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What to Expect: Week 20

Friday, April 15

Panther City Lacrosse Club (6-9) at San Diego Seals (9-6) – 10:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

An impactful Week 20 kicks off Friday night with West Conference foes, Panther City travelling to San Diego. After riding a five game high, Panther City was set back last week by the storming Calgary Roughnecks, losing 14-4. The Seals come into this weekend after a worst case scenario in Week 19, losing both of their games to Philadelphia, which moves the Wings into solid ground for the last playoff spot in the West bracket, and to Colorado who now holds the number one spot in the West. After a 9-2 start and looking to contend for the number one overall seed in the NLL, the Seals have now lost four straight games.

The good news for the Seals is they did clinch a playoff spot last week after losses by Vancouver and Panther City, they do also hold the tiebreaker with the Mammoth should both teams finish with the same record. They also hold the tiebreaker against Panther City, having defeated the team from Fort Worth twice this season. Beating a team three times in a season is no easy feat, but the Seals will need to look to get back on track with only three games remaining before they enter the first round of the playoffs, which is a single game elimination where anything can happen.

In the last matchup between these two teams on February 12, the Seals defense and goaltending held Panther City to just four goals in their win. The game was tied heading into halftime at 3-3. The Seals would take control of the game in the third, scoring all five goals of the period and establishing an 8-3 lead. Panther City would only get 33 shots on net and were 0-5 on the powerplay on the night. For San Diego with only 10 goals, had productive and balanced outings from Wes Berg (3g, 3a), Jeremy Noble (0g, 4a), Austin Staats (2g, 2a) and Tre Leclaire (2g, 2a). Brodie Merrill turned back the clock with an outstanding performance, scoring a goal, scooping up nine loose balls, blocking a shot and causing three turnovers.

Saturday, April 16

Halifax Thunderbirds (9-6) at Toronto Rock (11-5) – 7:00pm ET – ESPN+/Sports Interaction Game of the Week on TSN (TSN3)

The Thunderbirds are entering Week 20 having lost five of their last six games including their loss to Calgary last weekend. Things were tied up to end the first quarter, but the Roughnecks began their lead in the second quarter and extended it until the final whistle. The match ended in a 13-8 victory for the Roughnecks. Although this week’s game won’t be between the Thunderbirds and Roughnecks, they will still be competing against one another for the Alterna Cup. Should the Thunderbirds win this weekend against Toronto, and the Roughnecks lose to Vancouver, the Thunderbirds will take home the Alterna Cup.

The Rock defeated the Knighthawks 11-9 last Saturday for their third-straight win. The Knighthawks ended the half ahead by two goals at 7-5 and started the second half with another. The Rock would use two three goal runs in the second half to eventually win the game, including two goals and two assists by Latrell Harris.

For the Sports Interaction Game of the Week on TSN, the Rock and Thunderbirds compete for the third and final time of this regular season. The first game, on December 10th, ended in an 11-7 victory for the Thunderbirds. The Rock only found the net once in the first half, while the Thunderbirds created a 6-1 lead. Five of the Thunderbirds’ six goals came from Clarke Petterson, who later in the game scored a sixth for a socktrick. Action picked up in the second half for the Rock, and they added six goals to the scoreboard. The Rock still fell four goals behind the Thunderbirds, and the game ended in an at-home win for the Thunderbirds. The second matchup, on January 15th, ended eight minutes and fifty seconds into overtime when former Thunderbirds’ player Stephan Leblanc netted the game-winning shot. Dan Dawson scored with just two and a half minutes left of the fourth quarter bringing the score to 13-12 for the Rock. It was Austin Shanks’ fifth goal of the night less than a minute after Dawson’s goal that forced the game into overtime.

Things might look different this time around given the Rock seem to have found their rhythm and are collecting more wins. The Rock passed the Thunderbirds in the standings and clinched their spot in the playoffs. Should the Rock win this game, they will secure a first round at-home playoff game which could very likely be against these Thunderbirds.

