Opening night in Rogers Arena had it all: highlight-reel goals, an energetic crowd, flying fits and even a grand entrance from the Warriors new team ambassador, Paul “BizNasty” Bissonnette. But in sports, all that matters is the final score, and at the sound of the final buzzer, the Vancouver Warriors lost to the Calgary Roughnecks 12-7 despite an attempted fourth-quarter comeback.
From the onset, the Roughnecks, lead by the reigning NLL MVP Dane Dobbie, looked like the champions of the NLL. Rushing off the bench in the early moments of the game, Dobbie managed to get behind the defence and put home a breakaway goal to open the scoring for the evening. He would eventually finish the night with a hat trick, putting him on pace for a 54-goal season – that would be seven more than his total last year.
Six other Roughnecks scored in the game including Curtis “Superman” Dickson, who ended the night with a pair of goals, as well as three assists, despite being held scoreless in the first half. Tyler pace, who seems to score almost only in bunches, rattled home a hat trick. In all 10 games that the 24-year-old has scored, eight of those nights he scored multiple goals.
Both the King’s got in on the scoring action for the, including the second goal of the game where young brother Marshal assisted his older, veteran brother Jesse. The sibling connection is something we’ll see plenty of throughout the season.
For the Warriors, Mitch Jones hustled from the opening draw until the final buzzer. He finished with a career-high 14 loose balls, took 17 shots and added five points (two goals and three assists). Mitch was the offensive leader for the team last season after he came over from Buffalo, and now he’s off to another hot start.
Mitch’s teammate, Logan Schuss, also had two goals on the night. However, the team would only muster three other goals in the game. After a three-goal first half, and finding themselves down 10-3 in the third quarter, Schuss and the Warriors understand they didn’t do themselves any favours by falling behind the defending champions earlier in the game, especially in an Alterna Cup game where the games between Canadian clubs mean a lot more.
“We started off slow, and that’s the worst thing you can do in this league,” Schuss said. “Everyone is so talented in this league that you can find yourself behind the eight-ball.”
To make matters worse, the Warriors may have lost one of their key acquisitions, Nik Bilic for the year after he fell to the floor in agonizing pain following a collision with the Roughnecks Tyler Burton.
The Warriors did fight back, though, both on the scoreboard and with their physicality. In the fourth quarter, in particular, they out-muscled and hustled the Roughnecks, and found themselves behind four goals with six minutes remaining. Coach Gill knows, particularly after such a hard-fought training camp, that his guys aren’t going to let up until the final buzzer.
“We’ve got no quit in that dressing room,” Gill said. “There’s a lot of character. The guys weren’t happy with a couple of things that went on out there and we had some push back. So, there are a few positives in this game and that’s one of them.”
Another positive was the way the Warriors attacked Roughnecks goaltender Christian Del Bianco. They threw 70 shots at him all night. The issue was that he stopped 63 of those attempts, which ultimately cost them the game. That, and the fact that, in Gill’s words, “We felt we hit about 600 posts.”
Even though the Warriors lost, the team showed that they can compete with the best the NLL has to offer. It’s all about doing that for a full 60 minutes. They now have an extra week off to rest and prepare for their next game on Dec. 14, when they face one of the new expansion franchises, the New York Riptide.