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What to Expect: Week 21

Friday, April 22

Calgary Roughnecks (9-7) at Rochester Knighthawks (3-13) – 7:00pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

The Roughnecks brought home the Alterna Cup and clinched their spot in the Chase for the Championship with their 15-13 victory against the Warriors last Saturday. The Roughnecks are making their presence known in the weeks leading up to the playoffs. They now hold a five-game win streak, currently the longest win streak in the league and the franchise’s longest since 2012.

Saturday’s matchup against the Warriors was back and forth throughout the first half of play. The Roughnecks started and ended things in the first quarter and were up by one (4-3) heading into the second, including a Shane Simpson short handed goal with one second remaining in the frame. The Warriors got the first piece of the net in the second quarter, but Jesse King quickly struck with three-straight goals on his own in 59 seconds of play. The Warriors caught back up with their own streak of goals, and the half ended in a 9-9 tie. The Roughnecks secured their win by one-upping the Warriors by a goal in the third and fourth quarters, bringing the score to a final 15-13. Tyler Pace led the Roughnecks with seven points (3g, 4a) and Zach Currier is trying to keep pace to break a couple single season records, recording 10 loose balls and causing four turnovers while also contributing with a goal.

The Knighthawks lost in a 15-7 defeat to the Riptide last Saturday. The Knighthawks were scoreless in the first quarter and matched the Riptides’ three goals in the second quarter, to end the half at 7-3. The Riptide would outscore the Knighthawks in the third and fourth quarters to extend their lead to 15-7. It was a hard-fought game, and both teams got scrappy. The third quarter saw thirty-three penalty minutes, twenty were dealt to the Knighthawks. Rightfully frustrated, this was the Knighthawks eighth consecutive loss.

The Roughnecks and Knighthawks meet for the first time this season. The last time these two played was in the 2019-20 season which Knighthawk fans may remember being their franchises first victory. Both teams are on opposite sides of winning streaks, but all records and streaks are meant to be broken. Although the Knighthawks have been eliminated from the Chase for the Championship, they are still fighting to end their season back in the win column and play for a spot on the team for next season. Should the Roughnecks win, and the Seals lose, Calgary will be tied for first in the West with Colorado and play them in Week 22 to decide the regular season Conference champion.

Saturday, April 23

Halifax Thunderbirds (9-7) at New York Riptide (6-10) – 7:30pm ET – ESPN+/TSN.ca

Another matchup of two teams who are trending in different directions. Last Saturday, the Thunderbirds lost to the Rock 15-7 and have lost six of their last seven games. This team looks much different from the team that was once competing with Buffalo for the top spot in the league and has now had multiple weeks to clinch a playoff berth and has failed to do so. The Rock swiped the number two spot in the East Conference standings from the Thunderbirds a few weeks back, and this win gave them a home playoff game in the Quarterfinals. The first quarter ended with four goals for the Rock, and three for the Thunderbirds, two which were capitalized off power plays. The second quarter saw a four-goal run by the Rock. The Thunderbirds were able to close the gap with three of their own goals, and the half ended 8-6. The effort was there for the Thunderbirds in the third quarter, but they just couldn’t find the back of the net. The Rock kept Aaron Bold busy, who was substituted in for Warren Hill after the four-goal run in the second, hoping for a different look. Toronto would go on a six-goal run in the second half to stretch their lead to the end of the game.

The Riptide earned a 15-7 at-home victory against the Knighthawks carrying over their momentum from their victory against the Bandits the week prior. The Riptide’s Dan Lomas got the game started with a power play goal nine minutes into the game. The Riptide would go on a 6-0 run to start the game, including two goals in the first minute of the second quarter. The Knighthawks put a stop to the Riptide’s run with a goal, but Kieran McArdle put another in net during a power play. The half ended 7-3 with Riptide leading the game. The Riptide outscored Rochester in each of the final two frames to take the win, their second straight. Their third game without Callum Crawford saw a few rookies step their game up. Jeff Teat continued to impress with 10 points (3g, 7a), Ron John contributed a goal and an assist in transition and Steven Orleman saved 36 of 43 shots. Jake Fox would lead the game in goals scored with four.

