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Game Previews

What to Expect: Week 17

Friday, March 25

San Diego Seals (9-2) at Vancouver Warriors (5-7) – 10:30pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

An eight game weekend across the NLL starts on Friday between the Seals and Warriors. These teams are trending in different directions. The Seals have won three straight whereas Vancouver has dropped four straight. Both these teams played the Mammoth last weekend with the Warriors losing on Friday night and San Diego winning on Saturday.

Keegan Bal was ‘playing angry’ and tallied 12 points with a NLL season high and career high eight goals. The Warriors looked dominate through the majority of the first three quarters but the wheels started to come off with some shots by the Mammoth finding their way to the back of the net and swaying momentum. Alex Buque has not looked like the same goalie as the start of the season, either coming in for relief for Steve Fryer or starting games. Neither goalie has played the entire game in any of their last four losses. Reid Bowering is cementing his place in contention for Rookie of the Year and potentially Transition Player of Year or Defensive Player of the Year depending on what criteria you want to use. In the game last weekend, he scored two goals (one of three Warriors with multiple goals), an assist, 13 loose balls and four caused turnovers. Among defenders, he is top 10 in scoring and is second in loose ball recoveries (trailing Zach Currier) and is leading all rookies in forced turnovers.

San Diego edged out Colorado in their last game, 9-7. The defense looked to pressure the Mammoth into difficult shots and Frank Scigliano continued his solid play in net, saving 42 of 49 shots. It is hard to believe the Seals continued to improve their goals against average to 8.55, still a league best. The offense did just enough to get the win, a major goal in hindsight was Jeremy Noble’s goal with under two seconds remaining in the first half from a difficult angle. Seven different Seals scored a goal so although not one individual was lighting up the scoreboard, their balanced offense got the job done.

The last time these two played was the opening game of the regular season on December 3. Vancouver would get the win in a low scoring affair in San Diego, 8-7. Mitch Jones, who has missed the last month or so, led the game with five goals. Matthew Dinsdale and Keegan Bal helped dish the assists with four and five respectively. The Seals were missing Jeremy Noble and Austin Staats in that Week 1 game, but Dane Dobbie had a memorable debut with five points (1g, 4a). The only differentiator in this game was the play on Alex Buque in net, saving 46 of 53 shots (Vancouver’s offense only had 38 shots on goal the entire game). The first quarter could decide this game. Vancouver is a +18 in the first quarter whereas San Diego is only a +1. San Diego is a perfect 6-0 when leading after one, whereas Vancouver is 0-1 when trailing after the first frame.

Saturday, March 26

Halifax Thunderbirds (8-3) at Buffalo Bandits (10-1) – 1:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

For the first time this season, the top two seeds from the East will go head-to-head not once but twice this weekend. The Bandits, who are 10-1 on the season, have been unstoppable the past four games since their one loss of the season against Toronto. The Bandits had no action in Week 16 following their blowout performance against the Wings on March 12th. Although the Wings started the action in the first quarter, the Bandits came back with two of their own. The second quarter consisted of four goals by the Bandits, three of which were scored by Tehoka Nanticoke. Nanticoke wasn’t done for the night and started the third quarter with another goal, followed by four more Bandits goals. The score was 11-3 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Wings found the back of the net twice in the final frame, but the Bandits would score six straight to end the game at 17-5. Tehoka Nanticoke led the game with five goals and leads all rookies with 24 on the season. Dhane Smith had twelve points (2g, 10a) on the night, followed by Josh Byrne with nine points (1g, 8a).

The Thunderbirds were also off last weekend following their back-to-back losses in Week 15. Not only did these games put an end to their five-game winning streak, but they were both lost by a single goal and could Beverly hurt their chances to claim the top seed in the East. The first game on Friday, March 11th, was at-home against the FireWolves. Jake Withers won eleven of eighteen faceoffs against the NLL faceoff wins leader, Joe Nardella. Although Withers set the pace at the faceoff dot, it was not enough to outscore the FireWolves and the Thunderbirds ultimately lost 8-7. The Thunderbirds went scoreless in the first and third quarters, which hasn’t happened since January 29th when they played the FireWolves the first time around. The second game of the weekend was on the road at the Swarm the next day. The first quarter ended at a 5-4 lead for the Swarm. The Swarm strengthened their lead by four goals in the second and third quarter, and just one goal for the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds attempted a comeback in the final frame, but it wasn’t enough to outscore the Swarm. The Thunderbirds lost 10-9 and brought home their third loss of the season.

