Halifax Thunderbirds Season Outlook
The 2019/2020 NLL season is underway. Fans haven’t been disappointed with stunning upsets, flashy new teams, and shocking losers. If you read my Rochester season outlook, you’d know the delay in team previews was due to my collegiate finals. The last two weeks, I was focused on my collegiate studies. With nothing to distract me now, and the season having begun, I have substituted my season previews with season outlooks. Here, I’m gathering takeaways from what we’ve seen from each remaining team so far. Rochester was last. Fittingly, Halifax, the former Rochester Knighthawks, is next.
If anyone won the offseason, Halifax did. The expansion franchise entered Halifax with high expectations. Nova Scotians were ready for NLL lacrosse. The Thunderbirds opened their season with 6,847 fans in attendance. While respectable, ownership is already looking to fill the upper decks. That’s the right mindset!
Those in attendance were treated. Halifax brought the thunder to New York. The Thunderbirds stormed out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The final? 12-4 Halifax. An inaugural game can’t go much better.
Jake Withers won the opening faceoff and scored the first goal in franchise history within ten seconds. Talk about starting with a bang. Withers wasn’t a one-goal-wonder. He excelled at the faceoff dot. Withers finished 16-18 on faceoffs. C’mon Withers! You lost two faceoffs? Pathetic.
Five forwards finished with three points. In no particular order, they were Austin Shanks (2 goals, 1 assist), Eric Fannell (2 goals, 1 assist), Ryan Benesch (1 goal, 2 assists), Kyle Jackson (1 goal, 2 assists), and Cody Jamieson (3 assists). Sharing the wealth leads to effective offense. In game one, the Thunderbirds’ offense managed just that.
Defensively, Scott Campbell (6 loose balls), Colton Armstrong (5 loose balls), and Cory Becker (4 loose balls) were an iron curtain. For the cherry on top, Becker tallied his first career NLL goal. The Riptide rarely got to goaltender Warren Hill.
Speaking of Hill, he better be careful or Donald Trump will contract him to be his border wall. Hill rarely let a ball through. He had forty saves on forty-four shots. Elite!
Two critiques follow. First, after tallying seven goals in the first quarter, Halifax only managed another five before the clock hit zero. They let off the gas. Scoring five goals for 75% of a game won’t cut it against better opposition. Speaking of opposition, while an impressive win, Halifax hasn’t played anyone up to par. New York looked bad. It’s hard to tell how much was due to Halifax being good and how much was from the Riptide’s deficiencies. The schedule becomes difficult soon. Soon, we’ll see how good Halifax really is.
Speaking of the schedule, Halifax hosts their old locale, the Rochester Knighthawks next. Expect Rochester to come motivated after getting stung by Georgia. Rochester would love nothing more than to beat their predecessors. It’s a big game; however, Halifax should win handily. After hosting Rochester, the Thunderbirds visit Buffalo, host Colorado and San Diego, and head west to face Calgary. That’s a gauntlet. If Halifax beats both Rochester and Buffalo, they’ll have an early lead for the north division’s top spot.
Realistically, Rochester, Colorado, and San Diego are winnable. Win two of those and it’s a success. With Toronto struggling and Rochester yet to play competitively, it’s a real possibility Halifax earns, at a minimum, the north division’s second spot. Know what that means? Playoffs!
Nova Scotians must support the Thunderbirds or they risk missing out on a special inaugural season. I don’t expect Halifax to pull a Vegas Golden Knights (the only NHL team in history to never miss the playoffs) and make the championship; however, a clone of 2018 San Diego would be impressive. The Thunderbirds have the sexy dancing girls, sick jerseys, and superb talent. What more could you want? Get your butt to Scotiabank Centre and support these guys.
Do you agree with my Halifax outlook? Disagree? Am I too optimistic on their playoff prospects? Whatever your thoughts, air them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can also comment directly onto this article by subscribing. By subscribing, you’ll be notified whenever I publish a new article. Any and all support is appreciated. Regardless, thank you for reading! Good luck to the Halifax Thunderbirds!