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What to Expect: Week 14

All games can be seen on ESPN+ and TSN+

Fri. March 3

Bandits (8-2) at Thunderbirds (5-5) – 6:30pm ET – Game of the Week on TSN

Friday of a crazy Week 14 begins with the Game of the Week on TSN between the East leading Bandits and fourth place Thunderbirds who both come in off bye weeks last week.

Last game out for the Bandits, they came back in a close matchup against the Philadelphia Wings that finished in overtime with a short bench caused by some key injuries. Only four players would score goals for the Bandits, including a combined nine from Dhane Smith and Brad McCulley with five and four respectively. The sign of a great team is the ability to win games in any fashion and against adversity which can be used to describe this team. Smith is leading the league with 82 points (8.2 per game). Matt Vinc is second in the league in saves at 420 and Steve Priolo is in the top five of defenseman in points with 15.

The Thunderbirds come in off a similar game against the New York Riptide, a 13-12 win at the Nest. The offense had shades of their early season success with their big names contributing in big ways. Randy Staats, Ryan Benesch, Clarke Petterson, Chris Boushy and Cody Jamieson all had multi-goal games. Jake Withers continues his strong season with 11 loose balls, a caused turnover and going 22-28 from the faceoff.

These two will see each other for a home-and-home over the next two of weeks. They last played on December 30 with the Bandits taking the 18-13 win. Josh Byrne led the way with 12 points (7g, 5a) and three caused turnovers to boot. Nick Weiss had a large impact with four points (1g, 3a), nine loose balls, two blocked shots and two caused turnovers. For Halifax, Randy Staats, Clarke Petterson and Cody Jamieson had successful games on the offensive end but the team struggled defensively and in net, saving just 34 of 52 shots.

Sat. March 4

Riptide (2-8) at Wings (3-5) – 11:30am ET

Saturday morning lacrosse is a new one this season and sees some of the stars of the NLL go head-to-head in back-to-back weeks.

The Riptide come in off an overtime loss to the Knighthawks, the second longest game in NLL history that went into the 14th minute of overtime. The Riptide played resiliently, scoring the final four goals of regulation to force overtime, including Ron John scoring the tying goal with less than a minute left in the fourth while also adding an assist, two blocked shots, nine loose balls, and three caused turnovers. Steven Orleman saved 53 of 64 shots on the night, keeping his team in the game.

Philadelphia had a bye in Week 13 but lost their last game out to the Bandits on February 18. Since trading for Mitch Jones, the offense has shown a new vigor. He has contributed 14 points in his two games, including eight against the Bandits. Unfortunately for Wings fans, Dhane Smith was able to bury the game winner early into the extra frame. Philadelphia currently sits in fifth place in the East, only a game behind the fourth place Thunderbirds for the last spot open in the East. Three of their next four games are against teams towards the bottom of the East. Can they make the push for the postseason in this stretch?

Last season, the Wings took two of three from the Riptide. The Wings dominated the last matchup on April 2, 11-5. Zach Higgins saved 43 of 48, holding Jeff Teat to just three points. Kiel Matisz for the Wings had six points with two goals and four assists.

Stadium Showdown from Snapdragon Stadium – Desert Dogs (4-5) at Seals (6-2) – 4:30pm ET (ESPNU re-air at 11pm ET, TSN2 re-air at 11:30pm ET)

The first ever outdoor game in NLL history takes us to sunny San Diego at Snapdragon Stadium between the Seals and expansion Desert Dogs for their first ever matchup.

The Desert Dogs are sneaking up in the West Conference standings. While not surpassing the teams ahead of them, they have the third spot in sites, only a game behind the Rush for that spot. They added another impressive win to their resume by defeating the Calgary Roughnecks at home, 11-9. A promising 6-1 first quarter was reversed in the second to tie the game at half. A solid third quarter propelled them over their West Conference foes for the win. The ball distribution was on point with seven players scoring goals and Charlie Bertrand with a team high four assists. Landon Kells was able to outduel his mentor in Christian Del Bianco, saving 32 of 41 shots.

What once seemed like an easy path to the top seed in the West has San Diego still at a very respectable 6-2, but with almost every team on their trail and wanting to take them out. The Seals had a week to regroup after losing in Week 12 to the Rush at home, 16-11. From the get-go, the team was behind and could not catch up to the Rush. Dane Dobbie did his best to will his team with five goals, but the goaltending and defense struggled to keep the Rush from scoring. Chris Origlieri got the start in the game but was eventually pulled for Frank Scigliano who also was unable to stop the Rush. Who will get the nod this week in net and does San Diego have cause for concern in their goaltending? Origlieri has the bulk of the minutes and on the season has a higher save percentage than Scigliano, but Scigliano has experience on the young goaltender.

Knighthawks (8-2) at Rock (8-2) – 7pm ET

In what might be the matchup of the weekend sees two teams who are tied atop the East at 8-2, fighting for not just the top seed in the East, but overall, too. Depending on the outcome of the Bandits game on Friday, either of these teams could hold the first spot outright with a crucial win counting towards tiebreakers.

