2023 NLL Week 11

It was another great weekend of NLL lacrosse action. If you go by the halftime scores, it looked like we’d have a bunch of blowouts but the final scores were much closer – see the second Awesome entry below. We now have a three-way tie for first in the East, with the Bandits, Knighthawks, and Rock taking the top spot. In the West, the Seals still hold first place but watch out for the surging Roughnecks. Speaking of the Roughnecks…


Calgary Roughnecks

The Roughnecks are flying high. They pulled off two big wins over division rivals this past weekend and did it with authority. After a low-scoring and close first half against the Rush, Calgary scored six straight and only allowed three Saskatchewan goals in the entire second half on their way to a 13-6 win. In the second game of a rare double-home-game weekend, they took a 6-0 lead over Colorado and extended it to 11-2 at the half. To the Mammoth’s credit, they came back strong in the second quarter, making it a four goal game with plenty of time left on the clock, but just couldn’t get any closer than that and the Roughnecks prevailed 13-9. Christian Del Bianco had two great outings, allowing 15 goals combined in the two games, and also picked up three more assists, giving him a league-high 15. No other goalie has more than three this season.

Tyler Pace is on fire, adding seven goals and three assists on the weekend. Pace is now leading the Roughnecks in points, one ahead of Jesse King, and is tied with King for the lead in goals. Tanner Cook is also having an outstanding year, adding 6 goals and 4 assists over the weekend. Nobody in Calgary is going to forget Dane Dobbie and Curtis Dickson, but when you get that much production from players you may not have expected it from, it makes it much easier to deal with the loss of those star players.

Tyler Pace

Tyler Pace

Even better for Calgary was the attendance. They had 14,070 at Friday night’s game and 11,819 at Saturday’s. The league isn’t publishing the attendance figures with the game sheets like they used to (among other missing things… not awesome) so I don’t have any other numbers (the team posted those attendance numbers themselves), but the 14k on Friday has got to be in the top 5 so far this year. After the last couple of years of low attendance and even zero attendance throughout the league, it’s great to see the numbers getting back up that high.

Almost comebacks

I’ve written about this before on Lacrosse Flash, the “almost comeback”. This is when a team is down by a ton, and you wouldn’t really blame them if they just mailed it in for the rest of the game and moved on. But instead, they turn on the jets and “make a game of it”, as they say. Sometimes a team is able to come all the way back and even win, but most of the time it doesn’t happen. But as I said in that article, it tells you something about the players and coaches when they keep fighting in a game they’ve probably already lost.

In New York on Saturday, the Albany FireWolves were down 12-4 halfway through the third quarter. Then they scored seven straight and kept the Riptide off the board for almost twenty minutes and got back within one. They didn’t win the game but that almost-comeback is definitely worthy of an awesome. Not quite as dramatic, but close, was Halifax’s almost-comeback against Rochester. With the Knighthawks up 16-9 and less than six minutes on the clock, the Thunderbirds scored five goals in about three and a half minutes to get back within two. They ran out of time to complete the comeback but also deserve to be mentioned here.

Others include Calgary beating Colorado 12-3 in the third quarter and watching the Mammoth only allow two Calgary goals in the second half and getting back to within four, and Georgia being down 7-2 to the Rock and then tying it up in the fourth quarter while holding the Rock scoreless for over 20 minutes. The Georgia one might not look as impressive as the others but when you consider that the first-place Rock have the best defense and second-best offense in the league and the winless Swarm have the second-worst offense and third-worst defense, it’s damned impressive.

That’s four games where a team was down by a significant margin but made it interesting. Even though they all lost, that’s still awesome. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the 2023 season so far, it’s this: Don’t count anyone out.

Karma K performing in Saskatchewan

Saskatoon’s own Karma K, a trans woman and drag artist, will be performing at the Rush halftime show on February 25. As you might expect, that announcement on social media received zillions of comments, many positive and many negative. There are a lot of people praising the Rush for doing this, while others claim they will never go to another Rush game. I also saw at least one saying they have no interest in lacrosse, but they will be attending the game and supporting the Rush specifically because they are doing this. I imagine that will be pretty rare, and there probably will be people who skip that game, and maybe even some who turn in their season tickets. To make that kind of a decision over a 10-minute halftime show seems a little extreme in my opinion but it’s their choice.

