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What to Expect: Week 18

Thursday, March 31

Buffalo Bandits-x (12-1) at Philadelphia Wings (6-7) – 7:30pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The Chase for the Championship begins this Thursday starting with the Bandits and Wings. There will be thirty-four games played in eleven playing days over the next five weeks. Both the Bandits and Wings were victorious last weekend. The Bandits won 16-11 against the East Conferencesecond place team, Halifax Thunderbirds, not once but twice. It was a deja-vu scenario having the same score at the end of both matchups against the same team. The Bandits are the first team to clinch their spot in the playoffs following their first win of the weekend. Dhane Smith stood out totaling sixteen points (8g, 8a) on the weekend. He is on pace for 90 assists and 136 points on the season. Those numbers would set the assist record and fall one short of his record 137 points in a season, which he set in his 2016 MVP season. During the second matchup at Scotiabank Centre, Matt Vinc had 71 shots fired his way, and he stopped 60 of them. Not only is sixty saves his new career high, but he is now tied with Daniel Sams for the most saves in a single game in Bandits history. Vinc saved a total of 114 shots on 136 shots on goal (.838 save percentage) on the weekend for the 39 year old. The Wings won 12-8 last Saturday against the Knighthawks. Corey Small led the team with a sock trick and two assists and Kyle Jackson made an impactful debut, scoring six points (1g, 5a).

Both teams play twice this weekend with this being the first matchup for both. The two teams matched up not too long ago on March 12th.  The Wings were first to get onto the scoreboard, thanks to Matt Rambo with a goal at eight minutes and fourteen seconds into the first quarter. The Bandits followed with two of their own and started their lead which remained for the rest of the game. Tehoka Nanticoke recorded a hattrick all within the second quarter, along with Chase Fraser’s first goal of the night. The Wings only found the back of the net once in the second quarter, and the teams ended the half at 6-2. The Bandits governed the second half with eleven more goals and allowed the Wings three. The game ended with a 17-5 at-home win for the Bandits. Nanticoke led the game with five goals and Dhane Smith had 12 points on the night (2g, 10a)

Friday, April 1

Rochester Knighthawks (3-10) at Halifax Thunderbirds (8-5) – 6:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The Thunderbirds experienced a tough weekend with two losses to the Bandits, both ending in a final 16-11 score. These losses account for the third and fourth consecutive losses for the Thunderbirds, and they now share second place in the East with the Toronto Rock but luckily hold the tiebreaker between the two clubs. The first game on March 26th went down at Keybank Center. The Thunderbirds ended the first half with an 8-6 lead. Thunderbirds newcomer Dawson Theede started the second half with a goal sixteen seconds in, and Shawn Evans scored another in the third quarter for the Thunderbirds. Dawson Theede added one more to the score, but that would be it for the Thunderbirds. The Bandits racked up 10 of the final 12 goals to take the game. The second game was at home for the Thunderbirds where they hoped the home turf advantage would help get back in the win column. The Bandits maintained a lead for the entirety of the game, never allowing the Thunderbirds to catch up. The closest they came after the first quarter was getting the Bandits lead down to three in the fourth quarter but relinquished the final three goals of the game. The Thunderbirds placed Aaron Bold in net for forty-three minutes of the game hoping to change the pace. The Thunderbirds outshot the Bandits 71-42 but was unable to slow down the potent Buffalo offense.

Rochester lost 12-8 against the Wings last week, adding another game onto their now five game losing streak. The first half ended with a 9-2 lead for the Wings. The Knighthawks scored the only two goals of the third quarter and would actually get back within two goals of the Wings in the last quarter but wouldn’t be enough to secure the win given the Wings’ lead in the first half. With this loss, Rochester falls last in the NLL standings.

For the first time this season the Thunderbirds and Knighthawks meet, but it won’t be the last. Following this game, both teams will have the opportunity to play again on April 30th. These teams played each other once early in the 2019-20 season with Halifax taking the 14-12 victory at home. Curtis Knight and Holden Cattoni each scored two goals for the Knighthawks but on the other end, Stephen Keogh and Clarke Petterson each scored three.

