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What to Expect: Week 1

All games are available on ESPN+ and TSN‘s digital properties, TSN.ca and the TSN App.

Fri. December 2

Wings (0-0) at Thunderbirds (0-0) – 6pm ET – ESPNews & Game of the Week on TSN

The 2022-23 Season starts off with a bang with two playoff teams playing on TSN as the Game of the Week and on ESPNews. While both teams made the postseason, they fell short of their goal of winning the championship with defeats in the Quarterfinals.

The Wings struggled through portions of last season to put the ball in the back of the net. This offseason they lost their two top scorers from last year in Kevin Crowley and Corey Small. On the flip side, they add MVP finalist Joe Resetarits who recorded 111 points last season for the Albany FireWolves. Sam LeClair will have more familiarity with this offense in his first full year with the team and the addition of 2021 first round selection, Hunter Lemieux as they look to continue their push in the playoffs.

For the Thunderbirds, they added more talent to their offense and kept the bulk of their defense which allowed less than 11 goals per game last year. The Thunderbirds love playing at home which showed in their 7-2 home record last season (even with games with limited fans or moving to play in Hamilton). Halifax signed the ninth overall scorer in league history in Ryan Benesch back to their team, who was on the squad during the 2019-20 shortened season. They also add Randy Staats from PCLC in an offseason trade. While we have not seen Staats in a few years, he put up 70 points in just 12 games with the Swarm in 2019-20.

Last year, the Thunderbirds took both matchups against the Wings in back-to-back weeks by a score of 10-8 in both contests. In the latter game, Matt Rambo was carried the Wings with six points (3g, 3a) and the matchup at the faceoff dot was tied at 50% for both faceoff gurus in Trevor Baptiste and Jake Withers.

Sat. December 3

Warriors (0-0) at Rock (0-0) – 5pm ET – Game of the Week on TSN

The Toronto Rock will host the second Game of the Week on TSN on the weekend with their Guaranteed Win Night versus the Warriors. These teams did play last season as the Rock defeated the Warriors 14-5 at Rogers Arena. Tom Schreiber, who was tied for the league lead in goals last season, recorded five points (3g, 2a) in the win.

The Rock were milliseconds and inches away from advancing to the NLL Finals before losing to the Bandits in the East Finals. This offseason, they lose long time members of the franchise in Rob Hellyer and Reid Reinholdt but add two key pieces on the offense with Stephen Keogh and Corey Small. On the backend they add former Rush captain, Chris Corbeil. While Corbeil will likely not play in the first few games of the season, he will add another layer of veteran leadership and defensive prowess to a team that led the league in goals against, allowing 9.22 goals per game.

The Warriors made some big offseason changes with the hiring of new Head Coach, Troy Cordingley to shake things up after a disappointing 2021-22 season. It looks like Steve Fryer will be the man to start in net this season after Alex Buque departed to the Rush in free agency. The addition of Mitch Jones back to the lineup will be a huge asset for this team, who was without his services the better part of last season due to injury. They also add two-time MVP in Shawn Evans to bolster their right side which already features 40+ goal scorers in Keegan Bal and Kyle Killen. Reid Bowering put together one of the most impressive rookie campaigns last season and would likely have won Rookie of the Year and Transition Player of the Year if it weren’t for historic seasons by Jeff Teat and Zach Currier respectively. What is Bowering’s ceiling after he put up 25 points on 13 goals, 200+ loose ball recoveries, 34 caused turnovers and 26 blocked shots?

FireWolves (0-0) at Bandits (0-0) – 7:30pm ET

No team will look more different this season than the Albany FireWolves. Their top five scorers from last season are all on different teams and the FireWolves have added new talent. Charlie Kitchen will be the most experienced in this system but the team has added veterans in Haina Thompson and Kiernan McArdle. Other young pieces looking to make their mark include Connor Kelly, Aaron Forster, and Ethan Walker. This team is built on their defense which they have brought back for the most part but the question we will see is if their offense can support the work of their backend.

Another tremendous season by the Bandits ended short of their goal in the NLL Finals. Many question, given the talent on this team, what else they need to do to get that championship win. Dhane Smith recorded almost 100 assists on his way to his second MVP title. Matt Vinc is ageless in net, winning his eighth Goaltender of the Year award. Five different players scored 30+ goals last season for the team that led the league in scoring by almost two goals per game compared to the number two team. They lost a couple of pieces, highlighted by Connor Fields, but this team is deep at every position.

