Two Games Friday, Two Saturday Including Inaugural Las Vegas Desert Dogs Contest
After a crazy Week 1 with lopsided victories and great stat lines, a few more teams will make their 2022-23 debut including the newest team on the block, the Las Vegas Desert Dogs. For their inaugural game, they will take on last year’s new guys in Panther City.
What will we see from this Las Vegas Desert Dogs team? If expansion in recent years has taught us anything is that you must expect the unexpected. There will be learning curves through the year but that does not mean this team cannot be competitive. The last expansion team to win their inaugural game was the Seals in the 2018-19 season.
This lineup has the pieces to compete right away. Out the front door, they are led by Rob Hellyer as the most experienced of the group. Alongside Hellyer is his former teammate from the Rock in Reid Reinholdt and other key veterans in Jacob Ruest and Zack Greer. There are younger guys looking to establish themselves in the NLL such as Marshal King, Sam Firth, Jack Hannah, and Charlie Bertrand.
On the backend there is also a good mixture of veteran leadership and young guys. Garrett McIntosh, Tor Reinholdt, James Barclay, Jackson Suboch, Erik Turner, and Travis Cornwall are the names to keep an eye out. In net, they have a pair of young but promising goaltenders in Landon Kells and Joel Watson.
Panther City enters season two with high expectations after finishing the second half of their inaugural campaign much stronger than their first half. This team has a three headed monster in the offensive zone with Will Malcom, Patrick Dodds and with the debut of 2021 NLL Entry Draft number one overall pick Jonathan Donnville. In net will be Nick Damude who took over the starting role last season in front of a tough defense with Matthew Hossack, Liam Patten, Chad Cummings and company.
The Rush and Seals both come into Week 2 after successful debuts in Week 1. The Seals held on to beat a tough Riptide team and the Rush dominated the reigning champions.
The Seals offense looked like we expected it to with the additions of Kevin Crowley and Curtis Dickson. Seven different players found the back of the net for the Seals in Week 1 and got contributions in transition from players like Mike McCannell and Cam Holding. The Seals will want to look to close out the game tighter as they held a five-goal lead with five minutes remaining before almost allowing the Riptide to tie it before the end of regulation.
This was the Rush team that felt like disappeared for almost all of last season. The Rush would get off to a 6-0 lead and never look back, defeating the Mammoth 18-6, keeping Head Coach Jimmy Quinlan perfect in his tenure as coach. Mark Matthews and Robert Church would each have 10 or more points on the night and got big contributions from Dan Lintner, Ryan Keenan, and a familiar face to Rush fans and back with the team in Matthew Dinsdale. Alex Buque had a strong performance in his first game in a Rush uniform, saving 40 of 46 shots. Buque started last season with multiple strong performances but slipped as the season progressed, will he be able to maintain that momentum all season long?
Last season, the Seals took two of three matchups against the Rush. The Rush would take the third game as they were fighting for a chance at the playoffs and the Seals trying to secure the top seed in the West. The final would be 17-14 in favor of Saskatchewan. Austin Staats led San Diego with eight points (4g, 4a) but the story was how many shots Frank Scigliano faced in this game. He saw 58 shots and saved 42 in the loss. For Saskatchewan, Robert Church and Mark Matthews led the offense with a combined 17 points between the two. The Seals were hurt by penalties, with 30 minutes of infractions and the Rush took advantage of the opportunities, scoring four goals on six powerplay opportunities. This is an important early season matchup given the hot starts for each team and the fact they will play each other three times total this season in case tiebreakers come into play.
Another game set for Week 2 of teams who had very successful debuts. The Rock kept their promise to their fans and beat the Warriors 19-8 on Guaranteed Win Night while the Knighthawks beat the Swarm 16-11.
Toronto proved why they are one of the favorites for the championship in Week 1. They had 11 different players score their 19 goals. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Mitch de Snoo was tied for the team lead with three goals while also recording 13 loose balls and causing two turnovers. Tom Schreiber would hold the lead with eight points on the night but Challen Rogers, now playing full time in the offensive zone, added six points of his own. Nick Rose had a strong performance with 53 saves on 61 shots for what at times was a very potent offense for the Warriors last season.
Connor Fields has made an immediate impact on this Knighthawks team and their offense looks much improved. In his first game with the franchise after being selected in expansion by Las Vegas and then being traded to Rochester, he recorded 11 points (4g, 7a) along with 10 loose balls. Holden Cattoni, Thomas Hoggarth, and Curtis Knight all contributed with hattricks of their own. Ryan Smith, who looked like the primary scorer for the Knighthawks last season, didn’t tally a goal but was a key distributer with five assists. In net, Rylan Hartley made his return after dealing with injuries for the second half of last season and looked like the goalie that everyone has had high expectations on for the last couple of seasons. Hartley would save 46 of 57 shots on the night and would hold the Swarm scoreless in the third quarter which would eventually decide the game.
Last season the Rock would take both matchups against Rochester. In the second game on April 9, the Rock would win 11-9. Latrell Harris played a key role in that game for the Rock, scoring two goals, recording three assists, nine loose balls and six caused turnovers. Ryan Smith led the Knighthawks with three goals and an assist on a night where the offense struggled to beat the tough Rock defense and goaltending.
Week 2 wraps up with the Game of the Week on TSN between the Vancouver Warriors and the Calgary Roughnecks.
Vancouver had a week they would like to move on from in Week 1. They would lose to the Rock 19-8 in Hamilton. From the start, the Warriors would play catchup all night. By the end of the first quarter, they would find themselves trailing 7-1. A big question for the Warriors was their goaltending after Alex Buque departed to Saskatchewan in the offseason. Steve Fryer got the starting nod but both Fryer and backup, Aden Walsh, would struggle against the Rock. The Warriors welcomed back Mitch Jones who was out for a bulk of last season with injury. He led the team with five points and 11 loose ball recoveries.
Calgary had a bye in Week 1 and will want to put on a show for their home fans in their debut. The biggest question facing the Roughnecks after the departure of Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbie on the last two offseasons is who will pick up the scoring? Jesse King proved to be a number one option last year but who will be his biggest support? They added Brett Hickey in the offseason who is a proven scorer and have other pieces who got invaluable experience last season in players like Haiden Dickson, Kyle Waters, and Tanner Cook. With Christian Del Bianco in net and the transition threats of Zach Currier, Eli Salama, Shane Simpson and company, they will be a tough opponent in every game.
Last season the Roughnecks took two of three matchups from the Warriors. In the last matchup on April 16, the Roughnecks would defeat the Warriors at Rogers Arena. Jesse King would lead the Roughnecks with four goals and Tyler Pace added seven points of his own. Keegan Bal recorded a socktrick and added three assists in the loss. Both goalies for the Warriors saw time in net but Fryer was credited with the loss, saving 28 of 36 shots in 41 minutes played. The Warriors started last season 2-0 and will be looking to avoid being the only team through two weeks with two losses.