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NLL Weekend Primer: Week Seven

How is it Week 7 already? Where does the time go? I swear I watched NY play Philly on Long Island no more than two weeks ago. This weekend is a packed slate, so we’ll get right to it. Noteworthy on the schedule this week: San Diego has two games in two days, both on the road out west, Toronto back in action against Halifax, Buffalo traveling to Rochester, and Albany trying to stay undefeated when they go to Georgia. Here’s the rundown:


Last week, I went 2-2 against the spread and 2-2 on game totals


For the season, I am 15-15 against the spread and 16-14 on game totals.


All spreads/odds come from DraftKings. If you are serious about picks/wagering, you should line shop across all sportsbooks. I don’t actually bet these games, just picks.


TORONTO ROCK VS HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS


When: Friday, January 12th, 6:30pm EST. 

Where: ScotiaBank Centre, Halifax

How to Watch: TSN, TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Toronto favored by 1.5, game total set at 23.5


The Matchup:


Now this is a battle. Toronto has been atop the power rankings for a couple weeks now. Depending on who you ask, they’re probably either rated as the best or second best team in the NLL. The defense and transition play really has stood out. Nick Rose has been, for my money, the best goalie in the league this year (given some performances around the league, that’s saying something). 


Halifax comes in off a tough loss to Albany, their second in a row after dropping a game to Philly a couple weeks ago. The two losses are by a combined three goals. Every week I look at the Halifax roster and think to myself, “well they can’t lose”. Both ends of the floor are loaded, Withers controls the ball and dominates. The offense will be tested this week against a very good Toronto defense. They’ve lost four of their last five meetings against Toronto, including a pair of playoff games. A name to watch for the Birds is Clarke Petterson. In seven meetings against Toronto he has 32 points, and 13 goals, with 37 loose balls. On the other end, Graeme Hossack has always brought his top game for the Rock, averaging over 2 CTs per contest in his Halifax career against Toronto. 


For Toronto, their defense remains a major strength. It all starts with Nick Rose, who currently has a GAA that’s just over eight and is saving 83% of the shots he sees. Mitch de Snoo has been playing to his usual production levels, and currently only trails faceoff man TD Ierlan for the loose ball lead on the team. Ierlan has 37, de Snoo is at 32, while de Snoo also leads the team in CTs and is tied for 4th on the team in points. He’s absolutely everywhere. Mark Matthews is leading the offense, and while the sample size is small, he’s averaging six points per contest against Halifax. He’ll continue to be a key in getting the party started.


The Pick:


This feels like a game where defense will reign. The personnel in net, in transition, and on the defensive end, across both rosters, is excellent. I’m going to take the goals in a game I think could be a rock fight and go Halifax +1.5, and the under. 


SAN DIEGO SEALS VS LAS VEGAS DESERT DOGS


When: Friday, January 12th, 10pm EST

Where: Michelob Ultra Arena, Las Vegas

How to Watch: ESPNU, ESPN+, TSN+

The Spread: San Diego favored by 3.5, game total set at 23.5


The Matchup:


The Seals have a big weekend ahead. They play two games in two days, both on the road. This is the first, the next is against Colorado in the Loud House. San Diego has had some early tests, and passed. They sit at 2-1 with wins over Rochester and Calgary, their loss coming at the hands of the Bandits. San Diego has four players at 16 points or more in just three games, a testament not just to their skill but depth. Austin Staats is a combination of power and skill that’s difficult to handle. He can cause defensive breakdowns on his own. Paired with scorers like Wes Berg and Curtis Jackson is enough to keep any defensive coordinator up at night. The one place San Diego might be vulnerable in net as young netminder Chris Origlieri has a fairly high GAA of 11.62, but his talent is undeniable. As his experience grows, that number will come down.


Vegas has Zach Cole at the faceoff spot, a valuable weapon since he can get them extra possessions most nights. This isn’t most nights. Trevor Baptiste will be on the floor for San Diego, he trails only TD Ierlan and Jake Withers for the league lead. Cole will need to battle down to at least a 50/50 split for Vegas to have a shot in this one. Rob Hellyer, Casey Jackson, and Jack Hannah have been solid, but there just hasn’t been enough scoring for Vegas to try and win an up and down game. Connor Kirst is a player to watch in this one for Vegas. He was everywhere against Calgary with three points, four CTs, 12 faceoff wins, and 13 loose balls. Those kinds of efforts will be needed for Vegas to pull this out.


The Pick:


The faceoff battle is interesting and might help the Dogs out if Cole can get the better of Baptiste. But Vegas has given up 17 goals in back to back games, and the San Diego offense is better than their opponents in both those games. The Seals could run away with this one quick. The 3.5 doesnt scare me, I’ll take San Diego and the over. 