The first Bandits and Thunderbirds game of the weekend will be at-home for the Bandits. The Bandits are 6-0 in Banditland, the only team to remain undefeated at home, and they are hoping to keep both their at-home streak and four-game win streak going this weekend.

Georgia Swarm (7-6) at Toronto Rock (8-4) – 5:00pm ET – ESPN+/Sports Interaction Game of the Week on TSN

Take two for Dan Dawson this weekend. He was a last minute scratch from their previous game two weekends ago in Vancouver where the Rock would come out with a big 14-5 win. We will be on the lookout for him to make history. Should he play, he will surpass John Tavares for most games played in NLL history at 307 and with two assists, will become the all-time leader in that category, surpassing Tavares with 935.

Onto the game itself and where these teams are coming in. Georgia pulled a massive victory over Albany last week to secure their spot in fourth in the East heading into the weekend, owning the tiebreaker now against them. The Swarm do not hold the tiebreaker against the Wings should they make a last stretch push for the playoffs. Toronto will have fresh legs as they had a bye during Week 16 but as mentioned, played a dominant game against Vancouver two weeks prior.

In Toronto’s win, Nick Rose and their defense looked dominant, holding Vancouver to five goals on just 37 shots on goal. The Warriors were on pace to score the lowest number of goals in NLL history but salvaged three goals in the final frame. On the other end, Rob Hellyer had a memorable night recording nine points (5g, 4a) and Tom Schreiber recorded another hattrick, his seventh in 10 games played this year. TD Ierlan contributed by winning 17 of 22 face offs and scoring his first career goal.

Although Georgia was trailing 9-4 early in the third quarter, they were able to take down the FireWolves in an important game. Craig Wende came in and provided the spark the Swarm needed to come back, saving 22 of 27 shots in about 30 minutes of action. Lyle Thompson recorded one assist in the first half but came out in the second half with four straight goals for the Swarm. He would finish with nine points (5g, 4a) and got his help from Shayne Jackson who recorded a hattrick on the night. The Swarm would outscore the FireWolves 11-4 in the second half, including 8-3 in the final frame.

These two teams have yet to face each other so far this season and will play only one more time. With Georgia creeping up on the Rock, Toronto will want to keep their positioning to at least third in the East and try to push Halifax and Buffalo for one of the top seeds. Toronto is 5-1 at home this season and have felt comfortable at FirstOntario Centre. The last time these two franchises played was back in the 2018-19 season where they saw each other three times. Georgia won two of those games including the last game they dominated and won 14-5. Lyle Thompson had eight points (1g, 7a), Shayne Jackson had five (3g, 2a), and Mike Poulin in net saved 47 of 52 shots, including shutting out the Rock offense in the fourth.

Philadelphia Wings (5-7) at Rochester Knighthawks (3-9) – 7:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The Wings are on the road to Rochester after a much-needed bye week following their 17-5 loss to the Bandits in Week 15. This was the Wings’ lowest scoring output of the season. The offense took eight minutes and fourteen seconds to start when Matt Rambo scored the first of the night for either team. Kevin Crowley scored the Wings’ second goal during the second quarter, but the half ended with a 6-2 lead for the Bandits. Corey Small netted the Wings’ one goal of the third quarter. Moving into the fourth, the Bandits increased their lead by 11-3. Kiel Matisz and Corey Small put two in net, but the Bandits relentlessly scored another six to end the game at 17-5. The Wings have now scored eight or less goals in their last five games, a 1-4 stretch that now sees them on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

Rochester, too, lost in a low-scoring effort last weekend against the Rush at 9-6. The Knighthawks were playing from behind the whole game, allowing the Rush to score five in the first while being shutout. Turner Evans, Ryan Smith and Charlie Bertrand each put one past Rush goalie, Eric Penney, to kickstart the second quarter to scratch their way back into the game. The third quarter consisted of one goal from each side of the turf. Holden Cattoni and Ryan Smith each found the back of the net in the fourth, scoring two more for the Knighthawks. Although the Rush only scored two goals during the second half, their five goals scored in the first quarter would ultimately decide the game

The Wings secured an 18-10 at-home victory last time they played the Knighthawks on January 22nd, the most the Wings have scored all year. The Knighthawks would hold the lead 7-5 at the half. The Wings absolutely dominated the third quarter scoring the first eight goals, including four in a span of 1:27. The Wings would ultimately go on a 12-1 scoring run in the second half. Eight Wings players would score at least two goals.

This will be the Wings’ first game without two key contributors they traded at the deadline last week, Anthony Joaquim and Brett Hickey were both traded to West Conference teams. However, the Wings are eager to welcome rookie Sam Leclair to the roster to hopefully ignite their offense. Wings’ Head Coach Paul Day is confident Leclair will complement the Wings’ offense across the next few games. LeClair contributed nine points (6g, 3a) during his four games played with the Mammoth and boasts .375 shooting percentage.