The Thunderbirds are on the road for the third week in a row, this time on Long Island. The two teams have already met this season back on February 4th at the FirstOntario Centre, the Thunderbirds’ temporary home during the height of the Covid restrictions in Halifax. The Riptide were first to get up on the boards with a powerplay goal from Connor Kearnan. The Thunderbirds followed closely with a power play goal of their own, and a five-goal run stretching into the second frame. In the second quarter, the Riptide outscored the Thunderbirds by two, which brought them back within one goal at the half. Callum Crawford evened out the playing field with another goal to start the second half. The Thunderbirds broke the 7-7 tie with two more goals heading into the fourth quarter and would add two more at the beginning of the fourth to get to an 11-7 lead. Unable to catch up, the game ended with a final score of 13-10 in favor of the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are itching for a playoff berth, and this might be the game to get it whereas the Riptide need to win out for a chance at the playoffs. 15 players for the Thunderbirds contributed with a point in a balanced approach. Teat was held to a quite night by his standards with just three assists on the night. Crawford led the team with six points (4g, 2a).

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

At one point this matchup may not have had a lot of significance but now the game on ESPNU this weekend has important implications for both teams in their hope to qualify for the playoffs and make a run. The Swarm who has been in the 4th spot in the East most of the season is trying to fight off Albany and Philadelphia on their tails with the potential to pass the Thunderbirds for the 3rd seed. Georgia does hold the tiebreaker over the FireWolves but not against the Wings. Panther City with their hot play over the last month and a half will be battling with Albany and Philadelphia for the Wild Card spot in the West. As of this weekend, they sit a half game behind both. Should Panther City win, they would be tied for that spot with both teams heading into the last weekend of the regular season.

The Swarm are on a two-game slide, highlighted by last weekend’s drumming by the Bandits. Georgia would be outscored in each quarter and only one player for the Swarm scored more than one goal. The good news for the Swarm was that player was Miles Thompson who made his return to the lineup for the first time this season. His brother, Lyle, is tied for second in the NLL in goals this year at 42 and is seventh in points overall at 90. This is his fourth season hitting the 40+ goal mark and can set a career high should he get five more over the next two weeks. If he surpasses 100 points it will be his third time in his career surpassing that mark, with a career high of 116 in his 2017 MVP season.

Panther City rebounded after their bad defeat to the Roughnecks two weekends ago to take a close game against the Seals, handing San Diego their fifth straight loss. In their matchup against the Seals, the first two quarters were two different tales. In quarter one, Panther City came out to establish a 4-1 lead with Patrick Dodds recording two of the goals. They would allow the Seals back into the game in the second, allowing four straight goals to end the half and find themselves down one. After a somewhat quite third quarter, Panther City would be down two entering the final frame. Midseason acquisitions Cam Milligan and Dean Fairall would score two early in the fourth to tie the game back at nine. After allowing Austin Staats to score, Panther City would be trailing late into the fourth. Phil Caputo would score a powerplay goal to tie the game at 10 with 90 seconds remaining. With all thoughts potentially leading to overtime, Caputo would bury a second goal with just 28 seconds remaining to give Panther City the lead and ultimately decide the game, his fourth of the game. Nick Damude had a solid game in net against his former team, saving 45 of 55 shots on goal. Patrick Dodds is making his case for Rookie of the Year, adding six points (2g, 4a) to his season total, now ranked second this season. With two more points, he will cement himself in the top 10 rookie point scorers in NLL history. He is already on the list for single season assists by a rookie with two games remaining.

This is the first matchup between these two franchises. The third quarter could be a deciding factor in this game as both teams have struggled heading into the second half with Georgia sporting a -15 goal differential while Panther City has a -13. The two teams are a combined 12-1 when leading after three quarters.  Both teams are towards the best at limiting their time in the penalty box and when they do find themselves a man down, in killing off the penalty. Panther City is riding a three-game home winning streak.

