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Rochester Knighthawks.

NLL Power Rankings: Rochester Surges After Earning Playoff Bid

April 22, 2024
Jack Goods
Christian Bender / National Lacrosse League

And now, the fun really begins.

The National Lacrosse League regular season came to an end over the weekend, with the final playoff spot coming down to the final game Sunday afternoon in Rochester. The Knighthawks stunned the league in securing the eighth seed, setting up a classic matchup with the Toronto Rock.

The NLL quarterfinals will feature:

  • No. 8 Rochester at No. 1 Toronto, Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
  • No. 7 Panther City at No. 2 San Diego, Saturday at 10 p.m.
  • No. 6 Halifax at No. 3 Albany, Sunday at 3 p.m.
  • No. 5 Georgia at No. 4 Buffalo, Saturday at 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

But first, it’s on to the final NLL Power Ranking of the season.

1. Toronto Rock (15-3)

The Rock had nothing to play for, yet still spoiled Saskatchewan’s night with a 12-11 triumph. Mark Matthews scored the game-winning goal with 5:28 remaining, capping off an eight-point night and securing a new franchise best for wins in a season. Last week: 1

2. San Diego Seals (13-5)

The Seals were also locked into their spot but still took care of business with a 16-9 win against Vancouver. Curtis Dickson scored three times, moving into seventh all time in career goals, as part of a seven-point night. Two of those goals came during a tiebreaking 5-0 run for San Diego stretching from the second quarter into the third. Wes Berg led the way with eight points for San Diego. Last week: 2

3. Buffalo Bandits (11-7)

The Bandits sat at a surprising 5-6 record in March but turned it around with a 6-1 finish and a season-closing four-game win streak. Buffalo secured a home playoff game with a dominant and historic 14-5 win against Las Vegas. Dhane Smith dished out 10 assists, setting a new all-time single season assists record with 101. He’s the first player in NLL history to reach triple digit assists. Josh Byrne finished atop the league in points, notching one more than Smith at 135. Last week: 4

4. Halifax Thunderbirds (10-8)

The T-Birds locked up the six seed with a 14-10 win against Colorado Saturday. A shutout second quarter helped Halifax pull away, turning a 5-4 lead into a 9-4 advantage at the break. Clarke Petterson led the way with seven points, while Randy Staats looked strong in his first game action since April 5 with five points. Last week: 5

5. Georgia Swarm (10-8)

If the playoffs ended last week, Georgia would have hosted Buffalo in the quarterfinals. Instead, the teams will be playing in KeyBank Center after Georgia’s 11-10 loss to Rochester and the Bandits’ triumph in Las Vegas. Seth Oakes gave the Swarm a 9-8 lead in the closing seconds of the third quarter, but an ensuing 3-1 Rochester run in the fourth slid Georgia down to the five seed. Last week: 3

6. Albany FireWolves (11-7)

At last, the FireWolves got back to their winning ways. Albany snapped its five-game skid – a streak dating back to early March – and secured home floor advantage in the first round of the postseason with a 16-10 win against New York. Ethan Walker and Tye Kurtz each had 10 points, while Alex Simmons added nine more to his impressive rookie total. He finished with 96 on the year. Last week: 8

7. Panther City Lacrosse Club (9-9)

Brandon Goodwin gave Panther City a 9-8 advantage in the fourth quarter, but a game-closing 3-0 Calgary run doomed PCLC. Will Malcom recorded five points, pushing his season total to 104. He’s the first player in franchise history to hit triple digits. Last week: 6

8. Rochester Knighthawks (8-10)

The K-Hawks had only a 3 percent chance of making the playoffs heading into the weekend, needing two wins and a lot of help. Ryan Smith kept them alive with his go-ahead goal against Georgia with 2:47 remaining Friday night, and Saturday’s results played out in a way where it was win and in for Rochester on Sunday. The matchup with Philadelphia was never a contest. Rochester went up 5-0 in the first 11 minutes and allowed just one goal in the second half in a 12-3 triumph. That marks only the fifth time in league history a team has been held to three goals in a game. Last week: 12

9. Vancouver Warriors (8-10)

The Warriors’ turnaround this season was one of the better storylines in the league, but Curt Malawsky’s crew came up just short in the end. Vancouver’s result against San Diego snapped the team’s five-game win streak and put its playoff hopes in other teams’ hands. Hope was dashed once Calgary bested Panther City, but there’s still plenty to look forward to for the franchise. Attendance is up, and after years of mediocrity at best, Vancouver appears headed in the right direction. Last week: 7

10. Saskatchewan Rush (8-10)

Saskatchewan needed to win to remain in contention, a fact that was evident by looking at players’ body language when the final buzzer rang Saturday night. Perhaps the biggest question for the franchise this summer is what happens with the staff. Saskatchewan was 1-4 when Derek Keenan returned to the bench as co-coach with Jimmy Quinlan. The Rush went 7-6 the rest of the way. Last week: 9

11. New York Riptide (8-10)

Goodbye, Riptide, hello Ottawa Black Bears. New York closed out the franchise’s era on Long Island this week, with players staying behind to sign autographs for the fans that stuck through with them to the end. The Riptide would have made the postseason with a Rochester loss to Philadelphia, but it was clear early that wouldn’t happen. Jeff Teat is still looking for that elusive playoff berth. Last week: 11

12. Calgary Roughnecks (7-11)

The Riggers ended their season on a high note despite having nothing to play for. Coach Josh Sanderson alluded to changes coming in the offseason in his postgame press conference, citing a need to find more consistency. Last week: 11

13. Philadelphia Wings (6-12)

It was a forgettable season featuring a myriad of injuries for the Wings, but there’s a silver lining. Philadelphia will pick first in the upcoming entry draft thanks to possessing the Mammoth’s selection. Last week: 13

14. Las Vegas Desert Dogs (5-13)

The Desert Dogs’ No. 2 overall pick belongs to Toronto, but Las Vegas fans can still look forward to the debut of last year’s No. 2 pick, Adam Poitras. He’ll help kick off a new era for the franchise in Henderson next winter. Last week: 14

15. Colorado Mammoth (5-13)

The Mammoth have completed their plummet from NLL Finals participant to last place in just one year’s time. Only Las Vegas scored less often — a situation that a healthy Ryan Lee alone likely won’t solve. Last week: 15