Albany FireWolves (6-8) at New York Riptide (3-8) – 7:30pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The FireWolves and Riptide will play their first of two games for the season this Saturday. This in-state matchup will take place out on the Island at Nassau Live Center for the Riptide’s first home game in a month. Their last game played on March 12th, the Riptide earned their third win of the season against the Knighthawks. It was a shutout first quarter for the Riptide scoring six goals and allowing none. Connor Kearnan netted half of the first quarter goals, the first two being within the first two minutes of play. The Knighthawks sought a comeback in the second quarter scoring six goals, but would still end the half down 8-6. The second half consisted of six goals for the Knighthawks and seven for the Riptide to solidify the win. Callum Crawford had a five-goal night advancing him to sixth on the NLL points leaderboard at 67.

The FireWolves lost to the Swarm last Saturday 15-12. The FireWolves created a strong lead over the Swarm that was maintained throughout the first three quarters. The third quarter ended with 9-7 lead for the FireWolves. Eight goals by the Swarm in the final quarter, and just three by the FireWolves is what eventually ruled the game in favor of the Swarm. Joe Resetarits had six points on the night (3g, 3a). Goalie Doug Jamieson now has 543 saves for the year and over 834 minutes, the most in the league. Albany still sits in fifth place in the Eastern Division and remains in position for a spot in the playoffs.

This is the Riptide’s first game since acquiring Ron Jon, Tyler Digby, and Brent Noseworthy. Jon and Digby were obtained from the Colorado Mammoth in exchange for Tyson Gibson. Digby will be a welcome addition and familiar face for Riptide fans, being a part of the inaugural season before being traded to Colorado. The two teams played each other in the 2019-20 shortened season with Albany (then New England) winning both by a combined 33-19. New York will be happy to have Crawford on this side this time as he scored a combined 22 points (8g, 14a) for the opposing team in those two games.

Calgary Roughnecks (4-7) at Saskatchewan Rush (4-9) – 9:30pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The last two placed teams in the West face off again after playing each other in the week before. Each team had another game after their matchup on March 17 before playing this weekend. Both teams went 1-1 with Calgary defeating Saskatchewan but losing to Panther City. Saskatchewan would get redemption at home and defeat the Rochester Knighthawks. While statistically neither team is eliminated from the playoffs, the push to potentially make it has to start this weekend.

In Calgary’s loss to Panther City, seven different players scored a goal, led by Curtis Dickson with three on the night. Tyler Pace would lead the Roughnecks in scoring with six (2g, 4a). The second and third quarters were the turning point in this game as the Roughnecks were outscored 9-2, including being shut out in the third quarter. The team tried to make a comeback but was too little too late as they were down at one point 14-7 with just over 10 minutes remaining. Calgary was only 1-5 on the powerplay and will look to try and improve moving forward on their man-up opportunities.

Saskatchewan as mentioned headed back home to take on Rochester and come out with a 9-6 victory. The Rush came out hot and led 5-0 after the first quarter. Rochester would bring it back close with three goals of their own, but the Rush led the entire game. Ryan Keenan put five shots through Joel Watson, Mike Messenger won 13 of 16 faceoffs, and Eric Penney saved 38 of 44 shots.

In their last matchup, Calgary would defeat the Rush, 14-12 to take the season series and keep pressure on Halifax for the Alterna Cup. Christian Del Bianco would save 48 of 60 shots and was aided by Zach Currier who had two points (1g, 1a), 16 loose balls, a blocked shot and three caused turnovers in transition for the Roughnecks. Jesse King and Zach Herreweyers would each have hattricks and Curtis Dickson led the team in assists with five helpers. Robert Church led the Rush with eight points (4g, 4a) and received help from Matt Beers with three assists from the backend and Austin Murphy with four points (3g, 1a). The Rush were unable to hold their lead they took into the fourth quarter, being outscored 4-1 in the final frame.