Buffalo Bandits (13-3) at Georgia Swarm (8-7) – 7:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The Bandits lost in an upset win by the Riptide last Saturday and face their first losing streak of the season. The Bandits’ only goal of the first quarter was quickly overshadowed by six of the Riptide’s. The Riptide owned the first half ending with a 10-3 lead. The Bandits attempted to recover their off-beat first half performance, outscoring the Riptide in the last two quarters. The Bandits tallied nine goals in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to claim the victory. Buffalo was hurt in their comeback efforts by penalties. The fifth highest penalized team had 29 penalty minutes on the night, 25 of which were in the second half. The Bandits are riding on a two-game losing streak following that 15-12 loss. In two games against New York, the Riptide put up 32 goals against the Bandits and 22 points by Jeff Teat.

The Swarm were off last weekend following their 13-9 defeat to the Rock on April 1. The Swarm and Rock had gone head-to-head the week before on March 26th, and the Swarm came out on top 10-6 without the services of Lyle Thompson. During the most recent game, the Swarm had three goals in the first quarter and allowed only two, but the Rock offense was able to figure out Mike Poulin better in game two, scoring 11 of the final 17 goals.

The Bandits and Swarm will have another go this Saturday. Both teams previously met in the box on January 14. Like many games for the Bandits this season, they got off to the early lead and held momentum for a good portion of the game. The Swarm was able to tie the game briefly in the second quarter, but two more Bandit goals, including a Kyle Buchanan goal with three seconds remaining in the half, would give Buffalo a two goal lead at the half. The second half saw both teams go back and forth on the scoresheet and the game ended in a 12-10 win for the Bandits. Dhane Smith had a quiet night by his standards with five points (2g, 3a) as was Lyle Thompson with four (2g, 2a). Both teams had a balanced score line.

Hoping for a similar ending, the Bandits are eager to get back in the win column and clinch home field advantage through the playoffs. The Swarm are hoping to clinch their spot in the Chase for the Championship as they sit fourth in the East Conference standings with Philadelphia on their tails. This could be another first round preview for these teams as they would play each other if the playoff started today.

Philadelphia Wings (8-8) at Albany FireWolves (7-9) – 7:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

Both the Wings and FireWolves were victorious in their most recent contests as they both needed victories to remain in the hunt for playoff position. The Wings were down 6-2 to the Seals at the end of the first quarter. During the second quarter, the Wings did most of the scoring adding six goals, including three in a span of about two minutes. The last two minutes of the game saw the Wings score to take a two goal lead and then Zack Greer of the Seals scoring two to force overtime. Ben McIntosh sealed the deal with the game-winning shot just :31 seconds into the extra frame, and the Wings brought home a 13-12 win. This was the Wings first victory against a team with a record over .500 on the season and a big one at that having to travel to the West Coast.

The FireWolves, too, brought home a West Coast win against the Warriors on April 2. The first quarter saw three goals for each side of the turf but the FireWolves used a 4-0 second quarter to take the lead. The final two frames saw the FireWolves and Warriors trading goals to end the game ended 11-7 and pushed the FireWolves back into the win column. Andrew Kew scored four goals on the night and Doug Jamieson looked like Goaltender of Year Dougie we have seen before, saving 48 of 55 shots.

The Wings and FireWolves saw each other once already on January 15. It took nine minutes and three seconds to get the offense on the board when Joe Resetarits scored the first goal. Resetarits also started the scoring off in the second quarter to make the game 3-0 for the FireWolves. Matt Rambo would get the lid off the net and score the first for the Wings almost 20 minutes into the game. It was back-and-forth goals scored throughout the second quarter, and the half ended at 5-3. The fourth quarter is when the action picked up. Jacob Ruest would score a goal to give Albany a three goal lead, but less than 15 seconds later, Kevin Crowley swung the momentum back in favor of the Wings. Corey Small would score two in a row to tie the game at seven. Ruest and Resetarits would each score another goal to regain the two goal advantage. The game ended in a 9-8 victory for the FireWolves after Blaze Riorden scored to bring the game to within one.

This is a must win for both teams this weekend. If the FireWolves this win against the Wings, both teams will be tied for fifth in the East Conference standings with Albany holding the tiebreaker against Philadelphia. If the Wings win, depending on how the Swarm perform this weekend, they could advance to fourth in the East Conference standings, and be one win closer to clinching a spot in the playoffs. As it sits currently, Philadelphia holds the Wild Card spot in the West Conference and would play Colorado in the first round. The FireWolves would be watching from home.