BUFFALO BANDITS VS ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS


When: Saturday, January 13th, 7pm EST

Where: Blue Cross Arena, Rochester

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Buffalo favored by 2.5, game total set at 24.5


The Matchup:


This one has the highest total of the week, and will get the billing to be a shootout. Given the names involved, you can see why. Buffalo is stacked, and they thoroughly dismantled Colorado in the first half of their game a week ago. If anyone is battled this early in the year, it’s the Bandits. They’ve already played Albany, San Diego, Georgia, and Colorado. The first three are probably among the top four teams in the league currently. Buffalo has not however done much traveling, their last three games are all home. Granted Rochester isn’t exactly a massive trek, but it’s not the comfortable confines of Banditland either. What Buffalo has going for them is that the offense is healthy, and they’ll probably see a netminder who isn’t quite ready for the likes of Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith.


For Rochester, the offense is a known. Connor Fields and Ryan Smith are both setting the league on fire with scoring. Ryan Lanchbury, since being acquired, is averaging five points a game and is already third on the team in scoring. Rookie Thomas McConvey, talented as he is, is flourishing because he isn’t asked to, and doesn’t need to, do too much. The offense is balanced and precise. The danger zone for Rochester is in net. There was positive news for Ryan Hartley after he left the game in scary fashion against Vancouver, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll be back soon. In a game without him, the Knighthawks promptly gave up 17 goals to San Diego. Riley Hutchcraft was just under 70% save percentage in that one, which won’t get it done against Buffalo. Moves have been made to find the solution in net, but another shootout might not go Rochester’s way.


The Pick:


Given the situation in the Rochester net, it’s hard to pick against an offense like the Bandits. It’s possible the Knighthawks win this one in a shootout, but I’ll take Matt Vinc to hold down the for. Buffalo wins, and I’ll take the over.


SASKATCHEWAN RUSH VS PHILADELPHIA WINGS


When: Saturday, January 13th, 7pm EST

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Philadelphia favored by 1.5, game total set at 23.5


The Matchup:


The Rush were idle a week ago, but their recent form has been quite good. They blew out Vegas, then played Albany to overtime on New Year’s Eve. After a rough start, they’ve found their stride. The challenge to that is that they’ve had two byes since mid December, and it can be difficult to keep your form in a week on, week off sort of scheduling. Regardless, the Rush have players who are downright fun to watch. Zach Manns has taken a leap. His first year was 2020, he had seven goals. He’s never had more than18 goals in an entire season. He currently has 13 goals in just four games this year, averaging a hat trick per game. He’s at 23 points in those four games, 12th in the league and many in front of him have already played five games. The trio of him, Ryan Keenan, and Rober Church have really been dynamic.


Philly got Holden Cattoni and Blaze Riorden back from injury last week, and from what I heard maybe even a little ahead of schedule. The offense is pretty stacked. Mitch Jones just racks up the points every week; his lowest game total this year is four against the behemoth that is Toronto. He’s had eight points twice, against Halifax and New York. He makes everything work. Joe Resetarits on the other side has also been excellent, and recently became the highest scoring American in NLL history. Riorden and Cattoni’s return only bolsters that. The question is, can Philly win a faceoff, and can Philly disrupt the Rush shooters. The Wings primarily use Isaiah Davis-Allen facing off, he’s currently just under 21%. Extra opportunities for these Rush shooters, against a goalie who has seen a TON of rubber, is a difficult formula. 


The Pick:


The Philly defense still is leaving a lot to be desired. Zach Higgins has seen 279 shots this year in five games. The next highest total in the league is 255. It’s almost a full game’s worth of shots more than the next team. Doing that against Saskatchewan is playing with fire. Zach Manns is shooting 43%, one of three players in the league with 30+ shots to shoot over 40%. The Rush get their looks, and can them, and get the win, and the game goes over. 


PANTHER CITY LACROSSE CLUB VS NEW YORK RIPTIDE


When: Saturday, January 13th, 7:30pm EST

Where: Nassau Colisum, New York

How to Watch: ESPN+, TSN+

The Spread: Panther City favored by 1.5, game total set at 22.5


The Matchup:


New York is coming off their best performance of the season and one of the most complete performances they’ve ever had. Not perfect, but you can count the flaws and miscues very quickly. Getting the first win of the year in an effort where everyone on the roster is on their game is a good sign. It doesn’t mean everyone is a star, it means everyone has a role, and filled their role. Austin Madronic finally got on the board, Jeff Teat was outstanding, Connor Kearnan remains underrated. The Stephen Keogh acquisition has been a nice spark to this offense. This week, they’re back at home for PCLC. Offenses have not run it up on PCLC, one reason for that has been the strong play of goalie Nick Damude. Something to watch in this will be the health of Matt Hossack. His absence will offer a boost to the NY offense. 


Panther City will need to find some more scoring depth. Callum Crawford is up to 12 goals on the year and still is as electric as ever despite his age. After that however, nobody on the team has more than six goals. Jonathan Donville has been an initiator and assist first player, and has 17 points, but it’s tough to get explosive offensive output without a number of different scorers. PCLC has played a hard schedule. They’ve played Vancouver, Vegas, Toronto, and Georgia, not exactly lightweights. And they’ve hung tough. They have three losses, all by three or fewer goals against that slate.


