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Stories/Op-Ed

Week 19 Power Rankings

As we approach the end of the regular season, more than a handful of teams are fighting tooth-and-nail for their playoff lives. Week 18 was a quiet weekend of action before April’s wild storm. With only seven of the league’s 15 team’s competing this past weekend, the majority of teams weren’t able to make a case to move up – or down – in the rankings. Nevertheless, here is where teams stand heading into a massive weekend of lacrosse action in Week 19.

 

#8 – Vancouver Warriors (6-9)

Week 18 Result: 12-9 win at Las Vegas Desert Dogs
Week 19 Opponent: vs. Halifax Thunderbirds (9-7)
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Well, lookie here, another previously unranked team finding its way into the Top 8. Even with their 6-9 record, it’s hard to say that the Warriors don’t deserve to be here. Outside of the San Diego Seals, the Warriors have been the hottest team in the NLL over the past month. They have now won three consecutive game and four out of their last five. They’ve gone from a team looking like they would compete for the #1 draft pick to a potential playoff contender in a matter of months. Yes, their schedule has been kind to them – their last three wins were against the Las Vegas Desert Dogs, Calgary Roughnecks and the Philadelphia Wings (all teams currently at or near the bottom of the unified standings), but good teams win the games they’re “supposed” to win, and the Warriors have done that by playing tough for a full 60 minutes. These new-look Warriors are not going to go quietly into the night – they mean business.

 

#7 – Panther City Lacrosse Club (7-7)

Week 18 Result: Bye Week
Week 19 Opponents: at San Diego Seals (11-4), vs. Philadelphia Wings (5-10)
Previous Ranking: 8th

For much of this season, the Knighthawks have been one of the best offensive teams, but their Week 18 loss moves them out of the Top 8, which gives Panther City an unexpected little boost on their Bye Week, as the Warriors were not going to move up to this position after being unranked. Panther City have won two of their last three and head into a Week 19 matchup with the San Diego Seals feeling ready for this final stretch. The week off has given Callum Crawford a week to continue to heal from his injury that forced him to miss most of March’s games, but the man they call “Showtime” will be ready to bring his A-game this coming weekend.

 

#6 – Albany FireWolves (10-5)

Week 18 Result: Bye Week
Week 19 Opponent: vs. Toronto Rock (12-3)
Previous Ranking: 5th

The FireWolves had a moral victory during their time off: they clinched a playoff berth thanks to the Knighthawks’ loss in Week 18, so they head into their heavyweight matchup with the Toronto Rock with a little extra boost. The FireWolves are on a three-game losing streak at the moment, but they lost their last two games by the thinnest of margins. This team could very easily be 12-3 heading into Week 19, so don’t let their three consecutive losses fool you. This is still a very good, capable team, but they fall one spot this week with Buffalo’s win on the road moving the Bandits up.

 

March 30, 2024: Buffalo Bandits vs Philadelphia Wings at Wells Fargo Center. (Photo: Heather Barry)

#5 – Buffalo Bandits (8-7)

Week 18 Result: 18-12 win at Philadelphia Wings
Week 19 Opponent: at Colorado Mammoth (5-9)
Previous Ranking: 6th

The Bandits are so much fun to watch. I know many Bandits’ fans have been displeased with their team’s overall performance this season. You all have high expectations from their tremendous success over the last few years, but they are a dangerous, creative offense juggernaut: the Bandits currently average the most goals per game in the NLL at 13.07 per contest. Matt Vinc has looked more like his old self over the last four games – he’s made 45+ saves in three of those games, including 51 saves in Week 18, while the team has done a notably excellent job outscoring their opponents in the fourth quarter during this recent stretch. The Bandits have now won three of their last four games and appear to be finding their stride at the right time.

 

#4 – Georgia Swarm (9–7)

Week 18 Result: Bye Week
Week 19 Opponent: vs. Las Vegas Desert Dogs
Previous Ranking: 4th

The Swarm had a week off to end March, and they’ll only play two games in April. Since March 1st, this team has won three of their last four games. Their last game (Week 17 against the Saskatchewan Rush) was arguably their best collective defensive effort of the season, so you know they’d love to keep that level of play up in Week 19. If you want to know how good the Swarm’s defense and goaltending has been this season, consider this: the Swarm rank in the top half of the league in goals against per game and shots against per game. TJ Comizio and Liam Byrnes also both sit in the Top 20 for caused turnovers this year.

 

#3 – Halifax Thunderbirds (9-7)

Week 18 Result: 12-9 win at Rochester Knighthawks
Week 19 Opponent: at Vancouver Warriors (6-9)
Previous Ranking: 3rd

The Thunderbirds grabbed a much needed road win in Week 18 against a team that has been trying to make a playoff run of their own. Halifax’s offense ranks in the Top 3 this season (in terms of goals per game). Their defense isn’t far behind, ranking fifth (in terms of goals against per game) heading into Week 19. In Week 18, goalie Warren Hill had an elite performance against a very talented Knighthawks’ offense. Jake Withers is continuing to have an MVP-worthy campaign, while transition player Ryan Terefenko could be a dark horse for Transition Player of the Year. Oh, and this guy by the name of Ryan Benesch is also having one of the best years of his NLL Hall of Fame-worthy career. The results haven’t been as consistent as they were t the beginning of the season, but this is a team that is stacked from front to back.

Cody Jamieson of the Halifax Thunderbirds (Jonathan Tenca/CSM)

 

#2 – San Diego Seals (11-4)

Week 18 Result: Bye Week
Week 19 Opponents: vs. Panther City Lacrosse Club (7-7)
Previous Ranking: 2nd

The Seals stay near the top of the rankings due to their Week 18 bye. It’s hard to find something to say about this Seals’ team that hasn’t already been said, but Chris Origlieri has four more games to finish the regular season strong and maybe win Goaltender of the Year. The defense in front of him has also been very strong as well. Not only are they allowing the fewest shots against per game, they play a significant role in the fact the team has the second-lowest goals-against-per-game average in the league. The fact that that backend is matched by an equally intimidating offense led by Wes Berg and Austin Staats, who are a Top 3 duo in the league, makes them a complete and difficult-to-beat team.

 

#1 – Toronto Rock (12–3)

Week 18 Results: Bye Week
Week 19 Opponents: at Albany FireWolves (10-5)
Previous Ranking: 1st

With Bye Weeks for the Top 2 teams in last week’s rankings, it should be no surprise that there is no change at the top of this list. Having Nick Rose in the net, and the likes of Brad Kri and Mitch de Snoo in front of him, good luck ever scoring a ton of goals against the Rock. Buffalo and San Diego have been the only teams this season to expose kinks in the Rock’s armor, but other than those few games, it’s been nearly impenetrable. Having already clinched a home playoff berth, the Rock will now be looking to lock up the top seed in the unified standings. A win against the 10-5 (third place) Albany FireWolves in Week 19 will go a long way to making that happen. Three games remain for the Rock this year, which means they have a shot at 15 wins this season. If they reached 15 wins, they would be the most wins by any NLL team in a single season since the Edmonton (now Saskatchewan) Rush went 16-2 in 2014.

 

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