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Week 18 Power Rankings

Another week of National Lacrosse League action is in the books, and it was a week like no other. A plethora of big time games from big time players were blended into unexpected and surprising results. This was a week where, when it was all said and done, you just had to sit back and ask yourself, ‘Who are the best teams in the NLL, again?’ This was a rough weekend for last week’s Top 8, so let’s see where teams sit this week now that the dust has settled.

 

#8 – Panther City Lacrosse Club (7-7)

Week 17 Result: 12-11 OT win vs. Buffalo Bandits
Week 18 Opponents: Bye Week
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Panther City is back in the Top 8 after a resilient comeback victory against the seemingly-improving Buffalo Bandits. In a back-and-forth contest, Panther City found themselves down 10-8 with 10 minutes left in the game and down 11-10 with less than a minute remaining in regulation, yet they still found ways to fight their way back and ultimately secure a very important home win versus a challenging opponent. Four of Panther City’s last seven games have gone to overtime, and they are 3-1 in those games. It might not be pretty, or how they drew it up, but Panther City is finding ways to win at a time in the season where wins are becoming increasingly more valuable.

 

#7 – Rochester Knighthawks (6-7)

Week 17 Result: 13-7 loss at Colorado Mammoth
Week 18 Opponent: vs. Halifax Thunderbirds (8-7)
Previous Ranking: 5th

In a weekend where four of eight games went to overtime, the Knighthawks’ 13-7 loss stood out like a sore thumb. Despite a strong first half, the Knighthawks, who appeared to be a team on the rise coming into this game, were totally outplayed in the second half. They were outscored 10-2 in the second half, and allowed seven goals alone in the third quarter. The team’s seven goals scored tied for their fewest in a game over the last two seasons, and was the fewest they scored in a game this season. The -6 goal differential was also their worst of the season. This was not the type of loss you wanted to have when you were a team on a hot streak and performing well, particularly offensively.

 

#6 – Buffalo Bandits (7-7)

Week 17 Result: 12-11 OT loss at Panther City Lacrosse Club
Week 18 Opponent: at Philadelphia Wings (5-9)
Previous Ranking: 4th

The Bandits move down again after their overtime loss against Panther City mainly because they let the game slip away from them in the fourth quarter. Over the last few seasons, you wouldn’t have seen results like this, but this year, the Bandits look vulnerable and beatable. If they lose one more game this season, the Bandits will have as many losses this year as they did in the last two years combined. Injuries have been a tough pill to swallow for the defending champs, but they’re going to need to find answers over their last four games if they want to make the playoffs. Right now, they are barely holding onto the seventh spot in the standings, and it’s debatable if this team deserves to be in the postseason.

Buffalo Bandits vs Panther City 03-22-2024 (Photo: Colleen Shaw)

 

#5 – Albany FireWolves (10-5)

Week 17 Result: 10-9 OT loss at Calgary Roughnecks
Week 18 Opponent: Bye Week
Previous Ranking: 6th

Albany’s season is starting to get away from them, and at the wrong time. They have now lost three games in a row, which is the second-longest losing streak in the league. The “good” thing about their last two losses, though, including their heartbreaking 10-9 OT defeat against the Calgary Roughnecks in Week 17, is that they’ve looked like the better team in the second half of both of those games. Unfortunately, this very young team is not putting in full 60 minute efforts lately, and it’s costing them. Albany still has time to find their way before the postseason, but the way they’ve looked over the last month, they look much more like a team poised for an early playoff exit.

 

#4 – Georgia Swarm (9–7)

Week 17 Result: 9-7 win vs. Saskatchewan Rush
Week 18 Opponent: Bye Week
Previous Ranking: 7th

When the Swarm lost to the Philadelphia Wings at home by five goals in Week 16, it felt like they were going to fall into a bit of a dry spell, and we saw signs of that in the first half of their Week 17 game against the Saskatchewan Rush. Yet, somehow they found a way to rally in the second half against the Rush (who were on the second night of a back-to-back) and won their ninth game of the season. The Swarm have won three of their last four games and have a week to rest up before finishing their season with two winnable home games that could have the Swarm finishing their regular season with an 11-7 record, which would be their best record since the 2018-19 season.

 

#3 – Halifax Thunderbirds (8-7)

Week 17 Result: 9-8 OT loss at Toronto Rock
Week 18 Opponent: at Rochester Knighthawks (6-7)
Previous Ranking: 3rd

The Halifax Thunderbirds almost pulled off their most meaningful victory of their season on Saturday night, but ended up losing to yet another top team. They’ve lost to the FireWolves, the Swarm, the San Diego Seals, and the Toronto Rock (twice). In Week 17, the Thunderbirds came oh-so-close to beating the Rock over the weekend, but fell disappointingly short after a dismal (in comparison to the Rock) fourth quarter. The Thunderbirds were up 7-4 with 15 minutes left to play, but they let the mighty Rock steal the victory in overtime. Having said that, the Rock are arguably the best team in the NLL right now, even with their injuries. So, could you consider this difficult-to-handle loss as a moral victory? It’s also a pretty good thing when you can hold that Rock offense to only nine goals. The nine goals scored for the Rock tied for their lowest offensive production this season.

HAMILTON, ON – March 23rd 2024 – NLL regular season game action between the Halifax Thunderbirds and the Toronto Rock on Saturday, March 23rd, 2024 at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario.
(Christian Bender/NLL)

 

#2 – San Diego Seals (11-4)

Week 17 Result: 10-9 OT win vs. Las Vegas Desert Dogs
Week 18 Opponents: Bye Week
Previous Ranking: 1st

The Seals found a way to win they weekend, but only barely. The Desert Dogs led on the road for 52 minutes, and only trailed for a minute and 20 seconds during regulation time, but still lost to the gutsy Seals. They best teams know how to win games and the Seals have found ways to get the job done even when they aren’t at their best. They were challenged by Landon Kells all night long, but didn’t allow him to have the last laugh. This was the Seals’ least convincing win of the season, but it speaks volumes that a team can still win games despite being in a tough spot.

 

#1 – Toronto Rock (12–3)

Week 17 Results: 9-8 OT win vs. Halifax Thunderbirds
Week 18 Opponents: Bye Week
Previous Ranking: 2nd

The Rock overtake the Seals for the #1 spot again not because of how they won, but because of who they beat. The Thunderbirds are a very good, capable team, and the Rock saw that up close and personal in Week 17, but still won the game. When it got down to the wire, the Rock stepped up to the plate in front of their home crowd and clinched a home playoff game. While it was a win where their offense struggled to get going against a tough defense, the Rock’s defense was equally solid and Nick Rose once again made a case why he should be this year’s Goaltender of the Year. This match felt like a playoff preview and the Rock came out on top. That’s what the best teams do when their backs are against the wall. That is this year’s Toronto Rock.

 

NLL