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NLL: Ten things to know for semifinal weekend

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The National Lacrosse League follows up a thrilling playoff quarterfinal round that featured two one-goal overtime games, the No. 1 seed fending off a serious challenge and a team winning its first ever postseason game.

The top four teams during the season, No. 1 Toronto Rock, No. 2 San Diego Seals, No. 3 Albany FireWolves and No. 4 Buffalo Bandits advanced, setting up two intriguing semifinal series.

Here are 10 things to know about the NLL entering the Semifinals:

  • TSN Takes Toronto-Buffalo: Defending champion Buffalo vs. No. 1 seed Toronto meet in a dream matchup in one semifinal, and TSN will feature complete coverage of the series. The rematch of last year’s NLL Eastern Conference semifinals will feature the commentator team of Jon Abbott, Pat Gregoire, and Brianne Foley. Play begins with Game 1 on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET from Hamilton, Ontario. Game 2 follows on Sunday live from Buffalo at 5:30 p.m. ET (also on ESPNU), with Game 3, if necessary, scheduled for Saturday, May 11, at 7 p.m. back in Hamilton, Ontario.
  • Cross Continent Clash: But don’t sleep on the other semifinal, with No. 2 San Diego and first-time playoff winner Albany battling it out after both advanced with home victories. The series opens on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT from San Diego, with Cooper Perkins, Nick Ossello, and Raine Michaels on the call. The teams travel to Albany for Game 2 on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, with Brendan Glasheen, Dan Bahl, and Ashley Miller calling the action. Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for Friday, May 10, at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT, with Perkins, Ossello and Michaels on the call.
  • Looking Ahead: The winners of each semifinal series will face off in the best-of-three 2024 NLL Finals, scheduled for Thursday, May 16, through Sunday, May 19, and Thursday, May 23, through Sunday, May 26. Additionally, should both semifinal series end in two games, the NLL may move the 2024 NLL Finals up start next weekend.
  • Goaltending Rules: Seven out of eight teams were held to single digits in goals in the Quarterfinals. Buffalo at 10 goals was the only outlier. What’s with the great goaltending?’s Cooper Perkins has a theory, and it’s based in the numbers, as this week’s LAXMetrics Powered by NLL explains.
  • Dobbie, Dickson, Dhane Doings: Three players active in this postseason are among the top 10 NLL playoff goal leaders all-time. Dane Dobbie (80) trails only John Tavares (84), with Curtis Dickson (fourth, 64) and Dhane Smith (56, ninth) also in that elite group.
  • From Whence They Came: While Ontario is the home province of most players in the league, San Diego is showing that top talent can hail from many locales. While “The Heartland Province” is home to nine Seals, eight hail from British Columbia and one each from New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and Ohio, making the team the most diverse geographically in the playoffs.
  • Draft Facts: Sometimes the draft predicts the best talent, and sometimes teams can make the most of later round selections. While Buffalo (11 first round picks), Albany (10) and San Diego (10) have stockpiled top-selected players, Toronto has just four, depending on six second-round picks, five thirds, three fourths, a sixth and two undrafted players on its roster.
  • The College Try: More than 40 U.S. and Canadian colleges are represented on the playoff rosters, with the University of Denver claiming the most with eight, including three San Diego Seals and three members of the Toronto Rock. Guelph, Onondaga CC and Western Ontario with four each lead the Canadian schools in that category.
  • Road Trippin’: While Buffalo and Toronto, at under 100 miles apart, are the second closest NLL teams to each other geographically, after Buffalo and Rochester (76.5 miles), Albany and San Diego (2833 miles) are the second farthest apart, after Halifax and San Diego (3685). San Diego-Uniondale, N.Y. (2802), Vancouver-Duluth, Ga. (2782) and Calgary-Duluth, Ga.) round out the list. Your mileage may vary.
  • Bucket List: The first 2,000 fans to come through the turnstiles at Friday night’s Seals vs. FireWolves game at Pechanga Arena will receive FREE Seals playoff bucket hats.
  • Calgary Charity Cha-Ching: The Calgary Roughnecks may have not made the postseason, but two of their players were huge winners when it came to raising funds for charity through their play. Goaltender Christian Del Bianco and the Roughnecks Foundation, in partnership with Ascent Consulting Ltd. this week announced a donation of $10,640 to KidSport Calgary through Del Bianco’s ‘Assists for Kids’ program. And after a 32-goal season for the Calgary Roughnecks, Captain Jesse King has raised a total of $2,880 for the Believe in the Gold Foundation, in partnership with YES TV.


Schedule – Quarterfinals (All Times Eastern)

(4) Buffalo Bandits vs. (1) Toronto Rock

  • Game 1 – Buffalo at Toronto, Friday, May 3, 7:30 p.m. ET, FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton, ON, TSN, ESPN+ (Abbott, Gregoire, Foley)
  • Game 2 – Toronto at Buffalo, Sunday, May 5, 5:30 p.m. ET, KeyBank Center, Buffalo, TSN, ESPNU, ESPN+ (Abbott, Gregoire, Foley)
  • *Game 3 – Buffalo at Toronto, Saturday, May 11, 7 p.m. ET, FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton, ON, TSN, ESPN+ (Abbott, Gregoire, Foley)

(3) Albany Firewolves vs. (2) San Diego Seals

  • Game 1 – Albany at San Diego, Friday, May 3, 10:30 p.m. ET, Pechanga Arena, San Diego, ESPNU, ESPN+, TSN+ (Perkins, Ossello, Michaels)
  • Game 2 – San Diego at Albany, Sunday, May 5, 3 p.m. ET, MVP Arena, Albany, NY, ESPNU, ESPN+, TSN+ (Glasheen, Bahr, Miller)
  • *Game 3 – Albany at San Diego, Friday, May 10, 10:30 p.m. ET, Pechanga Arena, San Diego, ESPNU, ESPN+, TSN+ (Perkins, Ossello, Michaels)