Three Teams to Battle for Two Playoff Spots in NLL's Final Week

PHOTO BY DYLAN NADWODNY PHOTOGRAHY


One more team clinched its spot in the postseason during Week 21 of the National Lacrosse League season. That leaves just two positions left and three teams battling to take it.

The Halifax Thunderbirds can breathe a sigh of relief after successfully completing their “win-and-you’re-in” scenario. Austin Shanks and Clarke Petterson put up eight and seven points, respectively, while the T-Birds survived a late push from the New York Riptide in a 16-13 victory.

Back-to-back goals from Jeff Teat cut the Riptide deficit to one goal with just under three minutes remaining, but Halifax closed it out with late goals from Chris Boushy and Tyson Bell. It has been a shaky end to the season for the Thunderbirds, who lost six of their last seven entering the weekend, but they’ll still get an opportunity to win a championship.

“This is a good step,” Shanks said. “We need to get hot here. We need to win next weekend and just go into the playoffs with a good attitude. All we did was work hard tonight. We worked hard for 60 minutes, and we need to keep continuing to do that.”

Three teams from each division have now clinched a spot: Buffalo, Toronto and Halifax in the East, and Colorado, San Diego and Calgary in the West. Two of Georgia, Albany and Philadelphia will make it as well, with the three teams separated by just one game entering the final weekend.

The Swarm have the upper hand at 9-8, a game up on both Albany and Philadelphia, thanks to a 12-9 victory against Panther City. After entering the final quarter tied at 8, Miles Thompson and Shayne Jackson each scored twice in the last 15 minutes to seal the deal.

That sets the stage for major drama in the Swarm’s season-closing matchup with Philadelphia. Whoever wins the game is in for the postseason. Philadelphia is out with a loss, while Georgia needs Albany to drop its game against the Riptide if the Swarm are beaten.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

Saskatchewan, Panther City and New York’s unlikely playoff dreams all came to an end this weekend, even with the Rush pulling off an upset of San Diego, due to tiebreakers. That solidified that the final wild card position will go to an East Division team, which will cross over to the other side of the bracket.

The Rush extended their winning streak to three games and were victorious for the fourth time in the last five with a 17-14 final against the Seals. Mark Matthews had nine points and Robert Church notched eight for Saskatchewan, which erased a three-goal deficit in the third quarter thanks to a 6-2 run in the fourth.

The late season spurt still wasn’t enough for the Rush, once West favorites who stumbled out of the gates.

Panther City is just as disappointed to be on the outside looking in on the postseason, yet unlike Saskatchewan the group has exceeded expectations. PCLC’s dreams of making the playoffs in its first season of existence were dashed by Georgia, but the expansion squad still won six out of its last eight to revive its inaugural campaign.

New York can take solace in having found its centerpiece in Jeff Teat, whose 10 points against Halifax pushed his season total to 103. That’s good for third in the league as a rookie and marks the first time a rookie has ever reached triple digits in NLL history.







BRIGHT SPOTS FOR ROCHESTER

It has largely been a season to forget for the Rochester Knighthawks, but the group did get something to smile about in the penultimate game of the season. Joel Watson earned his first victory in net, and first star honors in the process, as the K-Hawks cooled off Calgary 15-7.

Ryan Smith had five points, one of 11 Rochester players with multiple points, while Watson finished with 43 saves.

“I just played my game,” Watson said. “I don’t think I changed very much. I just don’t think the ball was bouncing my way at the start in the first couple of games. It was nice to get a win.”

NOTEWORTHY

Saskatchewan’s Jeff Shattler was honored during his final home game with the Rush. … The Georgia-v-Panther City matchup featured Lyle, Miles and Jeremy Thompson. It marked only Miles’ second game of the season. … New York’s Steve Orleman set the rookie single-season saves record against Halifax. His teammate Callum Crawford put up eight points after missing three games with an injury.

POWER RANKINGS

Last week’s rankings in parentheses.

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

UP NEXT
ALL TIMES EASTERN

Saturday

Wings at Swarm, 7 p.m.
Thunderbirds at Knighthawks, 7 p.m.
Riptide at FireWolves, 7 p.m.
Rock at Bandits, 7:30 p.m.
Rush at Panther City, 8:30 p.m.
Mammoth at Roughnecks, 9 p.m.
Seals at Warriors, 10 p.m.

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