San Diego Seals-x (9-7) at Saskatchewan Rush (6-10) – 9:30pm ET – ESPN+/Sports Interaction Game of the Week on TSN (TSN3/5)

The Seals have seen their lead to potentially clinch the West Conference slip to a point where they are potentially looking at now having to go on the road for the first round of the playoffs. They sit second in the West because they own the tiebreaker against the Roughnecks and should they also tie with Colorado at seasons end, the Seals own the tiebreakers against them as well. Their five-game losing streak is the longest in their franchise history and comes at a time where the Roughnecks are on fire and on their tails. While only one of their losses was in a blowout, the Seals have blown late leads or lost by just one goal in their last three games.

In their last game, their offense got off to a slow start. In the second however, the Seals pounced back scoring six of the eight goals to take a one goal lead into the half. Brett Hickey and Casey Jackson each put up two goals in the second and Austin Staats contributing three assists. Austin Staats would score a goal with just under six minutes remaining in the game to give the Seals a one goal lead. With just over 90 seconds remaining, they would give up the tying goal, a shot by Phil Caputo. They would also give up a heartbreaking game winner with just 28 seconds remaining. Brett Hickey would have his best performance as a Seal with a hattrick on the night. The Seals also welcomed back Dane Dobbie after some time off, he would tally five points (1g, 4a). On the backend, Graydon Bradley had a game to remember, tallying one assist, nine loose balls and two blocked shots and caused turnovers. Goalie Frank Scigliano was pulled early in the game for Chris Origlieri for just over 10 minutes of action. Once he came back into the game he settled down for the remainder of the game. The damage however, had already been done. Brodie Merrill has now surpassed 100 loose ball recoveries in a season for the 15th time in his career.

Since parting ways with Jeff McComb as Head Coach, the Rush are 2-0 and are showing signs of life late in the season. They have beaten the Warriors and Mammoth to crawl out of last place in the West. In their last game against Colorado, the Rush kept the game close throughout but used a solid third quarter where they outscored the Mammoth 2-0 to take the lead that they would not relinquish the remainder of the way. While the offense was able to pepper Dillon Ward with shots all night, the defense looked like the dominating team we expect from this team who had won three championships in four years. Five different Rush players caused multiple turnovers and they only allowed 31 shots on goal which benefited Adam Shute in net who took the starting role with Eric Penney being inactive for the game. Mark Matthews led the way in scoring for the Rush with six points (2g, 4a) while Marshall Powless had one of his best games in his young career scoring two goals on Ward. Kyle Rubisch and Holden Garlent each tallied four caused turnovers and captain, Chris Corbeil chipped in with three.

This is the third matchup for these two teams with the Seals taking the first two. In their last matchup on March 11, the Seals used a ferocious fourth quarter to come back and win the game. The Rush would end the first quarter up 5-1 and the half 8-4. Robert Church would extend the lead to 9-4 early in the third. The Seals would get on the board in the 3rd quarter with two and a half minutes remaining in the frame. That would be a big momentum swing as they would score the final six straight goals, including shutting out the Rush offense in the fourth. Wes Berg was a main component, recording five of his seven points on the night in those final six goals. Zack Greer would tie the game with just over a minute remaining in the game. The Seals would have the final possession of regulation where a rebound off the goalie would fall right into Jeremy Noble’s stick. He would bury the rebound with just under two seconds to take the win, his one point on the night. For the Rush, Jeff Shattler recorded a hattrick and both Matthews and Robert Church tallied two goals.

Playoff Scenarios

Halifax can clinch a playoff berth with:

  1. Win at New York on Saturday OR
  2. Panther City loss vs. Georgia on Saturday

San Diego can clinch a home playoff game with:

  1. Win at Saskatchewan on Saturday.