After two weeks away, the Vancouver Warriors returned home to the friendly confines of Rogers Arena where they fell for the second time at home to the visiting Saskatchewan Rush by a score of 15-13.
Since the last time we checked in with the Warriors, lots has happened both on and off the field. On their two game trip, Vancouver met Calgary for the final time this season, falling to them 8-5 in a game that came down to the final quarter. As the second game of their trip, the Warriors paid a visit to the West’s best, the expansion San Diego Seals. The performance in against the Seals was nothing short of spectacular, everything clicked for Vancouver as they pranced back across the border with a dominant 14-6 in in their back pocket.
Other than plain results, there has been a number of positional standouts throughout the Warriors recent run of success. While forwards Logan Schuss, Keegan Bal, and Mitch Jones have all put up exceptional offensive numbers, the main focus has been the improved organization on defense. Most notably, the change in starting goalies from Aaron Bold to Eric Penny. Bold, who came into the Warriors organization this season as a highly touted free-agent, failed to settle earl in games; leaving Vancouver to climb out of a hole late. Despite his loyalty to his new signing early in the year,head coach Chris Gill replaced him with former starting netminder and New Westminster native Eric Penney. When given his chance three weeks ago, as Bold had to leave the team for personal reasons, Penney stood on his head and led Vancouver to their first win in front of their home fans. Since then, Penney has started every game for the Warriors and has been outstanding while Bold has been away. How outstanding? Well Penney came into Saturday’s matchup with the rush leading the NLL for goalies who have played 250 minutes in goals against average (8.88).
That covers nearly everything on the field since the Warriors have last been home, however off the field there has been some interesting news as well. The Warriors became partners with Rogers Sportsnet, and with this will now have a stable place in Vancouver’s mainstream sports coverage.with their partnership, Sportsnet will be broadcasting two weekly pieces of Warriors content. First will be a highlight show on their local TV channels, called “Warriors in 30” while the SN650 radio network will begin to air a Lacrosse talk show also originally named “Warriors Weekly.”
The Warriors came into tonight’s game on a high after their standout win over San Diego, but were wary of a Rush team who were trying to avoid losing four straight for the first time since 2011. A key for the Warriors has been how well their offense has been clicking, led by Mitch Jones’ 16 goals coming into the game against the Rush. That along with the fact that Saskatchewan defense, which has struggled allowing an average of over 15 goals per game, pointed towards a Warriors victory. however despite the mismatch of paper recently, no one in lacrosse would ever count the rush out as they went on to secure their narrow victory. The 2018 NLL champions have struggled lately, but with grit, desire and skill the squad possesses it was not a matchup to take lightly for Vancouver,.
The first half started quick for the Warriors,who found themselves controlling the play early in the game. However despite the early promise, the Warriors were unable to hold out the first shot of the game, as they seemed to return to their slow starts they had become accustomed to early in the season. Although they surrendered early, Vancouver responded to tie the game at one in within the matchups first four minutes. Early in the first half the Warriors showed exceptional prowess in cycling and controlling the ball in the offensive zone. The offensive system hypnotized the Rush’s defense early in the game, and the pristine passing was a pleasant sight for the home ans who had yet to see the Warriors play such entertaining lacrosse. Throughout the quarter teams exchanged goals, although the Warriors held the 5-4 lead after 15 minutes. Overall the first half was a very even battle, with both teams showing faults defensively and skill on the attack. After allowing the first shot of the game, Eric Penney settled in and returned to his stellar form which he has shown throughout the last three games.
The second quarter was much a continuation of the first, although this time in Saskatchewan’s favour. Vancouver’s Jordan McBride opened the scoring finishing off another well-worked attack by the Warriors. Following McBrides tally the Warriors began to trail , letting the Rush running away on the shot clock, as well as putting up three consecutive goals of their own in the process and taking over the lead. At the end of the half Vancouver had lost ground and entered the third quarter trailing by 7-6, and being more than ten shots behind the Rush. The play of Eric Penney and the offensive organization were the focuses of the first, as the Warriors presented the Rogers Arena fans with some of their most entertaining lacrosse this season.
The crowd at Rogers Arena was much larger than what the Warriors had become used to in the first half of the season.
Could it be that the two weeks away actually helped build the brand? Very likely.
The absence has allowed the Canucks to promote the new team in the market. The cross promotion, along with the improved play of the Warriors all likely contributed to the increased attendance. Steve Ewen of The Province took a good look at this situation earlier this week, and I highly encourage you to check it out.
With the crowd behind them, the Warriors played one of the hardest working quarters of the season in the third. With the Rush peppering them with shots, Vancouver had to weather the storm and dig himself out of two goal deficits twice. Justin Salt and Jean-Luc Chetner led the way for the home team who found themselves again trailing by one after the third quarter. Despite the rush having more shots and possession, the Warriors effort was enough to keep them well in the game heading into the final quarter.
The fourth couldn’t have started much better for the Warriors, the top line of McBride, Schuss and Bal came together instantly to tie the game up a mere 42 seconds into the frame. Although the effort and grind came through in the fourth quarter, it was not enough for the warriors as they fell 15-13 to the Rush, who were able to snap their three game losing skid.
Following the game, Warriors head coach Chris Gill admired his teams effort and grit throughout the performance. Saying
“We tried grinding out a win against one of the best teams in the league, Unfortunately, we couldn’t put the ball in the net when we had some really good looks at the end.”
But conceded the fact that even though they played a very good game, it was the little things that the Rush did better which ended up making the difference.
Despite the loss,Vancouver remains very much in the fight for the final playoff spot in the western conference, and will look to gain ground in their upcoming run of away games. For the Rush, the win will hopefully signify a turning of the tides, as they look to get out and stay out of their recent slump.
Although Vancouver were close in the game, as the season wears on they must start changing some of these close losses into wins if they are to make a real run at the playoffs, let alone the championship.
Vancouver now has a week off and will have a chance to reset and refocus before visiting San Diego yet again in two weeks time. The Rush on the other hand will be right back at it next weekend as they host the also struggling Colorado Mammoth.