NLL Midseason Storylines, Best Moments, and Awards

With the National Lacrosse League hitting the halfway mark of games after Week 13 (61 games
played out of 117), I wanted to take a look at some of the good and bad of what has been a wild
season so far.

Here are some of the biggest storylines as well as the best moments and players from the first
half of the 2019-2020 NLL season.

Parity

The New York Riptide beating the Georgia Swarm in overtime is the biggest upset of the season
so far and is a great example of how anybody can beat anybody in this league. The usual
suspects of Buffalo (6-3), Saskatchewan (6-2), and Toronto (6-3) have led the way, but the play
of New England (5-3), Philadelphia (7-4), and especially Halifax (7-2) has shaken up the
standings.

2019 Playoff teams like Colorado (5-6), Calgary (4-4), San Diego (4-6), and Georgia (5-4) have
struggled, but there is still time to make a push for the playoffs in the new 3 Division format.

The Rochester and New York expansion teams have struggled, but both have shown they are
capable of winning. Knighthawks 2.0 is probably farther along and have been so close to getting
more wins in 1-2 goal and overtime games.

B/R Live

In the second year of Bleacher Report Live streaming, the quality has been much improved
across the board in terms of improved camera angles, interesting halftime segments, and
pregame shows. There have been a few small hiccups, but it has been a good platform for fans to
watch games on.

It wasn’t until this past weekend at the end of the Georgia vs Calgary game that there was a
major problem. In one of the most exciting finishes of the season as the Swarm and Roughnecks
traded goal after goal to send the game to overtime, the feed cut out completely for the overtime
period. I found out who won by refreshing the Calgary and Georgia social media accounts.
Whatever went wrong needs to be addressed immediately so that it hopefully doesn’t happen
again.

Attendance

The NLL’s attendance is one of the most highly debated topics and for good reason. Strong
attendance across the league should translate to continued growth.

Looking at the numbers, average attendance across the league is currently 7,831, which is down
considerably from 2019’s final average of 9,596. This is due in part to expansion, but also to
attendance actually being slightly down in a few of the usually bigger markets like Buffalo,
Saskatchewan, and Colorado. However, Saskatchewan has only played 3 home games and
Colorado has only had 4 so it’s still too early to say that they won’t get back to their 2019 levels
as attendance generally picks up in March and April.

New York had a home game with only 2,351 fans, which is not sustainable especially in an arena
like the Nassau Coliseum, but a team like Halifax is a bright spot with an average of 7,522 in
their first year.

The game in Las Vegas drew 4,821 fans, which is encouraging especially if the league hopes to
come to Sin City in the near future.

The league is still on track to break the 1 million mark for the second year in a row.

Midseason Top Plays

There have been dozens of amazing goals and plays so far so it’s hard to choose just a few.
Several have made it to Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays and helped showcase the skill and creativity
of lacrosse to a national audience. Here are three of the best so far and I’m sure there will be
dozens more in the next half of the season.

Kevin Crowley’s Behind the Back Catch and Finish

Dillon Ward’s Amazing Save Against The Rush

Mark Matthews’ Swim Move and Shovel Shot

Best Game

Saskatchewan beats Halifax 16-15 in OT on 2/15
I tuned into this game in the 3rd Quarter as the Rush were up 12-3 and part of me thought the
game was over, but part of me also thought if any team could come back from that deficit it
would be the T-Birds. Lo and behold they stormed back to send this game to overtime and
definitely created some lacrosse fans out in Halifax.

Best Fight

Two guys dropping the gloves and taking off their helmets to actually fight is becoming rare, but
it’s still an important part of holding players accountable. Usually most “fights” that happen now
are just guys shoving each other, grabbing facemasks, and tackling them to the ground.

There have still been a few good tilts though and I know that when I watched Ian MacKay fight
Chris Willman in person at the KeyBank Center the whole arena was on their feet. The NLL is in the entertainment business and two guys squaring off at center is still a big reason 11,000 fans
come to watch.

The best scrap so far goes to Zach Currier and Logan Schuss throwing down in Week 1.

Midseason Award Winners

NLL scheduling is pretty funky this season as 3 teams have played 11 games, 2 have played 10,
5 have played 9, and 3 have only played 8 so purely looking at stats makes this a bit unfair at this
point.

Once everyone has played 18 games there will be a much clearer picture of who the front runners
are for awards, but it’s still fun to pick these if the season ended right now.

MVP

Zach Higgins (Next Up: Mitch Jones, Callum Crawford, Kiel Matisz, Graeme Hossack

Philadelphia Wings’ Goalie Zach Higgins has had the biggest individual impact on a team’s
performance so far. The Wings lacked a strong goalie last season and had a losing record
because of it. Higgy has been the backbone of Philly’s impressive 7-4 start.

Defensive Player of the Year

Graeme Hossack (Next Up: Robert Hope, Brodie Merrill, Brad Kri, Matt Gilray)

Graeme “The Cyborg” Hossack has been a huge reason for the T-Birds success.

Transition Player of the Year

Kiel Matisz (Next Up: Joey Cupido, Challen Rogers, Shane Simpson, Trevor Baptiste)

Matisz logs more minutes on both ends of the floor than anyone else at an average of 28:51. He
is a playmaker on offense and one of the smartest players on defense.

Goalie of the Year

Zach Higgins (Next Up: Dillon Ward, Warren Hill, Nick Rose, Doug Jameison)

The members of the Goalie Union have been playing out of their minds across the league and
with so many games left it will come down to the wire to see who can keep it up for 3 more
months of lacrosse.

NLL Midseason Storylines, Best Moments, and Awards Rookie of the Year

Connor Fields (Next Up: Clarke Petterson, Andrew Kew, Nick Chaykowsky, Tyson Gibson)
Fieldsy played in 3 games in 2019, but is technically classified as a Rookie for the 2020 season.
He has been spectacular for the Seals scoring from a variety of spots on the floor and making
things happen with his aggressive play style.

With about 50 regular season games left and the playoffs, I’m excited to see which teams will
turnaround their seasons, which players will find their second half stride, and who will raise the
NLL Trophy in May.

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