A 15-9 loss against the Toronto Rock at Rogers Arena was not how the Vancouver Warriors wanted to end the season, but at least they did exactly what their coach wanted them too.
Earlier this week, Warriors head coach Chris Gill said he wanted his team to play until the final buzzer during their last home game of the 2019 NLL Season to show appreciation to the fans. Defensemen Dallas Wade did more than that when he scored the match’s final goal with only 11 seconds left in the game. It was his first goal of the season and his career.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, it became a trend over the season to allow teams to pull away in the second quarter. Down 2-1 after the first 15 minutes, the Rock finished the half up 8-4 on the home side.
An energetic third quarter along with tenacious defence and solid goaltending from Eric Penney gave fans hope that the Warriors might come back, but they were still down 10-7 after the third.
Due to a 5-0 Rock run to start the final frame, the game was out of reach for the home team, and they would ultimately lose by six goals. The loss was the 13th for the Warriors on the season, but with five wins, the team still increased their win total from 2018 by three games.
By the final buzzer, many fans remained in the stands to cheer their team on. It was electric inside Rogers Arena, and it didn’t go unnoticed by anyone on the floor or the bench. Gill was especially pleased with the respect the fans showed for the team’s effort this game and throughout the season.
“It was really loud,” said Gill. “It’s disappointing that we couldn’t win for them. They’ve supported us all year. We’ve got a good fan base, and when we get even more wins for them next year, I’m sure it will be even louder.”
Three more wins is a welcomed sight in Vancouver, but missing the playoffs and losing the way this team sometimes did this year is not. Gill knows his team has a lot to work on, and the sooner they get started on doing that, the better.
“Honestly, we need to start working ASAP,” said Gill. “We’ve got to find some more bodies. We don’t have a ton of draft picks, so work [on next season] starts right away.”
There are several areas in which work needs to be done, particularly finding a solution at the face-off dot. The Warriors finished the year with an NLL-low 34.5% face-off win rate including a 28.5% success rate on Friday night.
However, there were some bright spots on the night and throughout the season. Forward Keegan Bal finished the night with four goals on the evening to reach 32 goals for the year. By reaching that plateau, Bal, Mitch Jones and Jordan McBride all had 30+ goals for the season. The last time the Warriors had three players with 30+ goals was in 2017.
Jones was the teams best and most consistent player all season. He added five assists to his point total on Friday night to give him 83 points on the season. His last two assists pushed him past his previous career-high of 81 points set last season.
The Warriors would like to be in the NLL Playoffs but next season will come sooner than they except. There’s no doubt that when the 2020 NLL Season starts, the Warriors will be hungry to make an NLL Cup push.