NLL: Calgary Clinches Playoff Spot; Buffalo Locks Up East's Top Seed

PHOTO BY JACLYN MCKEE

Tyler Pace (68) had seven points in Calgary's 15-13 win at Vancouver on Saturday.


The Calgary Roughnecks will have the opportunity to defend their championship this spring. Meanwhile, the team they beat in the last NLL Cup, the Buffalo Bandits, will have home floor advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Riggers became the third West Division team to clinch a playoff spot on Saturday thanks to their 15-13 victory against the Vancouver Warriors. A 5-2 game-closing run helped Calgary secure a fifth straight triumph, a stretch that has surged the team from the outside looking in to a tie for second place in the West.

Tyler Pace had seven points, while Curtis Dickson and Jesse King each had six for a Roughnecks group that once sat at 4-7.

“We’ve been on this nice little spree here where we’re treating it like playoff lacrosse toward the end of our season,” King said. “We knew this was a big game for us, especially for the playoffs.”

Vancouver, losers of four straight, sits alone in the cellar of the division.

Buffalo ended a surprising two-game skid down in Georgia, securing the top seed in the East Division and overall in the process. The Bandits turned a close matchup into an 18-9 rout thanks to an 11-3 run in the second and third quarters.

Six Bandits had five or more points, led by Dhane Smith with nine. Rounding out the group were Chris Cloutier (eight), Connor Fields (six), Josh Byrne (six), Tehoka Nanticoke (five) and Kyle Buchanan (five).

“We’re just trusting our offense right now, moving the ball, focusing on the little things,” Byrne said. “When we do that, we’re a dangerous team.”

With his ninth straight game with seven or more points, Smith pushed his season total to 135. That’s just two away from the league record, which he set in 2016.

MUDDLED PLAYOFF RACES

While Buffalo and Calgary can sit more comfortably exiting the weekend, Week 20 did little to clear up seedings for the upcoming postseason. Four teams are within striking distance of one another in the East, while the West now has that tie for second place.







Halifax’s woes continued in Hamilton, with nine-point performances from Tom Schreiber and Dan Craig handing the Thunderbirds their sixth loss in the last seven games. A three-goal run from the T-Birds at the end of the first half cut the Rock’s lead to 8-6, but a dominant second half powered the home team to a 15-7 triumph.

The Thunderbirds, once competing with the Bandits for the top seed in the East, are now in the thick of it with Georgia, Albany and Philadelphia. Their 9-7 record keeps them in third, but only a game up on fourth-placed Georgia.

Both Albany and Philadelphia are a half game back of the Swarm after a head-to-head matchup. The FireWolves saved themselves from elimination by playing 33 minutes of shutout lacrosse in an 11-5 final. Doug Jamieson, who finished with 39 saves, did his part as the offense mounted a nine-goal run to sweep the season series. That gives Albany the tiebreaker in the standings, pushing the FireWolves into the final wild card playoff position.

Stiff competition for the wild card comes from the other division as well in Panther City. The expansion club can still dream of the postseason in its first year of existence thanks to a wild ending against the San Diego Seals.

Phil Caputo scored twice in the final minute and 31 seconds of action, erasing a one-goal deficit in an 11-10 win. Panther City, winners of six of the last seven, outscored the sputtering Seals 4-1 in the fourth. At 7-9, PCLC is a game back in the win column on Albany and Philadelphia.

“Every game’s the biggest game of the year for us,” said Caputo, who tied his career high for goals in a game with four.

The defeat pushed San Diego, losers of the last five, to 9-7 and square with Calgary.

SLIM HOPES ALIVE

A late stat correction took away Jeff Teat’s second career double-digit point performance last week against the Bandits. The stellar rookie remedied that by getting to 10 this week against Rochester.

He did it on three goals and seven assists in his New York Riptide’s 15-7 win. Jake Fox, Connor Kearnan and Kieran McArdle each had four points as New York scored the first six goals of the game and never looked back. At 6-10, the win kept the group’s slim playoff holes alive.

“Honestly I just think we moved the ball really well,” Fox said. “Teater and our whole offense was able to find guys the whole night. I was just fortunate my guys found me when I was open.”

Also still alive and hoping for help are the Saskatchewan Rush, who upended Colorado 9-8. Mark Matthews notched six points in a second straight win for Saskatchewan, now 6-10.

“We’re still playing for the playoffs,” Rush forward Robert Church said. “I don’t think anyone wants to see us in the playoffs, especially if we won four or five straight to get in.”

NOTEWORTHY

Buffalo’s Matt Vinc became the first ever NLL goalie to record 9,000 career saves. … Longtime NLL referee Todd Labranche worked his 400th career game when he officiated Calgary and Vancouver. That’s the most in league history. … Joe Resetarits matched his career high of 100 points, marking the second time an American-born player has reached triple digits in NLL history. … Vancouver’s Keegan Bal recorded his second sock trick of the season in the losing effort against Calgary. … New York’s Brent Noseworthy had the pass of the weekend, dishing out an assist from his back). … Panther City moved Randy Staats off injured reserve and on the active roster for evaluation.

POWER RANKINGS

Last week’s rankings in parentheses

1. Buffalo Bandits (2)
2. Toronto Rock (1)
3. Calgary Roughnecks (4)
4. Colorado Mammoth (3)
5. Georgia Swarm (6)
6. Halifax Thunderbirds (5)
7. Philadelphia Wings (7)
8. Panther City Lacrosse Club (10)
9. Philadelphia Wings (7)
10. San Diego Seals (8)
11. Saskatchewan Rush (12)
12. New York Riptide (11)
13. Vancouver Warriors (13)
14. Rochester Knighthawks (14)

UP NEXT
All times Eastern

Friday

Roughnecks at Knighthawks, 7 p.m.

Saturday

Thunderbirds at Riptide, 7:30 p.m.

Swarm at Panther City, 8:30 p.m.

Seals at Rush, 9:30 p.m.

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