Toronto Rock (8-5) at Georgia Swarm (8-6) – 7:30pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The Rock and Swarm are neck and neck in the East Conference standings and fighting for their spot in the Chase for the Championship. The Rock (8-5), tied for second with the Thunderbirds (8-5), sit above the Swarm (8-6) by just a half game. However, if this weekend’s game follows similarly to last weekend’s game, those spots will be reversed. These two are quite familiar with each other, having played last week. Jeff Henrick put the first goal past Rock’s goalie Nick Rose. Brendan Bomberry quickly followed with one of his own to create a 2-0 lead over the Rock. Rock’s Tom Schreiber put the Rock on the leaderboards scoring his 10th power play goal of the season but the Swarm would end the first quarter ended with the Swarm  leading to 4-1. With one goal from each side of the turf, the half ended at 5-2. Toronto opened the second half with two goals and closed the gap making the score 504. Before Schreiber would net his second of the night, the Swarm put their only goal of the third quarter in net. Starting the fourth quarter with a one-goal lead, the Swarm scored another three and allowed one taking the score to 10-6. The Swarm earned their fourth straight win.

The Swarm’s points, goals, and assists leader Lyle Thompson, also leading the NLL in goals on the season, was placed onto the injured reserve list prior to the game and did not play in last week’s game. Should Thompson return to the active roster this weekend, the Swarm’s offense will be even stronger this time around. The Swarm are getting hot at the right time, having won four in a row and five of their last six. Mike Poulin played like we have expected from him over the years, saving 43 of 49 shots.

Dan Dawson now only needs one assist to surpass John Tavares for the all-time record at 935. In his last game, he surpassed Tavares for most games played in league history at 307 but only recorded one point on the night.

Vancouver Warriors (6-7) at Calgary Roughnecks (5-7) – 9:00pm ET – ESPN+/Sports Interaction Game of the Week on TSN

The Calgary Roughnecks are making the battle with the Thunderbirds for the Alterna Cup interesting. With their wins in the last two weeks versus Saskatchewan, the next two weeks could decide the cup. Calgary will play at home against Halifax next week on April 9. While winning two of their last three, Calgary is now back into the jumbled playoff picture in the West, primarily looking at the potential fourth spot in that conference.

After losing four straight, the Warriors got themselves back in the win column with a big win over West Conference leading San Diego, 14-12 at home in Rogers Arena. With the rise from Panther City and Calgary, Vancouver is looking to keep pace to secure at least the third spot in the West and not leave their fate to a potential multitude of tiebreaker scenarios.

These two have played once so far this season and will have one more opportunity on April 16. In their last matchup on February 18, Vancouver took a one goal victory 11-10 in Calgary. Although Calgary scored the first two of the game, Vancouver came back to score the last five of the quarter. The game was tied 9-9 heading into the final frame. Kyle Killen and Curtis Dickson traded a goal each before Riley Loewen scored the game winner with just over two minutes remaining in regulation. Curtis Dickson and Keegan Bal were the leaders for their respective offenses, tallying six points each. Steve Fryer was in net for Vancouver in this matchup, saving 41 of 51 shots on goal. Should Calgary win, they will lead Panther City in the standings and make the third spot in the West even more complicated with three teams either one or two games beneath .500.

Saturday, April 2

San Diego Seals (9-3) at Toronto Rock (9-5) – 7:00pm ET – ESPN2/Sports Interaction Game of the Week on TSN2

The Seals are coming off just their third loss of the year and their second against Vancouver. Although still securely in first place in the West, the Seals missed an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot in their loss to Vancouver. This is their one trip to play an Eastern opponent away from Pechanga Arena. The Rock will also have a tough travel day as they play in Georgia on Friday night before heading back home to FirstOntario Centre.

The Rock are right in the thick of it in the East. They are currently tied for second with Halifax heading into this weekend but are only a half game ahead of the Swarm which could change positioning with their game on Friday. This weekend could decide heavily if they are able to get a home playoff game in the first round of the playoffs.