Rochester Knighthawks (3-12) at New York Riptide (5-10) – 7:30pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The two expansion teams from the 2019-20 season will faceoff for the third time this season while splitting the first two. Each team has had their struggles this year whether it be from injuries, falling behind games early, or losing leads late in the game. While the wins are not there, the cores for each of these teams are being formed and developed for long term success. The Knighthawks have now lost seven straight games and are at the bottom of the NLL standings. New York is all but eliminated from playoff contention although they did pull off the upset of the season, defeating the Bandits in Banditland last week, 15-12.

The Knighthawks were hopeful to have their young starting goalie, Rylan Hartley, back in net last weekend but was a late scratch to the game. He has been out since early March. During his absence though, the team has allowed 11.6 goals per game which is almost a full goal better than their season average. The offense has been what has been struggling, only surpassing 10 goals in a game once in their last five outings which also coincides with date the Knighthawks trading Shawn Evans to Halifax.

Jeff Teat and the New York offense looked like what fans have expected from this team, getting off to a 9-1 lead at one point against Buffalo. Teat would get back on track for Rookie of the Year consideration with nine points and his first career socktrick. Steven Orleman has looked better each week in net, despite making the game closer in the end, Orleman saved 42 of 54 shots on the highest scoring team in the NLL. Both Teat and Orleman are on watch to set rookie single season records in the next few weeks. Teat is looking to set records in points and assists while Orleman is on pace to set the single season saves record.

The last time out for these teams saw New York get off to a 6-0 lead by the end of the first, including a hattrick from Connor Kearnan. The Knighthawks would score six of the next seven to get back into the game, led by Thomas Hoggarth with a hattrick of his own in that span. In the second half, neither team scored multiple goals in a row, each team trading goals. The Riptide would get the 15-12 win with Teat scoring nine points (2g, 7a) and Callum Crawford who has missed the teams last couple of games, had six points on five goals. Steven Orleman saved 46 of 58 shots seen but was unable to contain Hoggarth, who would finish with five goals for the Knighthawks.

Colorado Mammoth (10-6) at Saskatchewan Rush (5-10) – 9:30pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

For the first time since Week 1, the West Conference has a new leader with Colorado defeating the Seals last weekend and overtaking the top spot heading into Week 20. The Rush are all but eliminated from playoff contention but are playing for a new reason after their victory last weekend against Vancouver and their new head coach in Jimmy Quinlan and seeing the return of Derek Keenan to their bench.

The Mammoth got the help they needed along with their victory to clinch the first playoff berth in the West. In their game against San Diego, their tough defense and timely saves by Dillon Ward secured the victory. Without the services of Robert Hope, Joey Cupido, and Zed Williams, other players stepped up their game. Jordan Gilles scored two goals in transition, Warren Jeffrey matched up on Wes Berg for a majority of the game and limited his production, and Tyson Gibson had his best game as a Mammoth with five points (2g, 3a). Connor Robinson has now surpassed the 40 goal mark on the year and came up with the game winning goal for the Mammoth. He had a total of five goals in 11 career games prior to this season and has recorded at least a hattrick in six games this season. Ryan Lee surpassed the 100 point mark on the weekend, becoming the first Mammoth player since Callum Crawford in 2016 to accomplish that feat. With two games remaining, there is a good chance for him to set a new franchise high which was set by John Grant Jr in his MVP 2012 season (116) along with assists which Callum Crawford set in 2016 at 83.

The Rush played spoiler last week as Vancouver was trying to get back into playoff position in their 15-13 win. Mike Messenger was everywhere on the floor, scoring four points (2g, 2a), winning 14 of 25 faceoffs, scooping seven loose balls and forcing a turnover. The Rush scoring five of the last six goals in the second quarter turned the tide on the game. The second half would see each team trade goals with the Rush being the only team to score more than one in a row and they only scored two consecutive. Eight different players scored for the Rush, including four for Josh Currier and a hattrick for Jeff Shattler. Eric Penney did enough to give his team the win, saving 37 of 49 shots.