Last season, the Bandits took both matchups in the regular season and their meeting in the Quarterfinals in Buffalo. In that last matchup in the playoffs, the Bandits won 10-5 although the game was much closer than the score suggests. Matt Vinc had a .900 save percentage, saving 45 of 50 shots and earned first star of the game. His counterpart in Doug Jamieson also had a great game, saving 49 of 57 shots he saw.

Seals (0-0) at Riptide (0-0) – 7:30pm ET

This game will feature two teams with the highest expectation for improvement from last year. The Seals have their eyes on the championship but were a game away from the NLL Finals with their loss in the West Finals to the Mammoth. The Riptide saw drastic improvements from their inaugural season in 2019-20 to last season on their way to a 6-12 record.

The Seals landed two of the top free agents on the market with the signings of Curtis Dickson and Kevin Crowley to add to their offense. In two preseason games, they scored 18 goals in each game. An offense of Berg, Crowley, O’Keefe, Jackson, Dobbie, Dickson, and Staats is a tough matchup on any night for any defense. On the backend, they bring back the majority of their pieces from last season but will see a new player taking faceoffs as Brandon Clelland was picked up by the Desert Dogs. In some games Frank Scigliano looked unbeatable, twice allowing just four goals in a game. As the season progressed though, Scigliano and the defense faced more adversity which eventually led to their postseason loss. Brodie Merrill has returned for another season while still trying to claim his first NLL title, is this the season for the captain?

Jeff Teat was the biggest storyline for the Riptide last season. As a rookie, he finished fourth overall in scoring despite missing two games, setting a rookie record of 108 points. He proved he can score with ease and set up his teammates. How high is the ceiling for Teat? The biggest improvement for the Riptide happened in net with the emergence of Steve Orleman in net. He would set rookie records for saves and minutes played. While there were off games or learning curves for him in net, he stepped up for the starting role which should help his confidence in year two. The Riptide are no joke and should look to make some noise in the East.

These teams have played one time against each other back in January of 2020 with the Seals beating the Riptide 15-11, but both teams have seen a lot has chang since that meeting.

Knighthawks (0-0) at Swarm (0-0) – 8pm ET

Both the Knighthawks and Swarm missed out on the postseason last year and have undergone major changes. The Swarm saw some of their older players retire with Mike Poulin, Steph Leblanc, Jordan Hall, and Joel White all deciding to end their playing careers. They begin their youth movement with the additions of Ryan Lanchbury, Brett Dobson and Andrew Kew. They also add some more familiarity with Jeremy Thompson, getting to play alongside his brothers in Lyle and Miles (who is on the IR).

The Knighthawks finished with the worst record in the league last year at 4-14 but have many reasons for optimism. Ryan Smith stepped up and proved he can be a legitimate scorer in this league, they add Connor Fields who scored 30+ goals last season and should have their goalie healthy in Rylan Hartley. Rochester started last season with a 2-1 record and there is belief in this locker room to be competitive in every game this season.

Last season the Swarm took both regular season matchups with the second being decided in overtime. The back-and-forth affair would be decided by Shayne Jackson burying the game winner over four and a half minutes into the extra period.

Mammoth (0-0) at Rush (0-0) – 8:30pm ET

The last game of the weekend features the reigning champions taking on a team that showed drastic improvement in the final weeks of the season. The core for the Mammoth is back this with Connor Robinson, Eli McLaughlin, and Zed Williams up front. On the back end, Robert Hope, Joey Cupido, and Dillon Ward are all back to lead this staunch defense. Not many changes occurred for the Mammoth but the biggest question for this team is who will pick up the production of Ryan Lee who will be out for a chunk of the season due to injury and set a franchise record with 119 points in the regular season.

The Rush played themselves out of a playoff spot early last season and decided to make a change at the helm with Jimmy Quinlan stepping in. The Rush would finish the season on a four-game winning streak but would fail to qualify for the playoffs at 8-10. The Rush do lose Chris Corbeil from their defense but will welcome Jake Boudreau and Ryan Barnable, their two first round picks form the 2021 Entry Draft, to the backend. They signed Alex Buque to add to their goaltending staff and will look to start the season in net. In waiting if needed is Eric Penney and Laine Hruska who is a former first round pick from the 2020 Entry Draft.

Last season the Rush and Mammoth split a home and home series in February with the home team winning each game. The Rush would take the third game 9-8 on April 16. The Mammoth struggled to get shots on goal with only 31 on the game, credit to the Rush’s defense.