Vancouver 2019-01-13- After two weeks away from home, the Vancouver Warriors returned to Rogers Arena to open their longest homestand of the 2019 portion of the NLL season. For fans of the new look team hoping to see their sides inaugural home victory, they will be forced to wait for another day; as the Warriors fell 14-10 to their western conference rivals. After their opening day win, the Warriors have stumbled upon hard times; dropping their last three games including their home opener versus Calgary three weeks ago. Although under new branding, it cannot be forgotten that the Warriors are still largely the same team who stumbled to a league worst record of 2-16 last season; Much the opposite of their Saturday night opponents the Saskatchewan rush, and that was clear right from the get go; with the Rush scoring four times in the games opening couple minutes.
The Rush came into Saturday’s affair playing only two games this season, compared to Vancouver league leading four games played. It is certainly a weird schedule presented to the two teams, nevertheless Saskatchewan are no slouches and could not be taken lightly. The game showcased two of the league brightest players, for Saskatchewan their main man and is leading scorer Mark Mathews who led the entire NLL in points with 116 in 2018; while Vancouver’s Logan Schuss has been on a tear this season sitting fifth in league scoring with 20 points through four games. Another story line from Saturday’s game was the first time Vancouver netminder Aaron Bold faced his old team in a Warriors jersey. After being traded last season to New England, Bold faced the Rush once; however he did not stick around the Blackwolves for very long, signing with the Warriors as one of their premier free agents this off season. His familiarity with the Rush shooters was thought to play to his advantage heading into the game, although he was quick to remind media that their shooters also know his tendencies. Between the leading scorers and the return of a club legend net minder, Saturday nights affair was not sort of story lines.
The game could not have started worse for the Warriors, who conceded the opening goal just 17 seconds into the night, and trailed by two within 47.the defensive zone coverage went ary early in the game for the Warriors, who gave both Mathew Dinsdale and Jordan Thompson loads of time and space in prime scoring areas to swing shots past Aaron Bold. after the two goals in quick succession, things failed to get any better in the first half. Bold fumbled a shot leading to a third goal, which was followed by a searing shot from Ben Mcintosh, with that the home side trailed by four after only five minutes. After such a horrid start the Warriors changed their netminder for the first time this season, sending former starter; now backup Eric Penney in between the pipes for his first appearance in a Warriors jersey. The goaltending change proved fruitful for the Warriors who only gave up one more goal in the quarter and seemed to find an attacking spark in front of Penney. The Warriors finally scored their first goal of the night 12 minutes in from Mitch Jones on the powerplay, and that sparked a three goal run from the home team as they got goals Tony Malcolm and Brandon Goodwin within the same minute. After a disastrous start, Vancouver had climbed back into the game; only trailing by two after the first quarter.
After the game, Warriors head coach Chris Gill talked about the first quarter, and his thoughts behind the goaltending change, saying“We were able to settle in and clean up some of our mistakes,” said Gill. “Obviously the goaltending change was big. Penney came in there and he played really really well. Our defense stepped up and played our system. The first four or five minutes really wasn’t in our game plan, so we cleaned that up.”
Following a high scoring first period, the second was much tighter and hard fought by both sides. Vancouver continued their offensive onslaught, while the Rush countered with a couple goals of their own. It was an impressive quarter for the Warriors, who looked dead in their tracks in the games beginning. Throughout the second period both sides exchanged goals, at the same time both netminders came up with miraculously saves. The second also saw three times as may penalties as the first did, with both sides getting three power plays. The Warriors had clearly spent this week working on the man advantage as it was much more potent than it had been so far this season. At the end of te half Vancouver trailed by only one and had all the momentum heading into the break. Not only was it a great resilient performance from the Warriors after their dismal opening, it was exactly what ownership wants to see in their effort to attract higher attendance numbers to Rogers Arena for NLL action.
The beginning of the second half was nearly the polar opposite of the first. Rather than a quick slew of goals from the visitors, it was Vancouver who scored quickly to tie the game up at eight. Jordan Mcrbide got his second of the night a minute into the third quarter but the tie would not last for long. The Rush recovered their lead with two goals of their own, restoring their lead after surrendering it only briefly. The Warriors drive and effort was very evident in the third quarter, but the goaltending and offensive skill of the rush stimed their best efforts. Like the other quarters, the home team finished the games portion by again trailing by two.
The third quarter 8-8 tie would be as close as Vancouver would get on the night, as the Rush picked up the pace in the fourth quarter to push them over the finish line en route to their 14-11 victory.
Everyone was proud of Penney’s performance in net for the Warriors, but he was quick to be the first person to give Bold credit for some of his success in the game. “He was giving me some pointers on how to play certain shots on certain guys in certain situations.” said Penney post game, showing that the starting netminder should not be forgotten.
Now at home for a while, the next time the Warriors hit the floor at Rogers Arena is Saturday January 19, when they welcome expansion side the San Diego Seals for the two clubs first ever meeting. The Seals have also struggled as of late, meaning Vancouver’s first home win may be in the cards for Saturday night.