This is the last matchup for these two teams this season. They had a home and home mini series earlier in the year with the home teams winning each game. In the second matchup in Saskatchewan on February 26, the Rush took the 10-9 victory in overtime. Eric Penney made his debut with the Rush, saving 37 of 46 shots on net. In the other end, Dillon Ward one of the top performances by a goaltender this season in the loss, saving a NLL season high 62 shots on 72 attempts. Mike Messenger had an impressive game, recording 17 loose ball recoveries, causing four turnovers and winning 22 of 23 faceoffs. Robert Church led the offense with five goals. The Mammoth would score two goals late in the fourth, including a shorthanded goal by Robinson, to force the game to overtime. It took almost seven minutes of high intensity overtime action to decide the winner before Robert Church sealed the win for the Rush.

Calgary Roughnecks (8-7) at Vancouver Warriors (6-10) – 10:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The defending champion Roughneck’s are getting hot at the right time, now having won four games in a row, five of their last six, and establishing themselves as a playoff team in the West in the third seed. The Warriors on the other hand have cooled off considerably and are now fighting for their playoff lives, likely needing to win their last two games to have a shot at the playoffs. They have now lost seven of their last eight games.

The Roughnecks in their two games last weekend outscored their opponents 27-12, including a 14-4 drumming of Panther City. In that game, the Roughnecks would go on an 11 goal run from the second to fourth quarters. Curtis Dickson would record a socktrick and Jesse King contributed with six points of his own (2g, 4a). Zach Currier is playing at a level above elite and it showed in the last game, recording three points (1g, 2a), tallying 11 loose balls, and forcing five turnovers. He is on pace to set the record for most loose balls in a season and with a few good showings, can compete for the forced turnovers record. the Calgary defense would only allow 38 shots on goal from Panther City.

The Warriors fought hard to come back against the Rush but was unable to get on a goal streak in the second half. Kyle Killen and Keegan Bal led the offense with seven goals from Killen and 10 points for Bal (5g, 5a). Logan Schuss was distributing with six assists of his own. Reid Bowering is making a strong case for Rookie of the Year by adding another 12 loose balls, currently on pace to break Brodie Merrill’s loose ball record by a rookie and added five caused turnovers, another rookie record he could set (Zach Currier, 2018).

These teams have played twice this season with each game being decided by one goals. Calgary took the last matchup on April 1, 10-9. The Roughnecks took advantage of their manup opportunities to get off to a 4-1 lead by the end of the first. The Warriors did have runs of three and four goals and at one point, took the lead in the fourth quarter. In a span of 2:13, the Warriors would take the lead, followed by Calgary tying the game and taking the lead and before the Warriors would tie it again heading into overtime. Curtis Dickson called game only 31 seconds into overtime, recording his fourth on the night. Logan Schuss and Kyle Killen would have the same stat line of two goals and three assists on the night. Bowering was doing his best to help his team win with a goal, eight loose balls, three blocked shots and three caused turnovers.

Playoff Scenarios

Buffalo can clinch East Conference title and best overall record with:

  1. Win at Georgia on Saturday, OR
  2. Toronto loss vs. Halifax on Saturday.

Calgary can clinch a playoff berth with:

  1. Win at Vancouver on Saturday.

Colorado can clinch a home playoff game with

  1. Win at Saskatchewan on Saturday AND Calgary loss at Vancouver on Saturday.

Georgia can clinch at least a wild card playoff berth with:

  1. Win vs. Buffalo on Saturday AND Panther City loss at San Diego on Friday AND Albany loss vs. Philadelphia on Saturday.

Halifax can clinch a playoff berth with:

  1. (within the East Conference) Win at Toronto on Saturday, OR
  2. (at least a wild card) Panther City loss at San Diego on Friday.

Philadelphia can clinch at least a Wild Card playoff berth with:

  1. Win at Albany on Saturday

San Diego can clinch a home playoff game with:

  1. Win vs. Panther City on Friday AND Calgary loss at Vancouver on Saturday.

Toronto can clinch a home playoff game with:

  1. Win vs. Halifax on Saturday.