The Pick:


PCLC is going to compete. They don’t play like a team that will get blown out. Callum Crawford gets a bit of a revenge game (although I don’t think there’s really any bad blood there). New York has to be feeling good coming off their performance against Philly, and not to look ahead, but the schedule for the next several weeks is brutal. The Riptide need the good vibes to keep going. Callum Crawford scores plenty, but the Riptide pull this out while the game goes under. 


ALBANY FIREWOLVES VS GEORGIA SWARM


When: Saturday, January 13th, 7:30pm EST

Where: Gas South Arena, Georgia

How to Watch: ESPN+, TSN+

The Spread: Georgia favored by 1.5, game total set at 22.5


The Matchup:


We can’t let this keep happening. Albany, yet again, is getting goals on DraftKings. The value stinks, but you’re getting goals if you want to take Albany to get to 6-0.  The Firewolves come off a win against Halifax in which they had to rally in the 4th quarter. Per usual, the star rookies came up big, Alex Simmons had five points. Albany has now also given up exactly 10 goals in three straight games.  In that span Doug Jamieson is over 80% on save percentage, and thanks to OT actually has a GAA under 10. The NLL currently has four 30+ point scorers, two play for Albany. This will be a test for them as shooters though, as Brett Dobson might be the best goalie they’ve seen so far this year. 


Georgia’s Shayne Jackson is one of the other aforementioned 30+ point scorers in the NLL, and is coming off an outstanding performance. He had six goals on just eight shots, a picture of efficiency, and finished with 10 points against Panther City. The Swarm have won three straight, but they aren’t exactly winning comfortably. They allowed PCLC to mount a major second half comeback and really escaped with a win. They eeked one out 9-8 against Buffalo before that. It’s been close, and they’re finding ways to get it done. Albany’s been doing a lot of the same.


The Pick:


Georgia has had a few moments this year where things just lapse and they give up a big run, or they dig themselves a hole. Albany is playing excellent lacrosse, and has Joe Nardella to tilt possession. A few minutes of lost focus for Georgia could be the difference in the game. I’ll take Albany yet again, getting goals. The Swarm have gone under in four straight games, as has Albany in their last two, I’ll take the under. 


SAN DIEGO SEALS VS COLORADO MAMMOTH


When: Saturday, January 13th, 9pm EST

Where: Ball Arena, Colorado

How to Watch: ESPN+, TSN+

The Spread: Not available as of publication, will be updated following Friday’s game


The Matchup:


San Diego’s second game in as many days, never easy. It’s hard to know just what to make of things from the Seals perspective until they play their game Friday. Are there injuries? Who is available? We saw Mac O’Keefe added to the active roster this week, the depth add will be big for a weekend with back to back games. 


For the Mammoth, things just haven’t looked right. Their defense was torn up by Buffalo last week, leaving Dillon Ward to make incredible saves on shots that he probably did not want to see. The Mammoth have yet to cover a spread, and their only win is a comeback OT victory against the Warriors. Simply put, they need a lot of work. The last two years have shown that when they need to, this team can put it together and go on a run. Usually that means May and the playoff push. This year, it means January. With the new format, falling way down in the table makes the climb into playoff position much more difficult, and the Mammoth have plenty of tough games left. This is a game where you want to see players like Eli McLaughlin set the tone, elevate the energy, and play for some pride.


The Pick:


I keep thinking Colorado is going to find their mojo because their back is against the wall. I regret to inform you I have not learned a thing. Leaning Mammoth, but with no line yet I can’t really make a pick though, so check back on Saturday. 


CALGARY ROUGHNECKS VS VANCOUVER WARRIORS


When: Saturday, January 13th, 10pm EST

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver

How to Watch: ESPN+, TSN+

The Spread: Calgary favored by 1.5, game total set at 22.5 


The Matchup:

Last game of the weekend, Calgary and Vancouver. After a rough first two games, the Riggers got their confidence up by thrashing Vegas. They hung 17 goals. Those first two games were not cakewalks, both on the road at Rochester and San Diego, and Calgary was close to winning both matchups. This week they are back on the road playing just their 4th game of the year. Jesse King is worth the price of admissions alone. His 18 assists are 4th in the league and players above him have, in some cases, played two more games. Christian Del Bianco’s numbers have taken a bit of a dip from where they were last year. The Roughnecks need to be better at winning possessions. Outside of Zach Currier, nobody on the team has more than 15 loose balls. 


Vancouver comes in having not played last week, and lose their last two before that against Colorado and Rochester. The Warriors are a fun team to watch, because they’re a great balance of young and old. Adam Charalambides is their top lefty, a young star in the league, while the right side has veteran Kevin Crowley still out there being productive, along with Keegan Bal. The defense has veterages like Matt Beers and Ryan Dilks, but young stars like Owen Grant. Goaltending will be a factor for them. In their last game against, Colorado which went to overtime, Aaron Bold let in a few you could tell he wanted to have back. Those ended up being the difference in the game. 


The Pick:


Sharp netminding and extra possessions will be critical. The team that wins the possession battle feels to me like the team that wins the game. Calgary looked comfortable and confident last week, but Vancouver plays gritty and has a solid defense. With Calgary on the road, I’ll take Vancouver as a home underdog and the under.


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