The Calgary Roughnecks and Vancouver Warriors met last Friday night in the Saddledome to open the 2018 NLL season out West. With both teams undergoing some changes in identity it was a game that was tough to predict heading in. The game played out that way as well as it needed overtime before an unlikely scorer in defender Matt Beers deposited the game winner behind Del Bianco to secure the 14-13 victory.
With both Curtis Dickson and Wesley Berg still as holdouts and missing from the Roughneck lineup the Calgary offense stepped up to the plate and carried the team for most of the game, collecting 56 shots and extending possessions.
As much as things seem to change, the more they stay the same as Dane Dobbie continually found his way inside, particularly off ball and notched an impressive 5 goals and 4 assists. Tyler Pace (2G, 4A) and former Jr. A Mountaineer standout Dan Taylor (1G, 4A) also made large contributions offensively, a sign the young Roughneck offense will be a threat.
Despite the strong offensive showing the strongest portion of the Calgary game was their loose ball game, especially off of draws and in the offensive zone. The additions of youth and athleticism over the past couple of seasons have a made a large difference to the Roughneck’s ability to control the ball more and set up offensive sets. Especially with Tyson Bell, Zach Currier, and rookie Shane Simpson all in the lineup together, possession is hard to come by for opponents and that showed Friday night.
It was also apparent that defensively guys weren’t quite comfortable with one another which is pretty standard this early in the season. Vancouver is a lefty-focused team and the defense didn’t appear to be adjusting or reacting to the seals being set on that side of the floor to allow guys like Schuss and Jones to shoot. There were also a lot of iso’s being run by the Warriors, which are typically a winning scenario for defenses as they play to the defender’s advantage. But, Vancouver was able to get some quality looks off of them. Again though, at this point in the season it’s not uncommon. Like I’ve said before Roughnecks’ head coach Curt Malawsky is one of the best and I’d expect to see a much tighter defensive game from Calgary in Week 2.
For Vancouver, what a character win this was on the road to open the season. Trailing for much of the game and down 13-8 early in the fourth, to find a way to comeback and prevail is a great sign for a franchise that has struggled to gain traction over the past few seasons. Offensively lead by Logan Schuss, who has always been a natural finisher and one of those guys with a knack for scoring, rolled up 3 goals and 6 assists in the contest while big righty James Rahe (2G, 3A) and Keegan Bal (2G, 2A) filled the scoresheet as well. On a night where sniper Mitch Jones was held without a goal it was even more key for Vancouver to get some of that depth scoring they have been missing in previous seasons. Lead by that strong left side, the Warriors were able to rack up a high shooting percentage on the night which ultimately allowed them to rally in the fourth quarter.
Moving forward it will be interesting to see how the Vancouver transition game progresses. They were taken advantage of at times by the athleticism of the Roughnecks and pressure up the floor. With veteran goaltender Aaron Bold now between the pipes and his ability to throw, it may take some time for Warriors’ head coach Chris Gill and his staff to utilize that asset and fix a breakout that appeared broken at times on Friday night.
Now the focus shifts to Week 2 which will see the second half of the home-and-home completed with the Roughnecks traveling to the left coast for the inaugural game at Rogers Arena. Fans in Vancouver can be sure that whatever ends up taking place, history will be made.
READ MORE: Check out Winners and Losers from Week 1 of the 2019 NLL Season by Steve Wizniuk here, Random Thoughts by Evan Schemenauer here and Lacrosse GIFs: NLL Week 1 here on LaxAllStars for more NLL coverage.