NLL Playoff Picture Finalized After Dramatic Week 22

PHOTO BY KYLE HESS / GEORGIA SWARM


After 22 weeks, the National Lacrosse League regular season is over. Now, the real fun begins.

The playoff field came down to the final week of action, with two spots still up for grabs. In the end, it was the Albany FireWolves and Philadelphia Wings making it in, while the Georgia Swarm are on the outside looking in for the first time since 2016.

That’s largely due to the climactic head-to-head matchup between the Swarm and Wings, which culminated in a dramatic overtime period. Georgia weathered a five-goal Philadelphia run that put the Wings up 10-8 in the final five minutes of play, getting late tallies from Stephan Leblanc and TJ Comizio to force overtime.

That just delayed the group’s heartbreak. Blaze Riorden pulled off a spectacular play, collecting a long outlet pass from Zach Higgins behind the Swarm cage before beating two defenders for an unforgettable diving goal.

“The last three-and-a-half months, a lot has gone on between now and then,” Riorden said. “You get on a plane yesterday and none of that really matters, but the thing that we took with us is that this is a resilient group. We battled adversity all year. In a moment like that, the more battle-tested team came out on top.”

The triumph in the fifth straight one-goal game between Georgia and Philadelphia helped the Wings secure the league’s wild card position. They’ll cross over to the West half of the bracket, opening with top West seed San Diego in a duel of 2018 expansion squads. This marks Philadelphia’s first trip to the postseason in franchise history.

Albany bumped Georgia out of the playoffs with its decisive victory against the New York Riptide. The FireWolves went on a 13-1 run stretching from the early stages of the second quarter into the fourth to roll to a 17-9 win.

Joe Resetarits paved the way with 11 points, with his five goals helping the American finish tied for the league lead at 47. Albany closed out the regular season with three straight wins, earning a date with top East Division seed Buffalo next week.

SEEDINGS SOLIDIFIED

The top three teams in the West could have been seeded in any order based on this weekend’s results, with the configuration coming down to the final game of the season. San Diego secured the conference crown, while Calgary and Colorado slot in at No. 2 and 3, respectively, thanks to the results of two outings.

The Seals survived a challenge from a Warriors squad playing for pride, eking out a 10-9 victory. Keegan Bal scored the only goal of the fourth quarter for the Warriors, but Frankie Scigliano and San Diego never let Vancouver get the equalizer.

Austin Staats had a team-leading seven points for the Seals, while Casey Jackson scored the team’s final three goals. His eventual game winner came with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter. San Diego lost six straight heading into the final weekend but did enough early in the year to still claim the division title.

“It is always good to go in good to the playoffs, get into a little groove,” Staats said. “Playoffs is a different animal, as we all know. We know we’ve got to come focused every weekend and play our best lacrosse every week.”







Calgary secured the second seed and homefield in its upcoming playoff meeting with Colorado by beating the Mammoth in the regular season finale. Colorado nearly came back from down 12-5 entering the fourth quarter, scoring six straight to make it 12-11, but the Riggers got the game’s final two scores in a 14-11 final.

That pushed both Calgary and Colorado to 10-8, with the Roughnecks owning the tiebreaker. Curtis Dickson accumulated eight points, helping Calgary overcome six-point outings from Ryan Lee and Eli McLaughlin.

“It’s awesome for us,” Calgary goalie Christian del Bianco said of the home playoff opener. “It’s awesome for our organization. But even bigger, it’s awesome to reward our fans. They deserve it.”

Out East, Georgia’s defeat combined with Halifax’s 13-10 win against Rochester put the Thunderbirds safely in the third seed. The T-Birds scored the final six goals of the game, shutting out the Knighthawks in the final 19 minutes of action, to finish 11-7 and close out the regular season on a two-game win streak.

NOTEWORTHY

In a meaningless battle of the top two East seeds, Toronto held Dhane Smith pointless in a 10-7 victory against Buffalo. Challen Rogers and Dan Craig each had four points for the Rock. … Saskatchewan closed out its disappointing season with a 13-9 victory against Panther City. Goalie Cameron Dunkerley made 40 saves to secure his first career win in the process, while Robert Church recorded six points. … Vancouver’s Reid Bowering set the NLL’s all-time rookie record for caused turnovers. He finished with 34. … The final statistical leaders: Points: Dhane Smith (135); Goals: Joe Resetarits, Lyle Thompson and Tom Schreiber (47); Assists: Dhane Smith (94); Saves: Matt Vinc (747); Loose balls: Zach Currier (237); Caused turnovers: Zach Currier (62). … The Las Vegas expansion squad announced it will be called the Desert Dogs and named Shawn Williams head coach and general manager.

POWER RANKINGS

Last week’s ranking in parentheses.

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

UP NEXT
ALL TIMES EASTERN

East Division

No. 3 Thunderbirds at No. 2 Rock, 7:30 p.m. Friday
No. 4 FireWolves at No. 1 Bandits, 7:30 p.m. Saturday

West Division

No. 3 Mammoth at No. 2 Roughnecks, 9:30 p.m. Friday
No. 4 Wings at No. 1 Seals, 10 p.m. Saturday

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