Colorado Mammoth (7-5) at Panther City Lacrosse Club (5-8) – 9:30pm ET – ESPNU/TSN.ca

The NLL is back on ESPNU this week for a tough Western Conference matchup. Panther City may be the hottest team in the NLL right now, winning four straight games after a 1-8 start and are now in contention for a playoff spot. They currently sit 4th in the West but only a half game behind Vancouver for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the West. This team has averaged 15.5 games over their last four games, compared to 9.4 goals in their first nine games of the season. In their hot stretch, they put up a NLL season high 20 goals against the Mammoth two weeks prior to this matchup. The last time out for Panther City, they defeated the Calgary Roughnecks, in Calgary, 14-11. Will Malcom and Patrick Dodds are the leaders of this offense and each recorded eight points in their victory last weekend. Other players such as Dean Fairall, Nathan Grenon, and Cam Milligan have stepped up in a big way for this offense that some may not have predicted. Nick Damude has settled in as goaltender for this team and their defense is looking to keep improving while relying on their offense to outscore the opponent. What is incredible is Panther City’s offense has only averaged 42.5 shots on goal per game in their last four games, meaning their shooting percentage is a staggering .364.

Colorado is coming in off a spirited weekend where they played twice. In their first matchup at home against the Warriors, the Mammoth defense looked sluggish through the first three quarters. Keegan Bal was having a career night and would finish would a NLL season high eight goals in his 12 point performance. The game would see Dillon Ward pulled from net, but thrusted back in after an injury to backup Tyler Carlson. That was an emotional turning point as Carlson was looking to make a save but was unable to and was injured in the process. Ward came back in and made some impressive stops to keep the Mammoth in the game. Loewen’s goal on Carlson somehow sparked the Mammoth, who would find themselves down 14-7 with under four minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The Mammoth would go on the powerplay late in the 3rd and capitalize with a Connor Robinson goal followed by a Chris Wardle goal to get the lead down to 14-9. Eli McLaughlin would take the game into his hands in fourth scoring four times, including the game tying goal with under a minute remaining. He would also get the OT winner for the Mammoth to win 17-16. The Mammoth have now defeated the Warriors twice after being down by seven goals this season.

The second Mammoth game would see them travel to San Diego the following night. This game was almost a completely different game, low scoring and defensive focused. In a game that saw a high of a three goal lead, the Seals were able to squeak out the win, 9-7 which saw a late empty netter to seal (no pun intended) the victory. This was the Mammoth defense that fans have grown accustomed to seeing from Pat Coyle’s team. Unfortunately the Mammoth could not capitalize more on their offensive chances. The difference in this game could have been Jeremy Noble’s goal with less than two seconds remaining in the first half on an extremely difficult angle.

As mentioned, the last time Panther City and Colorado faced off, Panther City went off for 20 goals in their win in Colorado. This is the third and final matchup for these two in the regular season. Colorado took the first game so this will decide the tiebreaker. In the last game, the Mammoth actually held a 5-1 lead after the first quarter but saw Panther City score 14 goals in the second and third quarters. Patrick Dodds led the way with 11 points (5g, 6a) and Dean Fairall almost recorded himself a socktrick as well with five goals on the night. Ryan Lee, Connor Robinson, and Eli McLaughlin each recorded hattricks but it was not enough to catch Panther City. The Mammoth’s new additions debuted in the past weekend. Anthony Joaquim recorded his first goal meanwhile Tyson Gibson was quite with just one assist in the two games. Zed Williams is heating up for Colorado, now scoring in four straight games.

Sunday, March 27

Buffalo Bandits (TBD) at Halifax Thunderbirds (TBD) – 4:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

After a quick travel turnaround, conference rivals Thunderbirds and Bandits will meet again, but this time it’ll be at the Nest in Halifax. Both teams will have had equal opportunity for home-turf advantage this weekend. The Thunderbirds are 6-1 at home after they lost to the FireWolves two weeks ago and will want to stay ahead of the Rock for third place in the East to maintain a potential home field playoff game against the three seed.

Both teams have outstanding goalies defending their net. For the Bandits, Matt Vinc falls third best in the league with 9.25 goals against average (GAA) and an 0.821 save percentage. He has collected the second saves across the league at 467, falling behind FireWolves’ Doug Jamieson. Above him in the goalie totals is Thunderbirds Warren Hill. Hill’s 9.04 GAA and 0.804 save percentage places him second in the league for GAA, below Frank Scigliano of the Seals. Hill has collected 382 saves through the season.

Not only will both teams have tough walls to break through to find the back of the net, but offensively each goalie will be put to the test. Bandits’ Dhane Smith is tied for the league lead with 82 points (25g, 57a) in two less games played than Joe Resetarits. At the pace he is on, he would finish with 134 points, second all-time behind his record of 137 set in 2016. He is also on pace for a whopping 93 assists which would smash Mark Matthews record of 84 set in 2018. Smith could also reach his 300th career goals should he net six this weekend. The Thunderbirds have recently brought on two-time NLL MVP, Shawn Evans, in a trade before the deadline. Evans has totaled five points in his first two games with the Thunderbirds in Week 15 (1g, 4a).

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