We have just passed week eleven of the season, and it’s time for the mid-term reports of how the NLL teams are doing so far. I have decided to do this over two weeks splitting up the east and west divisions.
This week we will look at the East Division:
Buffalo Bandits (6-1) Grade: A
What can be said other than Dominant! This team has it all, explosive offense, bruising defense, and great goaltending. Josh Byrne, Dhane Smith, Chase Fraser, Tehoka Nanticoke, and Chris Cloutier on offense. The veteran leadership of D-man Steve Priolo, Matt Spanger, Ethan O’Connor, and Bryce Sweeting, with the All-Star goaltending of Matt Vinc. They have a goal differential of +21. Although they just suffered their first defeat, if this team can stay healthy, they have to be in the conversation for a championship this year.
Halifax (5-1) Grade: A-
This is another very deep team in a strong East Division. Although they have had long layoffs in between games, they have still compiled a 5-1 record. Cody Jamieson is healthy, and dangerous as ever leading this team forward. Stephan Leblanc, Austin Shanks, Clarke Petterson, and Kyle Jackson add to the scoring punch as well. The Thunderbirds are very dangerous in transition with Brad Gillies, Colton Armstrong, Tyson Bell, and rookie Ryan Terefenko. Defensively they have Graeme Hossack, and David Brock leading a veteran squad. With the All-Star goaltending tandem of Warren Hill and Aaron Bold, this team is very stingy on the backend. Having arguably the best faceoff man in the game with Jake Withers, this team is going to be hard to beat down the stretch.
Toronto Rock (5-3) Grade: B+
A perennial contender, the Rock have found their mojo in recent weeks. Between injuries, and covid protocols, Toronto has played very shorthanded most of the year. The last few weeks have seen a healthy team play, and have looked unstoppable. Tom Schreiber has had an incredible start to this year, scoring 23 goals already leading a potent offense. Rob Hellyer, Dan Dawson, Dan Craig, and Reid Reinholdt all have been firing on all cylinders. The transition took a hit with the loss of Scott Dominey, and Damon Edwards, but Challon Rogers and Phil Mazzuca have stepped up admirably. Toronto’s real strength is their stifling defense. Brad Kri and Mitch de Snoo are absolute vacuum cleaners with loose balls. Bill Hostrawser, Sheldon Burns, Latrell Harris, Adam Jay, and Jason Noble, have made this defense absolutely bruising. TD Ierlan is a bonafide star on faceoffs giving Jake Withers, and Trevor Baptiste a run for their money on who is the best in the NLL. Nick Rose has looked exceptional this year, and with Brandon Miller back as his coach, he is only going to get better.
Albany FireWolves (4-4) C+
This team has shown signs of brilliance, but also been quite inconsistent this year. Stars like Andrew Kew, Ryan Benesch, Reilly O’Connor, Joe Resetarits, and Jacob Ruest have all been successful in the league, but seem to need an adjustment period to work together cohesively. Colton Watkinson, and Tony Malcom are solid in transition. Doug Jamieson has been good in net, but not as dominant as in years past. The defense, while veteran overall, has a younger look, having growing pains. Joe Nardella has been excellent on the faceoffs. Recently this team has been much more consistent, and look to make noise in the second half.
Philadelphia Wings (5-5) Grade: C
This team has all the pieces to be dominant in the league, but just can’t seem to put a full 60 minute performance together. Kevin Crowley, Matt Rambo, Brett Hickey, and Corey Small lead a Wings charge that is capable of outscoring most in the league. Defensively Steph Charbenneau, Ian Llord, Ryan Wagner, and rookie Jackson Suboch have been strong, but are also going through some growing pains. Trevor Baptiste is a beast on faceoffs, and gives his offense many opportunities to score. Zach Higgins has been solid in net, but with a defense that gives up a lot of shots, he sees a lot of rubber every game. A tough schedule doesn’t bode well for this team, and their pursuit of an elusive title.
Georgia Swarm (4-5) Grade: C-
When you have Lyle Thompson on your team, you never are out of any games. This team has had a tough time being consistent this year. They have scored 103 goals to this point, but also given up 103 goals. Thompson has a good supporting cast of Travis Longboat, Jordan Hall, Shayne Jackson, and Vaughn Harris scoring freely. The inconsistencies defensively, have had goalie Mike Poulin facing a lot of shots. In recent weeks, the defense has gotten more comfortable with eachother, and become stingier. Look for this team to get tougher to beat in the second half of the season.
Rochester Knighthawks (3-5) Grade: D+
This team started strong, but cooled off as the season has gone on. Injuries, and covid protocols have decimated this team, and consistency in their lineup has been a challenge for Mike Hasen’s crew. Shawn Evans has led a solid offense of Holden Cattoni, Turner Evans, Curtis Knight, and Ryan Smith. Defensively Captain Paul Dawson is still playing like he is in his prime, leading a young crew of Tyler Biles, Doug Utting, Tyler Halls, and Matt Bennett who are getting better every game. When the Knighthawks signed Evan Kirk in net, they thought they had their number one goalie, but due to work conflicts, Evan had to withdraw this year, leaving Rylan Hartley with the starting job. Hartley is an exciting goalie who will be a star for years to come, and is getting more comfortable every game. Look for this team to be more competitive in the second half as well.
New York Riptide (1-7) Grade: D
A few bounces in their favour and this Grade could’ve been a “C”. A team needs to learn how to win, and this team is on the verge of something great, but haven’t gotten there yet. Stars like Jeff Teat, Callum Crawford, Keiran McArdle, Tyson Gibson, and Connor Kearnan have shown how explosive a team this can be. Having Scott Dominey and Damon Edwards on transition has made this team very dangerous in transition. The defense is young, and is still learning to work together. Steven Orleman will be a future goaltending star for the Riptide, but as a rookie is still prone to mistakes. This team is on the Verge of being a powerhouse, and with the return of Dan Lomas in the second half, he will help with veteran leadership, steering this team to a strong second half.
Don’t forget to check out Gary and his co-host Candid Frank Stanisci’s weekly Lacrosse talk show…”NLL Lacrosse Talk” . This past week’s guest was Amber Hill of Athletes Unlimited, Syracuse Orange, Syracuse University, and the Haudenosaunee Natoinals
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.