These two teams did play each other in the abbreviated 2019-20 season with Toronto dominating the Seals in San Diego, 13-6. The Rock would start the game on a 9-2 run heading into the second half of the game. Frank Scigliano was yanked after allowing six goals on 12 shots whereas Nick Rose played a phenomenal game, saving 52 of 58 shots. Dan Dawson and Tom Schreiber would each record hattricks for the Rock, whereas Wes Berg scored four of his teams six on the night.

Philadelphia Wings (6-8) at New York Riptide (4-8) – 8:00pm ET – ESPNU/TSN.ca

The Riptide are enjoying their first win streak of the season following their past two contests against Rochester and Albany. Last weekend the Riptide matched up with the FireWolves and came out on top 15-6. The Riptide were down 4-3 at the end of the first quarter, but holding the FireWolves scoreless for two quarters in the second and fourth quarter, were able to extend their lead for the win. What seemed like Teat’s race to lose now has company for a potential Rookie of the Year Award. He is still tied for first among all rookies in points at 68 and is top five in both goals and assists, 23g, 45a). At the rate he is scoring, he is likely not going to surpass Paul Gait’s single season rookie record for goals (47) but is still on pace to set the rookie assist record at 72 and points at 109. The records right now sit at 61 assists (Schreiber – 2017) and 95 points (Staats – 2016). The Wings were also victorious last weekend in their matchup against the Knighthawks. The Wings held a tight grip on the game and ended the half with a 9-2 lead. Rochester slowly crept up in the third and fourth quarter and came within a two-goal difference at 10-8 with just a few minutes left until the final whistle. Ben McIntosh and Corey Small added two more goals to bring home a 12-8 win.

The Wings and Riptide have faced off twice this season and are back for their third game. The first two games were back and forth battles, but both teams secured on-the-road wins. The first game, on December 10th, the Wings led 8-5 at the half. The teams would trade goals until the Riptide went on a run to have the game tied at 11 heading into the final frame. The Wings would score three of the final four to take the win in New York. A few individuals had incredible performances for their teams. For the Wings, Corey Small had nine points (5g, 4a), Kevin Crowley with eight (4g, 4a), and Kiel Matisz had four assists, four caused turnovers, and nine loose ball recoveries. The Riptide were without their prized rookie but Callum Crawford had eight points (4g, 4a) and Kieran McArdle had nine points (3g, 6a)

The second matchup, on January 23rd, was tied at after the first and second quarters. New York scored three of the four goals in the third to take a two goal lead into the fourth. The Wings would get the game to within a goal three times but ran out of time to complete the comeback.

The Wings currently hold the Wild Card position in the West Conference but with two games this weekend and Albany, Panther City, and Calgary right on their tail, they will want to create some breathing room.

Buffalo Bandits (13-1) at Colorado Mammoth (7-6) – 9:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

Buffalo will have a full travel day after their game on Thursday this week to travel from Philadelphia to Colorado to take on the Mammoth. With a playoff berth already achieved and a strong likelihood of the Bandits securing the number one overall seed in the NLL, it will be interesting to see if over the coming weeks if they decide to potentially rest players, especially on weekends with two games. The team has been dominant all season and will want fresh bodies for a potential championship run.

Colorado is coming into this game now losers in back-to-back games and 2-5 in their last seven games. The defense and backend has looked improved in recent weeks but when this team has lost, it is usually on the other end with not being able to score enough goals, scoring just 7.8 goals per game in losses. With their recent slide, a loss would here and a win by Vancouver would have them even in the standings with the Mammoth taking the higher seed based on tiebreakers. The Mammoth have held steady in the second spot in the West for the majority of the season and would like to retain that spot to have a home playoff game in round one of the playoffs.