Rochester comes in off a critical overtime win against the Riptide, the second longest game in league history at over 74 minutes. Newcomer to Rochester this season, Brad Gillies, was the star of the night with three goals, including the game winner. Rylan Hartley went toe-to-toe with New York, saving 44 of 54 shots including 11 in overtime.

The Rock come in off a bye in Week 13 but a dominant win their last game out over the Swarm in Week 12, 16-7. A nine-goal run never hurts but helped propel the Rock to the win led by Corey Small (3g, 6a) and Tom Schreiber (4g, 5a) each having nine points. The defense made it a fairly easy night for Nick Rose who saved 37 of 44 shots seen.

This is the second and final matchup between these two teams this season. Back on December 10, the Knighthawks took the 11-7 win at home. Connor Fields had seven points (4g, 3a) and Rylan Hartley saved 50 of 57 shots. Schreiber had a quite game by his standards with only three points (1g, 2a). Mitch de Snoo had 11 loose ball recoveries, blocked shot and a caused turnover to his credit.

Swarm (1-7) at FireWolves (2-7) – 7pm ET

Saturday continues on with a rematch from last weekend which saw the Swarm get their first win of the season in a huge way, winning 20-4.

The Swarm went on runs in this game of seven goals, four goals and five goals on their way to victory. Lyle Thompson (5g, 7a) and Andrew Kew (7g, 3a) combined for 22 points in the offensive onslaught. Rookie Brett Dobson had his best performance to date and one for the record books, only allowing four goals which few goalies in league history have done, let alone a rookie. He finished the night with 32 saves on 36 shots.

No easy way to say it other than the FireWolves were outmatched to a very hungry team in Georgia. Scoring four goals in a game will not win you games in the NLL, nor will allowing 20. All four goals came on the powerplay, of which they had 11 man-up opportunities but still only managed 37 shots on goal. The FireWolves currently have the longest losing streak in the league at five and are last in goals scored per game at 9.67.

While potentially too late in the year to make a run for the playoffs, these two will play one more time after this weekend on April 15.

Rush (5-4) at Panther City (6-5) – 8pm ET

A busy Saturday finished with two teams in the West competing for playoff positioning between the Rush and Panther City.

The Rush suffered a surprising loss to the Vancouver Warriors at home last week, 16-12. Despite their best efforts to get back into the game, a 6-1 second quarter in favor of Vancouver helped determine the outcome. Another game from last weekend where we saw goalies being swapped back and forth saw Alex Buque get pulled in favor of Eric Penney but Buque returned in relief of Penney. Austin Madronic added another solid performance in his rookie campaign, with five points (3g, 2a), now sitting sixth in rookie scoring.

Panther City also comes in off a somewhat surprising loss to the injury-ridden Mammoth who they played in back-to-back weeks. In the first matchup in Fort Worth saw Panther City win 13-7 in a straightforward game for Panther City.

In game two last weekend, emotions were high as Callum Crawford scored a penalty shot only two minutes into the game with the number of penalties given to the Mammoth. With the Mammoth taking multiple penalties, Panther City almost came back in the final minutes of the game, especially as Connor Robinson was assessed a five-minute major with just 5:24 remaining in regulation. Nick Damude scored his second career goal from the crease, his other came last year in Colorado as well. Patrick Dodds had four goals to lead Panther City.

This is also the last matchup between these two. The first saw Saskatchewan take an 11-9 win on New Year’s Eve. Similar to last week for Panther City, they hung tight until the last minute of the game when their opponent was able to get a key insurance goal. Will Malcom led Panther City with five points (1g, 4a) while Robert Church and Mark Matthews had identical six-point nights with a goal and five assists.

Mon. March 6

Rock (TBD) at Wings (TBD) – 7pm ET

Another rarity in the NLL sees Monday Night Lacrosse to start your work week. Both teams will play earlier in the weekend and have a day of rest between while the Rock have to make the quick trip from Ontario to Philadelphia. In addition the normal viewing experience, fans will be able to join the NLL Watch Party, hosted by Teddy Jenner and Pat Gregoire who will have special guests join their show as they talk about the live game, their own careers and the teams prospects for the rest of the season.

Some of the game’s biggest stars will be on display with the likes of Tom Schreiber, Challen Rogers, and Nick Rose taking on Matt Rambo, Kiel Matisz and Joe Resetarits. These two played earlier this season in Philadelphia, with the Rock dominating a 14-5 win. The Wings scored just one goal entering the fourth quarter. At one point, the Rock went on a 13-goal run and the Wings did not score for over 35 minutes.

Toronto has a chance to take the conference lead with two wins this weekend. They are top in the league averaging 14 goals scored per game and just 9.1 goals against. For the Wings, they could help their playoff chances with two key wins. If they get both wins on the weekend and a Halifax loss, they would take the fourth spot in the East by the end of the week.