The Vancouver Warriors are hoping to make a better impression on their home fans this weekend after their dismal 12-7 Week 1 home-opening loss to the Calgary Roughnecks.
While the Warriors showed their never-quit attitude in the second half of their game behind the steady, scrappy, no-nonsense defense, head coach Chris Gill said that no one came out of the loss thinking that the team’s offence matched their defensive effort.
“There isn’t one guy on that offensive end that I’ve talked to, that the other coaches have talked to that thinks they had a good game,” Gill said.
Following a bye week in Week 2, the Warriors have had time to refocus after their season-opening loss. The team has been focusing on fixing the mental lapses that happened in transition against the Roughnecks and have been stressing the principle of not taking a shift off, playing a full 60-minutes.
This weekend, the regrouped Warriors will take on one of the league’s two expansion teams, the New York Riptide, who also underwhelmed in their first game in Week 2 when they were throttled by the Halifax Thunderbirds 12-4.
Coach Gill believes that Riptide have likely been approaching this clash just like his team: in search of redemption. He understands that being an expansion team comes along with baggage, but now that the Riptide have had an opportunity to shake off their preseason jitters, they’ll have an improved outing versus the Warriors.
“I think they’re going to be better than they were last week,” Gill said. It was their first game, [they’re] a new franchise, a lot of things come along with that. They’re a group that hadn’t played together outside of training camp. Now they’ve got the kinks out, and they’ll probably be better than last week, and they’re probably thinking the same about us.”
The Warriors back-end will look to continue from their strong second-half against the Roughnecks, but they’ll need to do so without a core staple of their unit, Nik Bilic, who will be out for an extended period of this season at the least due to a lower-body injury he suffered in Week 1.
Allowing 12 goals in the home-opener is not too problematic. But, without Bilic, Gill made it clear that the defense doesn’t solely rely on one man. To win games you need a complete team effort, even when fluke incidents happen, like an injury to a key player.
“This league is never easy,” Gill said. “There’s going to be injuries, there’s going to be suspensions, there’s going to be things that get in the way. We got our guys into the mindset where, if something like what happened to Bilic, happened to our team, it’s the next man up to do the job.”
The Warriors are hungry to collect their first win of the season and want their physicality and effort on the floor to show that from start to finish, says Gill.
“We want to be a grind it out type of team that’s going to be a tough opponent,” Gill said. “We want other teams to be like, ‘we’ve got to play them; we know we’re going to soar.'”
“We want to be a team that no one wants to play against.”
In order to play the role of a team that no one wants to play against, the Warriors will need players like Keegan Bal and Jordan McBride to score at the rate they did last season. In 2019, the pair combined for 63 goals – in their first game of 2020 campaign they notched two goals.
Other potential offensive weapons, such as Mike Mallory, will also be looking for a breakout performance. Mallory earned his spot by having a productive summer in the Western Lacrosse Association; now he’ll be looking to prove he can be equally productive in the NLL. Riley Loewen, another new player that failed to hit the back of the net in Week 1.
If the Warriors want to win, they’ll need goals from their newer pieces. The same can be said for the Riptide’s rookies such as Gale Thorpe and Travis Longboat who went goal-less in their first game as well as veterans Kieran McArdle and Tyler Digby who all put up goose eggs despite the four of them taking a combined 21 shots.
The Riptide are not a team that should be taken lightly, and the Warriors know that. They are a team looking to prove that, just because they are a young expansion team, it doesn’t mean they can’t hold their own with the rest of the league.
With two teams looking to prove that they’re better than what they’ve previously put on display, both sides will likely come out fighting. They know that starting their seasons off 0-2 would put each of them in an unpleasant hole in their respective divisions to start the year.