Week 1Result: 13-10 win at New York Riptide Week 2Opponent:at Toronto Rock (0-0) Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
The Philadelphia Wings are tired of finishing in the middle of the pack and are ready to take flight. On Saturday night, outside of a five-and-a-half minute stretch in the second quarter, they were in control of their match against the Riptide from start to finish. Zach Higgins had a very good night in net with his 49 saves, Mitch Jones had a typical (as of joining the Wings) night with eight points from two goals and six assists, Blaze Riorden had four goals, and Joe Resetarits had five assists. This team is loaded offensively and has gotten younger and more athletic defensively. If Higgins can continue to play up to this level and the offense can continue to shine, the Wings are going to be a problem all year long. In Week 2, they face their first tough test of the season going up against the Rock in Toronto. This game should be a good indicator as to how this year’s Wings team can fair against the best-of-the-best in the NLL.
The Knighthawks were at risk of falling out of the Top 8 after their first half performance against the Roughnecks on Saturday night. Ten goals allowed and five goals scored in an opening half isn’t going to cut it in this league. Thankfully for them, they drastically turned things around in the second half and completed their largest comeback in franchise history. Connor Fields showed us that last season’s epic display was not a fluke with his four goals and six points, and the offense as a whole put up 14 goals, something the team is not often accustomed to doing. Back-up goaltender Riley Hutchcraft was masterful in net for the majority of his relief appearance and the defense’s ability to only allow three second-half goals was very impressive. If the Knighthawks can do what they did in the second half on Saturday night for a full 60 minutes week-in-and-week-out, this is going to be a very dangerous Knighthawks team. They’ll get a chance to make that happen in Week 2 when they travel to Saskatchewan to take on the Rush.
#6 – Calgary Roughnecks (0-1)
Week 1Result: 14-13 loss at Rochester Knighthawks Week 2Opponent:at San Diego Seals (0-0) Previous Ranking: 5th
The Calgary Roughnecks looked like two different teams on Saturday night. In the first half, between their relentless offensive attack, their suffocating defense and (nearly) unbeatable goaltending, this team looked like they were destined to become the 2023-24 NLL Cup Champions. However, in the second half it was very much the opposite. The loss moves them down a spot, but realistically, it’s hard to imagine the Roughnecks being lower than this position at any time this year. Yes, they have a completely revamped coaching staff, but in terms of their lineup, it’s all much of the same. They still have reigning Transition Player of the Year Zach Currier and reigning MVP and Goaltender of the Year Christian Del Bianco. The acquisitions of Logan Schuss and Thomas Hoggarth should only help this team in the long run. They have a tough task going against the Seals in Week 2, but it should be a very competitive game. It might even be the game of the week.
The Colorado Mammoth have gone up against the Bandits in the last two NLL Finals. They are a very good team that has battled incredibly significant injuries, and yet still found a way to win so many important games. They are tough, determined and disciplined. This season, they’ll endeavor to overcome even more hurdles as they start their season with a ton of injuries on the both sides of the ball. Ryan Lee is out on the Injured Reserve List (again), Dillon Ward is currently on the PUP List, Joey Cupido is on the IR, Connor Kelly is on the Hold Out List, and that’s just scratching the surface of their injury problems. Nevertheless, their results will speak for themselves. Whoever takes the floor for the Mammoth in their season opener, they will not go down without a fight.
The Halifax Thunderbirds are your first movers of the 2023-24 Power Rankings. On Friday night, the Thunderbirds opened up their season with a commanding 17-12 home victory against the Saskatchewan Rush. Even without Randy Staats (Evaluation List) and Eric Fannell (PUP List), the Thunderbirds’ offense was still rolling. Clarke Petterson had a career-high night with eight points and Austin Shanks had a career-high-tying six assists, while there were plenty of other contributors including the likes of Ryan Benesch and Dawson Theede. And Jake Withers started this season in MVP-form with record-setting numbers all over the floor and proved why he is the best face-off man in the NLL. Warren Hill wasn’t at his best on Friday night, but we all know what he’s capable of. Even so, the Thunderbirds showed that they should be considered one of the biggest challengers for the NLL Cup this season.
The Toronto Rock are hungry for an NLL Cup victory. Since the 2018-19 season, the Rock have been to and lost in every Eastern Finals matchup (now called semi-finals with the unified standings) – they played the Bandits in each of those series. This season, the retooled Rock think that this truly can be the year they win their first NLL Cup since 2011. There is arguably no other roster in the league that is as balanced and talented at every position than the Toronto Rock. Future NLL Hall of Famer Mark Matthews has joined the club, as well as Chris Boushy and Dan Lintner. They also still have the likes of the dynamic Challen Rogers, Brad Kri, Nick Rose and many others who are still some of the most talented players in the league. This Rock team will have a tough task in Week 2 to kick off their season going up against the Philadelphia Wings, who won 13-10 in Week 1 against the Riptide.
The San Diego Seals have gone through many changes over the offseason, but you better believe that they want to burst out of the gates with an NLL Cup-deserving energy. With additions like Trevor Baptiste at the face-off dot and Kyle Rubisch on the defensive end, this team is ready to move from NLL Cup contender to NLL Cup champion. Without the likes Brodie Merrill, Frank Scigliano, Casey Jackson, Kevin Crowley and Mike McCannell in uniform, this team will look slightly different than in previous years, but these “new” look Seals are ready to take the next step. Curtis Dickson, Wes Berg and Dane Dobbie will be fired up to unleash their offensive potential on the visiting Roughnecks in Week 2.
The Buffalo Bandits are the defending NLL Cup Champions, and they brought back all of the core pieces of their winning team and are determined to go on a repeat run this season. There’s no reason to think the Bandits won’t be contenders again this year. It’s become the status quo for the Bandits to make the NLL Finals – they have done so each of the last three full seasons. The Bandits had a Bye in Week 1, but they make their return to the floor in Week 2 against the young, fast FireWolves. Heading into their first game of the 2023-24 season, the Bandits currently have Bryce Sweeting, Adam Bomberry, Frank Brown and Zack Belter on the PUP List, so their defensive line is thinner than they’d like it to be. They also have face-off man Max Adler on the Hold Out List.
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