The San Diego Seals play host to their division rival Vancouver Warriors on Saturday for a matinee at Pechanga Arena in sunny San Diego.
The game was originally dubbed the Rumble on the Runway and was to take place on the flightline at MCAS Miramar in San Diego. It would have been the first professional sports game played on a Marine base and the first outdoor game in the history of the NLL. Col. Charles Dockery, Commanding Officer, MCAS Miramar, issued a statement citing priority concerns pertaining to Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control as the reason for the cancellation, but finished by expressing the Marine Corps’ interest in future partnership opportunities with the Seals and the NLL.
Despite the relocation, the show must go on. This matchup features two teams vying for contention in an extremely tight West Division where the difference between first and last place is a matter of just two games. Vancouver and San Diego currently round out the bottom of the division at 4-6 and 3-6, respectively.
The first time the two teams met, San Diego won an 11-10 overtime thriller that saw captain Brodie Merrill score a diving, walk-off fastbreak goal to seal the W. If the Seals can lock up the series and pull out the home win, they’ll dig themselves out of last place and be well-positioned for the second half of the season.
“This would be a big win for us in many ways,” said general manager and head coach Patrick Merrill. “We would secure the season series with a division rival and keep us in the hunt going into the second half of the season. We know what we need to do to win, and this group of guys can do it, so it’s just about going out there and executing our game plan for a full 60 minutes.”
The Seals are coming off of back to back matchups with the Colorado Avalanche in which the teams split the series 1-1. Despite a sluggish 10-7 loss against Colorado’s elite defense last week, the 17 goals they put up in that first Vegas match show the promise of a contender. The team’s optimism is grounded in the return of two huge offensive weapons – Casey Jackson and Austin Staats.
Vancouver has a response for that though, with perhaps the most dangerous offensive player in the game right now in forward Mitch Jones. He’s tied with Toronto’s Rob Hellyer for a league leading 26 goals, leads the league in points at 61, and is certainly going to draw double and quick slides from San Diego’s defense come Saturday.
If the first game these two teams played is any indication, this meeting will come down to the wire. That being said, the Seals appear to have a bit of an advantage over this Warriors team when you crunch the numbers. Even though they’ve played one more game than San Diego to date, Vancouver has only 2 more points scored on the season with a total of 93. On the other end, they’ve allowed 11 more points at 114 total goals against, a figure better than only the New York Riptide.
The Seals will need to return to their Vegas form if they hope to keep up with the explosive Mitch Jones and company. Likewise, anything less than 10 goals from Vancouver isn’t going to get the job done against the Seals’ team offense.
Whatever the result, the landscape of the West Division will surely prove even more contentious as opportunities become fewer and farther between.
The game is set for 11:30 AM PST/2:30 PM EST at Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California and can be watched on B/R Live.