The Mammoth almost pulled out a win against the Bandits in the 2019-20 season but lost in overtime after Josh Byrne was able to get the game tying goal with about a minute left in regulation. Buffalo had the largest lead of the game at four but allowed the Mammoth back in the game and to eventually take the lead. Ryan Lee and Josh Byrne were the stars of the game with five goals and six goals respectively. Eli McLaughlin, Chris Wardle and Dhane Smith put up huge assist totals with six, eight, and seven respectively.

Albany FireWolves (6-9) at Vancouver Warriors (6-8) – 10:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

Another team with a doubleheader weekend with Vancouver, they will need to travel home after playing in Calgary on Friday night. As mentioned, this week is critical for the Warriors as they can look to either potentially surpass the Mammoth for second in the West of fall to below Panther City who is on a bye this weekend.

With two losses in a row by Albany, they have now dropped to sixth in the East but still remain in contention for the final wild card playoff position. It is a tale of two different Albany teams and it is hard to determine which team will show up. Will we see the team who has beaten San Diego, Toronto, and Halifax (twice) or the team who has been beaten by Rochester (twice) and New York last weekend 15-6? The FireWolves have two more games after this weekend and will likely need to win both, their next game is against Philadelphia who they have already defeated one time this season and are sitting ahead of them in the standings.

These two played in the 2019-20 season with Vancouver defeating the then New England Black Wolves, 10-6. Joe Reseterits was trying to will the team to victory, scoring five points on the six goals (3g, 2a). Doug Jamieson had a game in net, saving 45 of 53 shots before the team allowed two empty net goals in the end. Keegan Bal and Mitch Jones put up almost identical stat lines, with each recording three goals and two assists on the night. If Alex Buque is in net, he will want to have a better performance against this team compared to his last time facing this franchise when he was with New York in 2019-20 on December 27, 2019. In 52 minutes of play, he allowed 17 goals on 60 shots. In that game, Reilly O’Connor, Andrew Kew, and Joe Resetarits combined for 12 goals and 11 assists on 22 goals for the then Black Wolves.

Monday, April 4

New York Riptide (4-9) at Colorado Mammoth (8-6) – 9:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

Monday Night Lacrosse coming to your television screens! New York is a long shot for the playoffs at this point but could start their comeback this weekend. With two wins, they would get closer to Philadelphia who currently holds the crossover 4th spot in the West but would also get to six wins on the season, potentially tying them with the Wings in wins on the season. If they are unable to make a push for the postseason, they are looking to play spoiler like they did last week versus Albany who is fighting for a playoff spot. Including both games in Week 18, five of their final six games are against teams with critical seeding implications.

The Mammoth get a rare doubleheader weekend where they play two East Conference teams. Their remaining schedule has them playing West Conference opponents in San Diego, Calgary, and Saskatchewan as they look to clinch a playoff spot sooner rather than later. They have at least a loss to all three of those opponents on the year. The Week 18 and 19 are critical for the Mammoth as they play their last three games at home where they are 4-2 versus 3-4 on the road.

This is the first time these two franchises have met, having not played against each other in the 2019-20 season before the cancellation. There are a lot of familiar faces on both sides including Tyler Digby and Tyson Gibson, once teammates with the Riptide who were traded for each other at the trade deadline. All three players involved in that deal have gotten off to slow starts with their teams. Gibson has recorded two assists in three games, Digby had one assist and Ron John had two assists in their Riptide debut last weekend.

Playoff Clinching Scenarios

The San Diego Seals can clinch a playoff spot with a win versus the Toronto Rock

The Toronto Rock can clinch a playoff spot with TWO wins this weekend AND Philadelphia loss vs Buffalo AND one loss by New York

The Halifax Thunderbirds can clinch a playoff spot with a win vs Rochester AND Buffalo win at Philadelphia AND Philadelphia loss at New York AND Albany loss at Vancouver AND New York loss at Colorado

The Buffalo Bandits can win the East Conference Regular Season title with two wins this weekend OR one win this weekend AND at least one Toronto loss OR Halifax loss vs. Rochester AND two losses by Toronto.

The Buffalo Bandits can clinch a home playoff game with one win OR Georgia loss vs. Toronto AND Toronto loss vs. San Diego