Lacrosse Editorial – The National Lacrosse League Conference Finals Begin This Weekend

The league is down to its final four teams vying for the National Lacrosse League (NLL) championship.   Toronto and Buffalo will face each other in the East Division final, while Calgary and Colorado will face each other in the West.

Breaking Down Each Series:

East Division:

What has become a spring ritual, the Toronto Rock and the Buffalo Bandits face each other in what has become one of the league’s greatest rivalries.

Buffalo Bandits:

Buffalo is led by last year’s league MVP Dhane Smith (36g,96a), with a support cast of Josh Byrne (43g,50a), Kyle Buchanan (21g,37a), Tehoka Nanticoke (21g,18a), and Chris Cloutier (17g,19a).  As shown in the quarter finals game, they are explosive both in offense and in transition.  Ian MacKay and Steve Priolo can go coast to coast on any loose ball, adding another dimension to the offense.

Defensively the Bandits have a punishing group consisting of Matt Spanger, Adam Bomberry, Ethan O’Connor, Bryce Sweeting, and Nick Weiss.

Matt Vinc in net is always the wild card.  An eight time goalie of the year and three time NLL champion, Vinc is a soon to be first ballot Hall of Famer.

Toronto Rock:

Toronto counters with Tom Schreiber (48g,68a), Stephen Keogh (26g, 28a), Dan Dawson (8g, 16a), Challen Rogers (20g, 29a), Corey Small (40g, 43a)) and Dan Craig (35g, 47a) for an equally potent offense.  Transitionally the Rock Have Latrell Harris, Adam Jay, and Sheldon Burns to make oppositions uncomfortable.

For the second straight year, the Toronto Rock defense has been the stingiest in the league.  Brad Kri, Mitch de Snoo, Josh Jubenville, Brandon Slade, and Bill Hostrawser anchor a quick yet tough group.

Nick Rose had a career year keeping opponents under ten goals 10 times this year.  Rose finished the year with a league best 9.03 GAA, only giving up 159 goals all season.

The West Division:

Colorado Mammoth:

In the only upset of the first round, the Colorado Mammoth defeated the San Diego Seals with just 1.8 seconds left in the game.  The Mammoth are no slouches, being the defending champions, but had an up and down year this season, peaking at the right time.

An offense consisting of Eli McLaughlin (44g,39a), Zed Williams (37g,34a), Connor Robinson (35g,36a) and a healthy Ryan Lee (6g,33a in 6 games), are in sync and raring to go.  The transition game took a major hit when Joey Cupido went down with a season ending injury, but Dylan Kinnear and Jalen Chaster have giving a strong effort to enhance the offence.

The defense of Robert Hope, Tim Edwards, Jordan Gilles, Josh Sullivan, and Warren Jeffrey have been getting more in sync with every game.

Dillon Ward in net is a perennial All-Star.  This is the wild card that can steal any game or any series. 

Calgary Roughnecks:

The Calgary Roughnecks have had a strong year.  Jesse King (42g,58a), Tyler Pace (24g,50a), Tanner Cook (32g,31a), Josh Currier (17g,28a), and Dan Taylor (15g,28a) have all had good years en route to their second place finish in the West division. 

With one of the best transition games in the business, the Roughnecks are always dangerous. Jeff Cornwall, Shane Simpson, and Zach Currier have led the way with long lead passes from goalie Christian Del Bianco (leading the league with 19 assists this season). 

Eli Salama, Curtis Manning, Reece Callies, Ethan Ticehurst, and Harrison Matsuoka have been steady forces on the Calgary defense.

The best young goalie in the league is Christian Del Bianco.  With a 9.28 GAA Del Bianco gives the rest of the team the confidence to take more liberties in transition, and on offense.  With 19 assists, he is a huge part of the transition game.

The best two of three format should yield tremendous games for the lacrosse fan.  The finals will also be a barnburner.   The parity in the league has showed once again that any team can win on any day, so strap yourself in, and watch the greatest players in the world play the greatest game in the world.

Don’t forget to check us out every Sunday night at 9pm (ET) on eopsports.com

Gary Groob
Gary Groob

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 in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given 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).

Gary 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.

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