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Week 6 Power Rankings

You couldn’t have scripted a more thrilling, shocking and jam-packed weekend of lacrosse than Week 5 if you tried. Between the furious and mind-boggling comebacks to the upset victories to the unusual amount of free lacrosse that we were treated to, this past weekend of NLL action offered a little bit of everything. It was one most incredible weekends of lacrosse in recent memory. If Week 5 of NLL action was foreshadowing what to expect in 2024, then we should all be impatiently eager for Week 6 to arrive.

 

#8 – Philadelphia Wings (2-2)

Week Result: 16-15 OT win at Halifax Thunderbirds
Week 6 Opponent: vs. New York Riptide (0-3)
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

The Wings are back in the Top 8, and, to say they earned it, is an understatement. After their 15-10 loss to the Albany FireWolves in Week 3, it was looking like the Wings were in some trouble. Sitting at 1-2, and with Holden Cattoni and Blaze Riorden out for weeks, one of the big questions surrounding the team was: Who is going to step up in their place? In Week 5, it was a complete team effort, and it came against one of the most balanced and difficult teams to beat in the Thunderbirds. Despite not leading in the game until they won in overtime, the Wings still saw huge efforts from Mitch Jones, Joe Resetarits and Zach Higgins. Strong rookie showings from Mitch Armstrong and Jackson Ganton, as well as other big performances, helped the Wings pull off one of the most impressive road wins of this young season and moved the team back to .500 heading into 2024.

Philadelphia vs Halifax 12-29-2023

 

#7 – Rochester Knighthawks (3-1)

Week Result: 17-14 loss at San Diego Seals
Week 6 Opponent: Bye Week
Previous Ranking: 5th

The Knighthawks are a talented bunch – there’s a reason they were 3-0 heading into Week 5 action. But, it’s also fair to say that they faced their toughest competition of the season this past weekend in the San Diego Seals. Despite big games from Connor Fields and Ryan Smith offensively, Matt Gilray and Mitch Ogilvie defensively, an admirable effort from Riley Hutchcraft in net, and an eye-opening effort from Joe Post (who gave Trevor Baptiste a run for his money at the face-off dot) the Knighthawks had some difficulties matching up with a very talented Seals team, who pulled away after a very competitive first quarter. The Knighthawks have a Bye Week now to regroup after their first loss of the season, but it’s a loss they can learn a lot from as this was their most difficult challenge of the year thus far.

 

#6 – Buffalo Bandits (1-2)

Week Result: 9-8 loss vs. Georgia Swarm
Week 6 Opponent: vs. Colorado Mammoth (1-2)
Previous Ranking: 1st

The Bandits that we’ve seen over the first three games of this NLL season are not the Bandits that many of us are used to. Prior to this year, the Bandits hadn’t lost two of their first three games in five seasons. And, let me be clear, that is an indication of how good they’ve been in the span, not because they are not good this season. The Bandits still have one of the best rosters on paper, with many of the guys on the roster being a part of the team’s championship run last season. However, uncharacteristic losses to start this season (one where they gave up an abnormal number of goals and another where they struggled offensively) begs the question: When are we going to see the consistent championship-caliber play from this team again? We know what this team is capable of, and I would bet money on the fact that the Bandits won’t continue to lose at this rate for the much longer. A classic Bandits outing against the team they beat in the NLL Cup last year (the Colorado Mammoth) could be exactly what the doctor ordered. It would help too if the doctor ordered the Bandits defenseman who have been on the IR all season to return to the floor in good health.

 

#5 – Halifax Thunderbirds (2-1)

Week Result: 16-15 OT loss vs. Philadelphia Wings
Week 6 Opponent: at Albany FireWolves (4-0)
Previous Ranking: 2nd

The Thunderbirds had a chance to be in the running for the #1 spot this week, but they couldn’t close out the bruised Wings at home. The Thunderbirds scored 15 goals in Week 5, so that’s a very good thing, but they also allowed 16 goals – that’s not a good thing. Every time the Thunderbirds tried to pull away, they gave the Wings enough opportunities to make the game far more competitive than it needed to be. Their balanced offensive attack was as advertised, and Ryan Benesch’s first sock trick in over six years was a very welcome addition to their attack. What’s crazy to think about in regards to the Thunderbirds offense was that they scored 15 goals, and that was with the Wings’ Higgins making 53 saves on the night. Jake Withers continued to put up video game numbers all over the floor, but the Wings had the upper hand over the last 10 minutes of the game (including the three minutes of overtime).

