NLL Power Rankings: Bandits Rise to Top for First Time in 2022-23

PHOTO BY TREVOR MACMILLAN / HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS

Dhane Smith scored three times in a game-changing four-goal run on Friday.


It’s been a long road to the top, but for the first time this season, the defending East champions sit in the No. 1 spot in our National Lacrosse League power rankings.

The Buffalo Bandits have now won five straight, and thanks to a Toronto loss, sit alone atop the East standings. Of course, ask anyone in that locker room and they’ll tell you the regular season success means nothing without finally getting over the top in the playoffs. But for now, they’ll take it, especially considering the injury setbacks the squad has dealt with this season.

1. BUFFALO BANDITS (9-2)

Dhane Smith scored three times in a game-changing four-goal run, as Buffalo outlasted Halifax 10-9 in the league’s only Friday contest. After Cody Jamieson put the Thunderbirds up 8-6 with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter, Smith scored twice to equalize before the final period. Tehoka Nanticoke put the Bandits up for good at the start of the fourth before Smith added the eventual winner. Smith and Ian MacKay each finished with five points. Last week: 2

2. SAN DIEGO SEALS (7-2)

The highlight of the weekend was the first NLL game played outdoors, as San Diego hosted Las Vegas in the inaugural Stadium Showdown at Snapdragon Stadium. “To experience a monumental game, we’re really grateful,” Seals head coach and general manager Patrick Merrill said. “We knew how meaningful it would be for the game of lacrosse as a whole. Not only for our market, but it had a national stage.” Adding to the joy was a 15-12 win against a hot Desert Dogs team, backed by nine points from Curtis Dickson. Last week: 3

3. TORONTO ROCK (9-3)

The Rock extended their win streak to eight with a 9-8 win against Rochester before falling for the first time since December 17 on Monday night against Philadelphia. Toronto made comeback efforts in both outings, succeeding against the K-Hawks thanks to a game-closing 5-1 run that lasted the final 16 minutes. Against Philadelphia, a four-goal stretch tied the score at 9 with 4:40 remaining, but the Wings scored two of the last three for an 11-9 victory. Last week: 1

4. ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS (8-3)

With two goals and five assists this weekend, Connor Fields has already set a new career high for goals in a season and is one away from tying his career best in points. He accounted for Rochester’s final goal, which tied Toronto at 8 with 8:03 remaining, but Brandon Slade answered with the winner two-plus minutes later. Last week: 4

5. CALGARY ROUGHNECKS (7-4)

The Riggers had the weekend off and return Friday at Colorado. Last week: 5

6. PANTHER CITY LACROSSE CLUB (7-5)

Jonathan Donville is living up to his first overall selection, this week dishing out five helpers in addition to two goals in PCLC’s 16-10 win against Saskatchewan. He’s now tied with Jeff Teat for second in the league with 49 assists while his squad moved into a tie in the win column with San Diego and Calgary. Will Malcom scored five times against the Rush and added three assists, while Callum Crawford had five points. Last week: 10

7. PHILADELPHIA WINGS (5-5)

This weekend showed exactly why the Wings traded for Mitch Jones. The former Vancouver Warrior compiled 21 points over two games — 14 in a 19-12 win against New York and seven against Toronto — in a three-day stretch that changed Philadelphia’s outlook tremendously. Also experiencing monster weekends were Joe Resetarits and Ben McIntosh, who had 16 and 13 points in the two games, respectively. Last week: 11







8. COLORADO MAMMOTH (5-5)

The Mammoth had the weekend off and return Friday when they host the Roughnecks. Last week: 9

9. HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS (5-6)

Ryan Benesch became just the sixth player in NLL history to reach 500 career goals, but it unfortunately came in a losing effort for the stellar veteran. The T-Birds have largely struggled against the top of the East, having now been swept by Buffalo in addition to losses to Toronto and Rochester. Last week: 8

10. SASKATCHEWAN RUSH (5-5)

Back-to-back losses to Vancouver and Panther City have the Rush tumbling down the power rankings as they look to get back on track. Alex Buque, Eric Penney and the Rush defense allowed PCLC to score seven times in the fourth quarter, changing the tone of what was a close contest. Last week: 6

11. LAS VEGAS DESERT DOGS (4-6)

While Las Vegas’ three-game winning streak has come to an end, the group did hang tight against the West-leading Seals. The Desert Dogs led late in the fourth quarter when Marshall King put the team up 10-9, but San Diego had a stronger finish. Rob Hellyer, Jack Hannah and Zach Greer all had five points. Last week: 7

12. GEORGIA SWARM (2-7)

The Swarm upended the Albany FireWolves for the second time in two weeks. After a 20-4 beatdown in Week 13, Georgia was able to win a close back-and-forth affair in a 9-8 overtime triumph. Lyle Thompson scored the OT winner to cap a game-ending three-goal run for his seventh point of the night. Brett Dobson made 40 saves in another strong performance. Last week: 14

13. NEW YORK RIPTIDE (2-9)

The Riptide have slid to the bottom of the East standings after a three-game skid. Jeff Teat continues to put together a stellar sophomore season, this go-around notching nine points, but it hasn’t been enough to translate to team success. Last week: 12

14. VANCOUVER WARRIORS (2-9)

Vancouver had the weekend off and return Saturday at Las Vegas. Last week: 13

15. ALBANY FIREWOLVES (2-9)

The FireWolves appeared to be taking control when they opened the fourth quarter on a three-goal spurt, with tallies from Connor Kelly, Tanner Thomson and Kieran McArdle turning a one-goal deficit into an 8-6 lead. Yet Georgia answered in the ensuing three minutes to equalize with seven minutes remaining in regulation, forcing a quick extra frame. Albany’s losing streak extends to six. Last week: 15

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