Huge kudos to the Rush for doing this. A lot of sports teams say the right things on social media and that’s about it. The Rush decided to take it a step further and not just say that they are supportive of the trans community, but prove it. They know they are going to get people yelling “groomers”, claiming that this is a sexual thing, that kids shouldn’t be there, and worst of all, people saying that trans people don’t or shouldn’t exist. They know they are going to get some negative feedback for doing this, but it takes courage and dedication to do it anyway.

Not Awesome

Withers ejection

About halfway through the second quarter of the Thunderbirds/Knighthawks game, Jake Withers ran into Rylan Hartley after taking a shot. He certainly could have tried harder to avoid contact; Tyler Biles thought so too and tackled Withers. After getting literally lifted and bodyslammed, Withers managed to get up and pushed Biles over in a wrestling move of his own. No real punches were thrown and the two players were separated but then Withers was given a major for body checking and a game misconduct while Biles only got two for roughing. That’s ridiculous. If they wanted to give Withers two for goalie interference, I wouldn’t disagree with that, but they didn’t. This implies to me that the penalties were given as a result of the scrum after the play, and both players were equally culpable there. Either give them each two or each five, but five and a game for one and two for the other is just wrong. Even if my interpretation is wrong and the penalties are for the hit on Hartley, that hit wasn’t worth five and a game.

Streaming problems

Remember last week I mentioned that the NLL streaming this year has a few problems but in general has been solid? Yeah, well, not so much. This past weekend I was completely unable to watch anything from TSN.ca on my browser. It wasn’t even an NLL problem – I tried other things like golf, tennis, and basketball and they didn’t work either. I have the TSN app on my tablet but wasn’t able to watch more than about 5 seconds of any game before it gave me an error as well, though a different error than the browser. Finally I tried the TSN app on my phone and that worked. I ended up sitting in front of my 32” monitor connected to my multi-thousand dollar work laptop and watching NLL games on my phone. Sub-ideal.

On the upside, I guess, the TSN app on my phone was great. I was able to switch between games very quickly, the feed only dropped once all night (and I was able to reconnect right away), and the video and audio quality were excellent. It just really sucked that I couldn’t watch on the bigger screen. I sent an email to the TSN help account on Saturday night with as much information as I could give them. No response.

Colorado injuries

Every team sees its share of injuries but it seems that the Mammoth have had their share and the shares of a couple of other teams as well. Superstar Ryan Lee picked up 119 points in the 2022 regular season, played one playoff game, and hasn’t played since. Eli McLaughlin was also out during part of the playoffs last year. The team managed to win the Championship anyway as other players stepped up their games, and kudos to them for being able to do that. That’s possible over a handful of games, particularly in the playoffs, but it’s just not sustainable.

Joey CupidoAs I said, Lee is still out. Ward missed a game. Cupido (right) is now out for the season. Connor Robinson, Chris Wardle, Brett Craig, and Zed Williams have missed games. Tyson Gibson signed a 2 year contract and then vanished, though he was back on Saturday. McLaughlin left Saturday’s game for a little while and it looked like he was hurt too, but thankfully he returned to the game later.

The Rock, Bandits, and Roughnecks (just to pick three) have all played nine games, and each team has at least 16 players who have appeared in all nine. That’s a little misleading since healthy scratches are currently listed on the game rosters, but we can ignore that for now. Even in that case, it means they’re not injured. Anyway, the Mammoth have played eight games but only have twelve players who have been in all eight, and only two of those (McLaughlin and McIntyre) are forwards. The games missed by forwards as well as the constantly changing lineup might help to explain, at least partially, why the defending Champions are dead last in goals scored per game. The addition of Rhys Duch helps but as good as he is, even Duch can’t do it all.

Panther City attendance

I had high hopes over the last couple of years with the NLL expansion. It sounded like the league and potential team ownership were doing a ton of “due diligence” and market research to make sure the new team was going to succeed in their new market. Obviously not every city is going to take off like Colorado did in 2003 or Saskatchewan in 2016, but the Panther City crowds have looked quite disappointing. As I said above, I don’t have any numbers for this season, but the stands looked pretty empty on Saturday night. The team averaged just under 5,000 last season. I also know nothing about the finances of the team, so maybe that’s enough to keep going. I really hope it is.


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