 

#4 – Georgia Swarm (3-1)

Week Result: 9-8 win at Buffalo Bandits
Week 6 Opponent: vs. Panther City Lacrosse Club (1-2)
Previous Ranking: 7th

The Swarm picked up their signature win this weekend, defeating the Bandits in Buffalo, and doing so by holding them to eight goals deserves a standing ovation. This Swarm offense is being anchored by their superstars, Lyle Thompson and Shayne Jackson, but they are also receiving plenty of help. The defense is as equally up to the task as the offense and they are bolstered by Brett Dobson in net – he has been one of the best goalies the league so far this season. A win against Panther City in Week 6 to move to 4-1 will continue to give this team the confidence it needs to be in conversations about the serious title contenders. With games against Albany and Toronto coming up after PCLC, this team could be in a very interesting position at just the midway mark of the season.

BUFFALO, NY – DECEMBER 29: Jordan MacIntosh #24 of the Georgia Swarm protects the ball during the NLL regular season game between the Georgia Swarm and the Buffalo Bandits. (Photo by Mike Hetzel/NLL)

 

#3 – San Diego Seals (2-1)

Week Result: 17-14 win vs. Rochester Knighthawks
Week 6 Opponent: Bye Week
Previous Ranking: 6th

The Seals are an impressive team, and they could have been 3-0 had they had a higher offensive output against the Bandits in the second half of Week 3. The Seals were fuelled by a great crowd and fired-up attack. They pounded away at Knighthawks’ goalie Riley Hutchcraft from start to finish. A Bye Week is not what you’d hope for after a big win against a very capable team, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. Austin Staats looks very good this season, and so do the other  stars on the team, Dane Dobbie, We Berg and Curtis Dickson. Trevor Baptiste has been doing a very good job at giving them more possessions and the defense has given us many examples of how good they can be. The Seals are a different team this year, and their 17-14 win had many bright spots. This team is going to be near the top of the rankings all season long, and I don’t think anyone expected anything less.

 

#2 – Albany FireWolves (4-0)

Week 5 Result: 11-10 OT win at Saskatchewan Rush
Week 6 Opponent: vs. Halifax Thunderbirds (2-1)
Previous Ranking: 4th

The FireWolves continue to be the feel good story of this season. They are now one of only two undefeated teams remaining the NLL season, so, at this point of the season, it would be an injustice to not have them near the top of this week’s list. It’s pretty wild to think that this was a team that many people had at or near the bottom of the league rankings coming into this season and now they’ve had more wins in their first four games of this season than they had all of last year. Doug Jamieson has been an absolute wall in net this season, and the pesky defense in front of him isn’t making it easy for any opposing team to find a rhythm. A fourth quarter charge by the Rush made their Week 5 matchup a little more nerve-racking than it needed to be, but Ethan Walker delivered in overtime when his team needed him the most. This team is playing with heart and grit, and they aren’t taking any shifts off. They have been consistent and dominant. Hosting the Thunderbirds in Week 6 will be one of the toughest challenges of the year, but if they move to 5-0, they will be the #1 team in next week’s rankings.

 

#1 – Toronto Rock (3-0)

Week Result: 14-8 win vs. New York Riptide
Week 6 Opponent: Bye Week
Previous Ranking: 3rd

The Rock have been a very dominant team this NLL season, and, let’s be honest, there have been chunks of their games where it looks like they aren’t necessarily giving 100% (that’s usually when they’re up by a bunch of goals already). Mark Matthews is elite. Nick Rose is elite. Mitch de Snoo and Brad Kri are elite. TD Ierlan is elite. To put it simply, the Rock are a force to reckoned with up and down the floor. And, this is a team that is still missing Tom Schreiber and Chris Corbeil, two integral parts to the offense and defense, respectively. The one knock against them is that their schedule hasn’t been difficult. They have faced a banged up Wings team, Panther City and the Riptide. In January, we’ll get a better taste of how the Rock match up against the other titans of the NLL. They will face the Thunderbirds, Swarm and Bandits. If they can get through that gauntlet and still be undefeated or even 5-1, we’ll then start talking about this team as the #1 title contender.

HAMILTON, ON December 30th, 2023 – NLL regular season game action between the New York Riptide and the Toronto Rock on Saturday, December 30th, 2023 at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario.
(Christian Bender/NLL)

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