Playoff Races Heating Up as NLL Regular Season Enters Home Stretch

PHOTO COURTESY OF COLORADO MAMMOTH / NLL

The Mammoth proved the Bandits are beatable with a 15-14 win this weekend.


The Colorado Mammoth proved the Bandits are still beatable — at least when Buffalo is at the end of a grueling stretch of four games in eight nights.

Connor Robinson broke a tie with a minute remaining, cutting into prime territory to best Matt Vinc and seal an impressive 15-14 victory for his Mammoth. It marked Buffalo’s first loss since February 12 and only its second of the season, breaking a seven-game streak.

“It was a fight the entire second half,” Robinson said. “We got the win at the very, very end, but they battled hard, and we battled even harder.”

Robinson’s heroics capped off a back-and-forth contest, one that required the Mammoth to erase a one-goal deficit in the final five minutes. Back-to-back goals from Zed Williams and Tyson Gibson put Colorado ahead before Chase Fraser equalized for Buffalo. That set up a tense finish until Robinson sent the fans of the Loudhouse into a frenzy.

Ryan Lee led the way with eight points, while Robinson scored four times.

Colorado finished off its extended weekend in style Monday, besting New York 10-7. The Mammoth closed with a 3-0 run in the fourth quarter, with Warren Jeffrey netting the eventual game-winner halfway through the final frame. Lee added another six points to his total in the win, which pushed his team to 9-6 and into a tie with San Diego in the win column.

The Bandits’ weekend wasn’t entirely for naught, as a 17-12 win against Philadelphia Thursday helped Buffalo secure a home playoff game.

TORONTO CLINCHES POSTSEASON SPOT

Welcome to the playoffs, Toronto.

The Rock sealed their spot in the upcoming National Lacrosse League postseason thanks to a stellar sweep of a two-game weekend. The group opened Friday with a come-from-behind victory against fellow East contender Georgia, erasing an early 3-0 hole thanks largely to the trio of Tom Schreiber (seven points), Dan Craig (six) and Challen Rogers (five). A 6-1 run, followed by another 5-1 spurt, powered Toronto to a 13-9 triumph.

A day later, Toronto slayed the top team in the West Division in style with a 14-7 finish against the Seals. A massive 7-0 run stretching from the final minute of the third quarter into the fourth allowed the Rock to put up a crooked number and move to 10-5, jumping Halifax in the East standings.

Craig scored six times, including four straight in the late run. Toronto is the second team to clinch a playoff spot, joining Buffalo. San Diego could have clinched with a victory, but the Seals will have to wait.

“This is a special group,” Craig said. “Every year you always hear, ‘This is a special group.’ But there’s a different vibe in this room than there has been in past years.”

RACE FOR THE WILD CARD

It appears the final few playoff positions will go down to the wire, with plenty of movement in the standings still on the table.

Calgary did itself a major favor by winning a second straight, knocking off Vancouver 10-9 in overtime. Curtis Dickson capitalized on a third-chance opportunity for the Riggers, sending a shot to the back of the net with two seconds left on the shot clock.

That slid the Roughnecks into the third and final West Division playoff spot, leaping the Warriors and idle Panther City.

The Roughnecks, who have played one fewer game than Panther City and two fewer than the Warriors, control their own destiny. If they take care of business, the other two will have to settle for the wild card playoff position. That spot goes to the best remaining team outside the top four in the East and top three in the West.

Philadelphia holds the elusive position after its 1-1 showing. It salvaged the weekend after the Bandits defeat with an 11-5 win against New York, a game which featured seven points from Kevin Crowley.

Albany is hot on the Wings’ tail after sealing a weekend to forget for Vancouver. A 6-0 run in the second and third quarters allowed the FireWolves to pull ahead and survive a late Warriors push in an 11-7 victory.

As it stands, Philadelphia would travel to San Diego for the first round thanks to its 7-8 record. Albany is currently 7-9, Panther City is 6-8 and Vancouver is 6-9.







HALIFAX WINS BATTLE OF THE BIRDS

While no longer in second place in the East, the Halifax Thunderbirds still further solidified their playoff chances with an 11-7 victory against Rochester on Friday night. Austin Shanks was stellar down the stretch, securing four points in a 5-1 game-closing run that broke a 6-6 tie.

He finished with six points on the night for Halifax, now 9-5.

NOTEWORTHY

The Rush relieved head coach Jeff McComb of his duties on Saturday. Derek Keenan and Jimmy Quinlan will serve as associate head coaches for the remainder of the season. … Vancouver placed faceoff athlete Tyrell Hamer-Jackson on injured reserve with a season-ending designation. … Longtime lacrosse writer Neil Stevens died after a battle with cancer this week. He was 74. … Colorado’s Alex Woodall scored the first two goals of his NLL career in the win against Buffalo. … Albany’s Charlie Kitchen scored one of the most impressive goals of the season, getting off a behind-the-back look with three defenders draped over him.

POWER RANKINGS

Last week’s rankings in parentheses.

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

UP NEXT
ALL TIMES EASTERN

Friday

Thunderbirds at Roughnecks, 10 p.m.
Wings at Roughnecks, 10 p.m.

Saturday

Riptide at Bandits, 5 p.m.
Rock at Knighthawks, 7 p.m.
Panther City at Roughnecks, 9 p.m.
Seals at Mammoth, 9 p.m.
Warriors at Rush, 10 p.m.

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