made easy work of the defending champions in Week 15. They best up Dillon Ward in the first half – that’s not something you hear regarding Ward very often. The Roughnecks scored 11 goals against the player that some people consider to be the best goaltender in lacrosse, four of them in transition. The Currier brothers continue to be one of the most electric sibling duos in the game today. They combined for four goals and five assists versus the Mammoth. Zach also had three caused turnovers, three blocked shots and 16 loose balls. Oh, and that Christian Del Bianco fella? He had 37 saves on the night and surrendered just three goals in the 1st half. The Roughnecks definitely need to be in the conversation for the NLL’s most complete team this year. They have skill and depth at every position.
#5 – Rochester Knighthawks (9-3)
Week 15 Result: 19-18 win at Georgia
Week 16 Opponent: at Philadelphia (5-6)
Previous Ranking: 4th
The Knighthawks are the gift that keeps on giving this NLL season. They now have nine wins this season and they still have six games left to play. However, hopefully their 19-18 road win in Week 15 was an anomaly. It is very uncommon for a team to give up 18 goals and still win the game, yet, that’s what the Knighthawks managed to do… this time. Rylan Hartley has been phenomenal all year, but his 18 goals allowed needs to be a one-off if they want to keep winning at the same rate as the first 2/3 of the season. The balanced offense was able to dig them out of many holes on this occasion. Connor Fields led the way with five goals and five assists. He is continuing to make the case that he should be in the MVP conversation. With a consequential East Conference matchup against the Wings in Week 16, the Knighthawks can notch their 10th win this season.
Next 3 In (in alphabetical order)
Halifax Thunderbirds (5-7)
Week 15 Result: 10-9 OT loss at Buffalo
Week 16 Opponent: vs Toronto (10-3)
Previous Ranking: N/A
The Thunderbirds are back in the ‘Next 3 In’ because they nearly defeated arguably the best team in the NLL right now on their home turf. This comes just a week after they also almost beat these same Bandits the week before. They move up because the other teams that could’ve been in their spot didn’t make as strong of a case as to why they deserve to be here. Warren Hill was great in net for three of the four quarters and he didn’t give up a goal to the vicious Bandits offense in the opening 18 minutes of the game – that’s impressive. Outside of the 2nd quarter, he allowed only five goals (including OT). Aside from the expected threats from Randy Staats, Ryan Benesch and Cody Jamieson, Chris Boushy continues to have an amazing year. He added three goals on Friday night and has now tied his single-season-high of 26 goals in just 12 games. This team is far more capable than their record suggests, and I highly suspect that in this last stretch of games this season that they will turn things around.
Panther City Lacrosse Club (7-5)
Week 15 Result: Bye
Week 16 Opponent: vs Las Vegas (4-7)
Previous Ranking: Next 3 In
A bye week is a bye week. You sit back, you heal from all damage you’ve endured throughout the season and you study up for the next game. PCLC has a chance to make franchise history in Week 16. If they can beat the Desert Dogs on their home floor, they will have the most wins that they’ve ever had in a single season. Now, that’s not saying a lot because last season was this new franchise’s first year in the NLL, but hey, it’s still a very notable achievement. In terms of the consequences a win in Week 16 would have, PCLC would put themselves in a much more comfortable position to reach the playoffs heading into their last five games.
Saskatchewan Rush (5-6)
Week 15 Result: 12-11 loss vs San Diego
Week 16 Opponent: at Calgary (8-4)
Previous Ranking: Next 3 In
Had it not been for Clark Walter’s miraculous 4-goal 4th quarter (5-goal game), the Rush would probably not be in this position. They have now lost three straight games (two of them by four or more goals) and four of their last five games. They are beginning to fall out of playoff contention, although, at the moment, they sit in the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Conference. But, let’s not forget, with the current playoff format, the West could lose that fourth playoff spot if teams in the East start winning more games. With San Diego, Calgary, PCLC posting very good results so far this year and the fact that the Mammoth are getting healthier and healthier by the week, the Rush need to find some answers soon if they want to be participating in this year’s postseason.