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Fri. December 30
Thunderbirds (2-0) at Bandits (1-1) – 7:30pm ET
After a week off, Week 5 starts on Friday with the undefeated Thunderbirds taking on the Buffalo Bandits in Banditland. Halifax comes into this game with a league best +19 goal differential after just two games. The Bandits got their first win of the season in Week 3, defeating the Toronto Rock by a score of 11-8.
Halifax has looked like the most complete team in the NLL through two games played. They are averaging 19 goals scored per game and allowing under 10 per game to their opponents. Four of their players are in the top 15 in the NLL in scoring, including the ageless Ryan Benesch who is tied for third in the league with 16 points and eight goals.
After starting with the surprising loss against Albany in Week 1, the Bandits got back on track with a win versus the Rock in Week 3. The defense and goaltending have looked on par with last season but is lacking the spark from their offense. Last season’s MVP, Dhane Smith, leads the team in points at 11 but only has one goal to his credit so far this season. Only four players have scored more than one goal so far this season for the Bandits offense.
Last season the Bandits took both matchups in the regular season against the Thunderbirds. In their last matchup on March 27, the Bandits won 16-11 even though they were outshot 71-42. Dhane Smith scored five goals on the night while Matt Vinc was solid in net saving 60 of 71 shots. Warren Hill for the Thunderbirds was pulled early in that game and will look for his own redemption against the Bandits. With a win, the Thunderbirds would sit atop the East.
Seals (2-0) at Roughnecks (2-0) – 9pm ET – Game of the Week on TSN
Friday ends with a battle for first place in the West between the Seals and Roughnecks. The Seals have had a flare for the dramatic this season while the Roughnecks took care of business in back-to-back weeks against the Warriors.
The Seals are still one of the favorites to win the NLL Cup and they are still atop the West Conference at 2-0 with a +2-goal differential. In Week 1, they held off a comeback attempt by the Riptide. In Week 2, they mounted an historic comeback against the Rush, scoring nine straight goals when they were down seven in the last minute of the third. They would go on to win the game in overtime.
The Roughnecks took the season series against the Warriors by beating them in back-to-back weeks. In the latest matchup on December 16, the Roughnecks spoiled the Warriors home opener by a score of 14-5. The Roughnecks were in the driver seat for most of the game, scoring the first six goals of the game and leading by seven at the half. Christian Del Bianco looked like he was on top of his game, saving 49 of 54 shots faced.
Last season the Seals took all three games from the Roughnecks. The last matchup on March 4 was a low scoring affair with the Seals winning by a score of 9-4. In what was a goaltender duel for the bulk of the game saw Frank Scigliano for the Seals allow just four goals on 54 shots. In the other net, Del Bianco saved 43 of 51 shots faced. The winner will be alone in first place and have a crucial game over their opponent.
Sat. December 31
Panther City (2-1) at Rush (1-1) – 9pm ET
The last game of the 2022 calendar year takes place on New Year’s Eve with the Rush hosting Panther City. As of now, both teams are in playoff spots and will not want to give up any ground in the West Conference.
Panther City took the home and home series against the Desert Dogs before falling to the defending champion Colorado Mammoth. They were the first team to play twice in the same weekend so far this season. After defeating the Desert Dogs in Las Vegas’ inaugural home game by a score of 9-3, they played the following night and lost 12-9 back in Fort Worth. After giving up the first two goals of the game, Panther City was playing catchup all night and was unable to get even despite the five- and six-point performances from Will Malcom and Jonathan Donville respectively.
The Rush defeated the Mammoth in Week 1 by a wide margin, 18-6. In Week 2 against the Seals, it looked like they would once again run away with the game but were outscored by six in the fourth quarter and eventually fell to the Seals 13-12 in overtime. A big factor to the collapse was the absence of two of their top defenders in Ryan Dilks and Kyle Rubisch who left the game early with injuries.
Last season the Rush took two of three from the expansion franchise. The Rush were able to win their last matchup in the last weekend of the regular season in a game that was just for pride given both teams were eliminated from playoff contention. The Rush limited Panther City to just a single goal in the second half to claim the win. Robert Church led the way with six points. Holden Garlent contributed from the backend with two goals of his own. Will Malcom had a team high four points with a goal and three assists.