(Photo Courtesy of NLL)
Lacrosse is back, Y’all!
The first week of the 2019-20 NLL season gets underway on Friday night and there should be plenty of thrills with six teams suiting up and hitting the floor this weekend to open the season.
Friday night will feature two games as the Colorado Mammoth host the Saskatchewan Rush and the Vancouver Warriors host the Calgary Roughnecks. On Saturday night, the Georgia Swarm will face the Rochester Knighthawks on the road.
ALL games for the first TWO weekends of the NLL season can be watched for FREE on Bleacher Report (B/R) Live.
Week One Storylines
West Divisional Semifinal Rematch
When the NLL released this season’s schedule the one early-season game that many circled was this opening weekend matchup between the Colorado Mammoth and the Saskatchewan Rush. Not only are these two division rivals, but the Mammoth knocked the Rush out of the playoffs with an upset win in the West Divisional Semifinals (first-round) last season.
After falling short of repeating as champions, many are pegging this season as a comeback season for the Saskatchewan Rush. This playoff rematch from last season is their first test of the season and you can bet that this rivalry matchup will be even more heated this year, and especially this game, than it usually is. This year, it’s personal for the Rush.
In addition to the obvious storyline surrounding this game, it will be a test and sort of feeling out for both squads. For Colorado, they are looking to get off to a good start- unlike last season- and see how this youthful team can put all the pieces together and build off of their progress from last season.
Saskatchewan will be adjusting to life without Nik Bilic on the back end after trading him to Vancouver this offseason and readjusting on the back end as they will have a few pieces back that missed last season and goaltender Evan Kirk coming back after ending last season a bit banged up and taking a summer off to heal.
Calgary Begins Their Title Defense
The Calgary Roughnecks will take the floor as defending champions for the first time on Friday night against the Vancouver Warriors. The Roughnecks will be looking to start of the 2019-20 season on a high note. However, it may not be easy as Friday will mark the fourth time since 2015 and second season in a row that these two teams will open the season against each other. In each of their past three season openers (2015,2017,2019) Vancouver has won.
Last season, these two teams put together one of the best games of the season with Vancouver defeating Calgary 14-13 in overtime on the road. The only difference this year is that Calgary is the defending champions and come into the season with more hype than any other team, as expected.
Additionally, these teams face different situations early in the season. Vancouver is looking to get a good start, keep the success going, and continue to work in some of the new talent they have brought in over the offseason, including star defenseman Nik Bilic. Calgary will have multiple players out with injuries early in the season, including forward Rhys Duch.
As always, this matchup will be an interesting one for sure and has the potential to create just as much buzz as last season’s opener between these two did.
A New Era Begins in Rochester
The new expansion team Rochester Knighthawks- being called Knighthawks 2.0 by many- begin play on Saturday night against a Georgia Swarm team that boast a fiery offense with Lyle Thompson and Randy Staats leading the charge.
While the matchup will be very intriguing with both teams being pretty heavy on the offensive end, a new era beginning in Rochester is just as interesting as the play on the field. How many butts will be in the seats? How well will Rochester fans take to this new franchise? Will things still be the same? All those questions and more linger in the heads of lacrosse fans everywhere heading into the weekend.
Another big question for Rochester is how will they fare in their first regular-season contest with each other. As always, building an expansion team is never easy and there isn’t one system that fits all expansion teams. How they perform in game one is certainly no precedent for how their season will ultimately go, but it can be a sign of how close or far they are from being a very successful team.
RochVegas is likely to be rocking with tons of energy as a new era begins and as mentioned, their opponents in the Georgia Swarm aren’t exactly easy opponents. It should be an interesting way to cap off the opening weekend of the season.
All Eyes on The Goalies
In two games this weekend, fans will likely have their eyes locked in on the goalies as much as they possibly can. And for numerous reasons.
Georgia’s Mike Poulin and Saskatchewan’s Even Kirk both sustained injuries near the end of last season that sidelined them for multiple weeks. However, both came back and played in the playoffs, despite still being banged up a bit. Kirk took the summer off to help heal up but Poulin- who’s injury, at least, seemed to be less serious- played a full summer and helped lead the Peterborough Lakers to their third straight Mann Cup victory.
In Rochester, there will likely be some goaltender battle discussion throughout the season. With Rochester being an expansion team, former Colorado Mammoth backup Steve Fryer will likely get the start due to what he has shown in his past performances and having more experience. But Rochester also has Rylan Hartley and Craig Wende on the active roster, as well. How the Knighthawks manage their goalie room is likely to be one of the more intriguing stories of the entire season, especially in the first few months.
Week One Schedule
Friday, November 29th
9:30PM ET: Saskatchewan @ Colorado
10:00PM ET: Calgary @ Vancouver
Saturday, November 30th
7:00PM ET: Georgia @ Rochester
As previously mentioned, ALL games for the first TWO weekends of the NLL season can be watched for FREE on Bleacher Report (B/R) Live.