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Playoff rematches turn NLL Conference Finals up a notch

2023 NLL Playoffs 2023 NLL Playoffs - NLL

The National Lacrosse League is down to its final four clubs as play gets underway in the Conference Finals on Thursday.

The best-of-three matchups between defending champion Colorado and Calgary in the West (Thursday and Saturday) and Toronto and Buffalo in the East (Friday and Saturday) feature storylines aplenty with some of the league’s most successful franchises battling for the title.

Some general notes on the NLL Conference Finals pairings:

  • Home Cooking: These are the teams with the best home records this season: Toronto 8-1; Buffalo 7-2; Calgary 7-2; Colorado 7-2 (San Diego was also 7-2)
  • Homecoming: These are also the four NLL clubs with highest average home attendance this season: Buffalo 14,731; Calgary 11,665, Colorado 9,972, Toronto 9,423
  • Welcome Home: Three of the four finalists were in the 2022 Conference Finals, including a rematch between Buffalo and Toronto
  • Win With Defense: These might be the four best defenses/goalies in the league, as Toronto’s Nick Rose (Orangeville, Ont.) (9.03 GAA, 655 saves), Calgary’s Christian Del Bianco (Coquitlam, B.C.) (9.28 GAA, 712 saves), Buffalo’s Matt Vinc (St. Catharines, Ont.) (10.42 GAA, 742 saves) and Colorado’s Dillon Ward (Orangeville, Ont.) (11.19 GAA, 632 saves) are all recognized as top-flite in net

And some items of interest from each series:

NLL West Conference Finals: (4) Colorado Mammoth vs. (2) Calgary Roughnecks

  • We Meet Again: These teams met in the quarterfinals last year, with the Mammoth winning 16-12 in Calgary on their way to the third championship in franchise history (1987 as the Baltimore Thunder and 2006)
  • ...And Again: Calgary and Colorado have met in the playoffs the past three seasons held (2018, Calgary won, 15-12 at Colorado; 2019, Calgary won, 8-4, at home; and last year)
  • Rolling the Roughnecks: The only other time that the Colorado franchise took the title as the Mammoth was in 2006, when they also defeated the Roughnecks (franchise also won as Baltimore Thunder in 1987)
  • Three This Year: Calgary won the season series, two games to one: Colorado won, 9-8, at Ball Arena on Jan. 7; the Roughnecks took a 13-9 verdict at WestJet Field at ScotiaBank Saddledome on Feb. 13; and Calgary dealt the Mammoth a 16-10 defeat on March 10 in Denver
  • Three All Time: Calgary has won three championships, last in 2019; Colorado has won three as a franchise, including last year
  • Coaches Corner: Mammoth Head Coach and NLL Hall of Famer Pat Coyle won championships as a player over Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky in 1999, 2000 and 2003 (Toronto def. Rochester in each)
  • TV Time:
    • Game 1 – At Colorado, Thursday, May 11 @ 9:30 p.m. ET, TSN, TSN+, ESPN+
    • Game 2 – At Calgary, Saturday, May 13 @ 9:30 p.m. ET, TSN, TSN+, ESPN+
    • *Game 3 – At Calgary, Saturday, May 20 @ 9:30 p.m. ET, TSN, TSN+, ESPN+

            (*if necessary)

NLL East Conference Finals: (2) Toronto Rock vs. (1) Buffalo Bandits

  • Do Over: This is a rematch of last year’s East Conference Finals, both won by Buffalo in dramatic fashion in the final seconds
  • Been Awhile: Buffalo’s last championship came in 2008 and Toronto’s in 2011. The Bandits have won four NLL titles, while the Rock have taken six
  • Bandits Bold: The Bandits hold a 5-3 edge in playoff series between the franchises
  • This Year: Buffalo won the season series, 2-1: the Bandits took an 11-8 verdict at FirstOntario Centre way back in Week 2, Dec. 17; the Rock then won an 18-7 decision in Toronto on April 1; and three weeks later the Bandits edged the Rock, 11-10 at KeyBank Center on April 22, the difference in the Bandits earning the top seed in the East
  • Toll Time: Just 66 miles of mostly the QEW and New York State Thruway separate the home buildings of the two clubs
  • Forty is the New…: Two of the league’s great veterans are competing as Toronto’s Dan Dawson (Oakville, Ont.) (41) and Buffalo’s Matt Vinc (turns 41 on June 9) suit up for their respective teams
  • On the Air:
    • Game 1 – At Buffalo, Friday, May 12 @ 7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, TSN+, ESPN+
    • Game 2 – At Toronto, Saturday, May 13 @ 7 p.m. ET, TSN, TSN+, ESPN+
    • *Game 3 – At Buffalo, Saturday, May 20 @ 7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, TSN+, ESPN+

            (*if necessary)