(Photo Credit: Bill Wippert/Buffalo Bandits)
Welcome to week five of the 2019-20 NLL season, Y’all!
After a light week four slate, week five is jam packed with NLL action from Friday through Sunday. Essentially, it is the first full weekend of the 2019-20 NLL season. The FREE Game of The Week will be Saturday night’s contest between the Saskatchewan Rush and New York Riptide.
Week Five Storylines
As usual, teams playing back-to-back games the same weekend always sparks some discussion and debate concerning how it benefits or hurts the team playing the back-to-back games, how the league should handle this kind of scheduling quirk, and many more points.
Week Five will see two teams play back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday night and one team play a game on Friday and Sunday. The New York Riptide will play at New England on Friday night and at home against Saskatchewan on Saturday night. The Calgary Roughnecks will play at San Diego on Friday and home against Philadelphia on Saturday. Additionally, the San Diego Seals face Calgary at home on Friday before taking on Vancouver on the road on Sunday.
Each of these teams has a different travel schedule, obviously, and their systems in place to deal with back-to-back weekends are likely all different, as well. But as always, it will be interesting to see which game each team looks more polished in and how they handle their personnel in each game. One of the biggest areas to look at in these games is goalie, because that is a position where you can, possibly, see the most drop off or variant in performance from game to game, especially in back-to-back and double-header weekends.
Battle of the Unbeatens
While there are still four unbeaten teams left after four weeks of play, only two of them will meet each other this weekend. And those two teams are the Halifax Thunderbirds and Buffalo Bandits. They are also North Division opponents, as well.
Both teams being undefeated brings a lot of attention to this matchup, but so does the reputation and style of play that both teams are known for thus far. While both teams have a great goalie to anchor their defense, offense seems to be the name of the game for both of these teams, thus far. Halifax has ripped off goal after goal in each of their games so far while Buffalo just has one win under their belt, but are led by an elite offense core in Dhane Smith, Josh Byrne, Corey Small, and others.
Like many games in this sport, this is the kind of game that could really come down to who has the hotter goalie on that particular day. With Matt Vinc, a proven veteran and future Hall of Famer, in net for Buffalo and a “rising star” in Warren Hill in net for Halifax this one could turn out to be a much lower scoring affair than some would think.
Berg Faces Calgary
A 26-year old star amongst the lacrosse world, Wes Berg was drafted by and spent his first three seasons in the NLL in Calgary with the Roughnecks. But he sat out last season due to a contract disagreement with the team. Berg was traded over the summer to San Diego where, despite a rough start for the team, Berg is shinning as one of the best younger offensive talents in the league once again.
When the Calgary Roughnecks travel down to San Diego to face the Seals on Friday night, it will be the first time that Berg has played against his former team since being traded over the summer.
Berg, who has 11 points (6G/5A) through two games, will certainly want to put on a show for the fans at Pechanga Arena and sticking it to his former team will likely bring him some pride and joy, as well. But, Calgary does know Berg very well so it will be interesting to see how they will look to guard and attempt to limit him as much as possible. And just judging by San Diego’s first two games, if Berg can’t get going then that could spell bad things for the entire Seals’ offense.
Week Five Schedule
Friday, December 27th
7:30pm ET: New York @ New England
10:00pm ET: Calgary @ San Diego
Saturday, December 28th
7:00pm ET: Toronto @ Rochester
7:30pm ET: Saskatchewan @ New York
7:00pm ET: Colorado @ Georgia
7:00pm ET: Halifax @ Buffalo
9:30pm ET: Philadelphia @ Calgary
Sunday, December 29th
4:00pm ET: San Diego @ Vancouver
All games can be streamed on Bleacher Report (B/R) Live. And as previously mentioned, Saskatchewan @ New York will also be streamed for FREE on Twitter and Facebook.