Some great news in terms of attendance… for some teams anyway. Panther City makes both the awesome and not awesome lists, Colorado looked good last weekend, and the East is getting closer and closer.
Four different teams recorded season-high attendance in week 16: 17,444 in Calgary (5th highest ever for Calgary), 15,496 in Buffalo, 9,957 in Halifax (their highest attendance ever), and 8583 in Vancouver (3rd highest ever). Philly had 7,840 on Saturday, which is right in the middle for them this season but pretty good for an 11am start. It is awesome to see all of these teams pulling in that many people only two years after a completely missed season followed by one with severely reduced crowds.
A lot of people wondered at the beginning of the season whether Rochester was for real, but not as many people wondered about Panther City. The first question has been answered, and it seems that the answer to the second question is also YES. PCLC is now 8-5 and third in the West, only a game back of second and two games back of first. Will Malcom and Jonathan Donville are both in the top 10 in scoring, they have 8 players with at least 20 points (tied with Toronto and Calgary, no other team has more than 8), Matt Hossack (right) and Tony Malcom give Panther City a strong transition game, and of course Nick Damude is having a career year. Now, all that being said, none of their 8 wins has come against a team with a record currently above .500 (though they did beat Colorado who’s at .500). Are they a good team who’s just beaten up on weaker teams, or are they a mediocre team who’s had a relatively easy schedule? Their last five games include one against San Diego (next weekend) and two against Calgary, so it certainly doesn’t get easier but this will be a good test for PCLC.
For most of the 2023 season, the Mammoth have not looked like the reigning NLL Champs. You can hardly blame them given all the injuries they’ve had; I’m not sure they’ve had the same lineup available in consecutive games this year. But on Saturday night in Banditland, they were looking a lot more like what we expected from the Mammoth. Dillon Ward had a great game against a very strong Buffalo offense, and the Mammoth defense was excellent, recording 11 blocked shots (the second highest total for a single team this season) and keeping Dhane Smith scoreless. The offense was nicely spread out – Lee didn’t score but had 6 assists, and McLaughlin, Williams, Gibson, Robinson, and rookie Ty Thompson each scored at least one goal and had between 3 and 5 points. The Mammoth are sitting at .500 and are in fourth place in the West, currently in a playoff spot but the Rush are not far back. Even the Desert Dogs and Warriors, theoretically, could catch them. They have a good fight ahead of them to keep that playoff spot, but beating the Bandits will be good for their confidence.
The Bandits, Rock, and Knighthawks are #1, 2, and 3 respectively in the East, and all three lost this past weekend. This is hardly awesome for fans of those teams, but since the Thunderbirds, Wings, Riptide, and Swarm all kept their playoff hopes alive with wins, it makes the East race even closer. It’s always awesome when the playoff races get right down to the wire, and while the Riptide and Swarm have big hills to climb (and don’t control their own fate – in addition to winning their own games, they have to hope other teams lose), who gets that fourth playoff spot is still anyone’s guess. It’s likely that the Rock, Bandits, and Knighthawks will finish #1, 2, and 3 in some order, but the Rock and Bandits play each other twice in the next month while the Knighthawks play all the rest of their games against sub-.500 teams. This will likely be a photo finish.
There’s something to be said for not panicking when you’re in a bad situation. But at the same time, when you’re under .500 this deep into the season, tied for the last playoff spot, down by four to a division rival in the third quarter, and have only scored two goals 40 minutes into the game, maybe a little panicking is warranted. As Ryan Ballantine said on the Rush/Roughnecks broadcast, and I think Jake Elliott said it on the Lacrosse Classified podcast too, the Rush just don’t seem to have that sense of urgency that they probably need at this point. A lack of panic is good, a lack of interest is not.
Update: They just traded for Rhys Duch at the deadline, so clearly Derek Keenan thinks they’re not far away from making the playoffs. Keenan didn’t panic, and certainly seems interested, so hopefully for the Rush that is contagious.
I’ve talked about this before so I won’t go into great detail here. Only 2,238 showed up in Panther City on Saturday – their second-lowest attendance of the season, and that’s saying something. For ten of the other fourteen teams, the lowest attendance of the year is higher than Panther City’s season high of 4,184.