NLL West Playoff Picture Becoming Clear, Still Battles in the East

PHOTO COURTESY OF TORONTO ROCK/NLL


The Saskatchewan Rush and New York Riptide are on the outside looking in of the playoff picture as the National Lacrosse League regular season nears its end. That doesn’t mean the teams are ready to go away without a fight.

The Riptide pulled off the upset of the season, continuing their surprising success against the NLL-leading Buffalo Bandits. New York swarmed the Bandits early, scoring nine of the game’s first 10 goals, and never let that lead shrink further than three the rest of the way in a 15-12 triumph.

“Tonight was obviously a great win for our group,” Riptide coach Dan Ladouceur said. “I feel like that was a complete game. We challenged the guys pregame to leave everything on the floor and have a statement game. Everyone responded, from [goalie Steven] Orleman right through the front door.”

Jeff Teat was masterful with six goals and four assists, while Dhane Smith’s historic night was spoiled. The MVP favorite notched eight assists for Buffalo, breaking Mark Matthews’ record for most helpers in a season. He’s up to 87 with two games to go.

New York is holding on to the slimmest of playoff chances, as are the Rush after Saskatchewan’s 15-13 victory against the Vancouver Warriors. A 5-1 run to close out the first half gave the squad a lead it’d never relinquish, even after Vancouver cut the deficit to one five times.

Ryan Keenan and Robert Church each had seven points, while Mike Messenger had a full stat line of two goals, two assists, seven loose balls and a caused turnover in Saskatchewan’s first game since a shakeup behind the bench. Longtime Rush coach Derek Keenan is back, serving as an associate head coach along with Jimmy Quinlan.

“They’ve competed hard all year,” Quinlan said. “It’s been a long season. We are not used to being where we are, but the message to the guys was just to play what was in front of us and really at the end of the day just be themselves. We fully believe in that group. We think we’ve got an amazing group.”

WEST COMING INTO SHAPE

A pair of West Division squads punched their tickets to the playoffs, while Calgary made a major play for the third postseason position on that side of the bracket.

Colorado and San Diego will both be playing for a chance at the NLL Cup this spring, even after the Seals went 0-2 on the weekend and extended their skid to four games. One of those defeats came against the Mammoth, who jumped into first in the West with an 11-10 result Saturday night.

Connor Robinson put up a hat trick, including the eventual game-winner with about 10 minutes remaining, to help his team advance to 10-6.

That marked the second one-goal loss in the same number of days for San Diego, whose comeback effort fell short Friday night against Philadelphia. Zack Greer notched a pair of late goals to force overtime, but Ben McIntosh made sure those efforts were for naught just 31 seconds into the extra frame.

San Diego still cliched the postseason thanks to Vancouver’s loss to Saskatchewan and Panther City’s rough night at the office against Calgary. The Roughnecks ended PCLC’s impressive five-game winning streak with a beatdown, scoring 11 straight in a 14-4 finish. Curtis Dickson scored six times, with five coming in that lengthy run.

That secured a 2-0 weekend for the Riggers, who at 8-7 are in great position to hold off Panther City (6-9), Vancouver (6-10) and Saskatchewan (5-10) for the third West playoff spot.







POSITION BATTLE IN THE EAST

The Toronto Rock clinched a playoff spot last week but still have a battle on their hands to get the No. 2 seed in the East. The group took a step closer to accomplishing that goal by taking care of business against Rochester Saturday while their biggest competitor stumbled.

The Rock scored the final three goals of the game in the last six minutes of action, securing an 11-9 win against the Knighthawks. That final spurt extended a 6-1 Rock run after the K-Hawks took an 8-5 advantage at the start of the second half.

Latrell Harris led the way with two goals, three assists, nine loose balls and five caused turnovers.

A night earlier, Halifax couldn’t handle the surging Roughnecks in a 13-8 final. That marked a fifth loss in the last six games for the Thunderbirds, who look up at Toronto in the standings. The Rock sit at 11-5, while the third-placed T-Birds have yet to clinch the postseason at 9-6.

NOTEWORTHY

Toronto’s Dan Dawson surpassed John Tavares to become the NLL’s all-time career assist leader by hitting 935. His teammate, goalie Nick Rose, moved into eighth in the league’s record book in career saves and ninth in minutes played. … In Vancouver’s loss to Saskatchewan, all but one of the Warriors’ goals were scored by either Kyle Killen or Keegan Bal. Killen had seven goals, while Bal had five. … Colorado’s Zed Williams and Joey Cupido both went on injured reserve this week, as did San Diego’s Dane Dobbie and Toronto’s Jason Noble.

POWER RANKINGS

Last week’s rankings in parentheses.

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

UP NEXT
ALL TIMES EASTERN

Friday

Panther City at Seals, 10 p.m.

Saturday

Thunderbirds at Rock, 7 p.m.
Bandits at Swarm, 7 p.m.
Wings at FireWolves, 7 p.m.
Knighthawks at Riptide, 7:30 p.m.
Mammoth at Rush, 9:30 p.m.
Roughnecks at Warriors, 10 p.m.

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