As we start the new year, and quickly make it to the 1/4 mark of the season, here are some takes on what we have seen to this point.
Looking at the standings shows us two teams that are still undefeated, The Buffalo Bandits, and the Halifax Thunderbirds. Both teams have powerhouse offenses, bruising defenses, with spectacular goaltending.
Matt Vinc has been nothing short of spectacular in the Bandits net, with contributions from Dhane Smith, Chase Fraser, Josh Byrne, Tehoka Nanticoke, as well as many others, have made this team dominant.
Even with such a strong talent level from the Bandits, I feel the most well rounded team in the league is the Halifax Thunderbirds. Aaron Bold & Warren Hill share the goaltending chores. Both men are world class goalies in their own right, and together they make a formidable team. Throw in Graeme Hossack, David Brock, Luc Magnan, and Trevor Smyth on defense, with Tyson Bell, Colton Armstrong, and Brad Gillies in Transition, and you have a bruising, very quick back end. Cody Jamieson, Clarke Petterson, Stephan Leblanc, Chris Boushy, Kyle Jackson, and Stephen Keogh are all All-Star forwards, and let’s not forget the best faceoff man in the league, Jake Withers.
The Next Level:
There is a log jam of teams that are 2-1 to start the season, but Rochester, and Vancouver are the teams that have people raising eyebrows.
The Warriors have been a perennial cellar dweller for a number of years, and losing players like Matt Beers, and Rhys Duch over the last few years hasn’t helped. To the Warriors credit, they have built a strong offensive team with Mitch Jones, Keegan Bal, Logan Schuss, Reilly Loewen, and Kyle Killen. Mix this with a fast transition team of Keegan Bell, Justin Salt, and Brandon Goodwin and the Warriors become a threat to score at any time. Veteran leadership on the back end with Brett Mydske, Owen Barker, and Reid Bowering protecting the duo of Alex Buque, having a stellar season, and veteran Steve Fryer in net, you have a team that is going to make noise this year.
Rochester has made the biggest improvement going from just two wins it’s inaugural season to already being 2-1 this year. Evan Kirk was a huge off season signing in net, but job commitments have left him off the roster for the rest of the year. Rylan Hartley, in his second full season, has taken the opportunity and run with it, playing spectacular goal early in the year. Shawn Evans leads a veteran group of forwards, with Turner Evans, Holdan Cattoni, Thomas Hoggarth, Curtis Knight, Ryan Smith, and recently signed Mike Burke, to round out an explosive group of forwards. In transition, guys like Chris Willman, Matt Gilray, and Ryland Rees, this makes the Knighthawks dangerous at any time. Defensively, Captain and team leader Paul Dawson heads up a bruising defense of Doug Utting, Dan Coates, Tyler Biles, and Mitch Ogilvie.
More parity in the league:
The Toronto Rock, Colorado Mammoth, Philadelphia Wings, and San Diego Seals all have identical 2-1 records and are also poised to do big things this year. A testament to the NLL’s talent level is almost every team will be in the thick of the race for the majority of the season.
Still finding their way:
A few teams that are winless so far are the New York Riptide, Panther City Lacrosse, as well as the Albany FireWolves. Each team is far too talented to be counted out, and I especially expect big things out of the New York Riptide before it’s all said and done.
The New York Riptide, while only in their second full season, are a completely different team than what started in year one. Rich Lisk is the President, Jim Veltman GM, and Dan Ladouceur is the head coach, all brilliant lacrosse minds. The team itself is comprised of veterans Callum Crawford, Jake Fox, Tyson Gibson, Ty Thompson, Keiran McArdle, Connor Kearnan, and first overall pick in both the NLL and PLL, Jeff Teat. The transition team of Scott “Flash” Dominey, and Damon Edwards will cause havoc for opponents defenses. While the defense is still very young, and Rookie goaltender Steven Orleman is still finding his way, this team will be a force sooner, rather than later.
The upcoming weeks should yield some very close, exciting games. The big winners are the fans, who are experiencing the best lacrosse ever seen, from the greatest players in the world weekly.
Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.
An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game 10 years ago. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob had an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.
Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.
In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.
Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).
Mr. Groob also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.
Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.