NLL: Thunderbirds will try to correct course against Riptide

Halifax Thunderbirds @ Georgia Swarm, March 12, 2022. (Photo: Kyle Hess)

The Halifax Thunderbirds are trying to get their season back on track with two games left in the regular season. 

The team started the year with eight wins and one loss. On March 11, they lost to the Albany FireWolves 8-7 and then to the Georgia Swarm a day later. Their 8-1 record has turned into 9-7, and they have yet to clinch a playoff spot.

“I think our mental toughness is definitely being tested,” said Halifax captain Cody Jamieson. “When things don’t go right, you tend to look at others first, and I think frustration is starting to kick in as we’re all looking in the mirror. Nobody plans on going on little skids in the road like this. Especially being, you know, we were at the highest of highs at the start of the year there for our first seven games and the lowest of lows for the last seven, so it’s kind of been a roller-coaster season. To be in the position we’re in, we just have to climb ourselves out of the hole and get back to enjoying ourselves and leave the frustrations and the bad negative energy at home.” 

The Thunderbirds’ losing streak started during the weekend of March 11 and 12. The Thunderbirds lost to Albany at home and had to fly to Atlanta, GA, that night to play the Swarm the following day. The episode Thunderbirds 360: Turbulence shows that they had an exceptionally turbulent flight and arrived in Georgia at 5:30 a.m. The team lost to Georgia 10-9. 

They had a bye week and played the powerhouse Buffalo Bandits in back-to-back games, which they lost by a score of 16-11 both times. All of a sudden, they were on a four-game losing streak. 

“I think that was the start of us doubting ourselves a little bit,” said assistant captain Graeme Hossack. “Instead of just reacting and trusting what our instincts and what our principles are, we’ve gotten away from it, we’re trying to make adjustments, and we’re thinking. Which is slowing us down just a split second, which is the difference between scoring a goal or getting a cross-check on someone.” 

In the next game, Halifax beat the Rochester Knighthawks 11-7 during their final home game of the season. However, the losses kept coming, and Halifax dropped their next two games to the Calgary Roughnecks and Toronto Rock. 

“We played pretty well the same, except maybe we didn’t go on as much of a little of a lull,” said Jamieson about the Rochester game. “Even when we were on our winning streak, we weren’t putting full games together, we weren’t putting 60 minutes of effort together. We would do 45 or 50 and we were still coming out with the win. Now we’re putting in 30 or 35 minutes of good hard lacrosse, and we’re taking the other 20 or 25 minutes, I wouldn’t say off, but not playing up to how we want to play for 15 or 25 minutes and that’s what’s hurting us.” 

The losing streak also lined up with changes the team made at the trade deadline. The Thunderbirds acquired Shawn Evans from Rochester before they lost to Albany and Georgia. The following week they acquired Dawson Theede from Panther City and traded Stephan Leblanc the other way. With too many forwards, Kyle Jackson was the odd man out. And after four-and-a-half seasons with the team, he left and signed with the Philadelphia Wings. 

“I think anytime you lose a player, especially the players that we had, KJ was a part of our team for a long time and Steph really integrated himself in the locker room very nicely. I think when you move pieces like that it creates change and adds a different element within the dressing room,” said Jamieson. “I think the guys we’ve brought in, Dawson Theede and Shawn Evans, have done an excellent job fitting in… I don’t think this skid has anything to do with their abilities or their play on the floor, but it was one of many things that have been happening. Everybody always looks for that as an excuse, or that’s the reason, but I think it is a multitude of things that are happening at once. Definitely self-doubt and confidence being the main culprits.” 

Halifax’s next game is Saturday night against the New York Riptide, who have recently made some noise by beating the Buffalo Bandits and the Rochester Knighthawks in their last two games. 

“We have to start having fun on the floor, that is what it comes down to,” said Hossack. “I think that’s trusting and having confidence in our game, that we’re still a talented team that can score goals and keep teams to low goals against and we can go from there. But I think it comes down to having fun on the floor, communicating and wanting to compete just for the sake of competing instead of putting so much pressure on ourselves to win.” 

Even with the losing streak, Jamieson is still confident Halifax can be a championship-contending team. 

“We feel like we have the potential to maybe compete for a championship. If that’s what we want truly want to do, if that’s who we truly feel like, our locker room has to get it together here a little bit more and start to assert ourselves. There are only two games left in our season, we need to start to peak. That’s a good thing that we haven’t hit our ceiling yet and it’s a good thing that we’re still climbing and trying to get better week in and week out.”