The Vancouver Warriors don’t control their own destiny for making the NLL playoffs. But that won’t mean that Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Wings won’t be a battle.
While the team aims to win its last three regular season contests, if they lose one more game or their West Division rivals, the Colorado Mammoth, win one more game, the Warriors are officially out of playoff contention.
Yet, with the pressure at their backs, the Warriors remain focused on winning Sunday’s contest and understand that whatever happens in Colorado on Friday night is out of their control.
“We’re coming into this game knowing it’s a must-win,” Warriors head coach Chris Gill said.
“We’re looking to finish this season strong. Even if Colorado wins on Friday night, this game is still a must-win for us.”
If it happens that the Mammoth win on Friday and the Warriors are eliminated from the playoffs before their game on Sunday, this team is still determined to prove that they’re a team to be reckoned with for the remainder of the season and in the years to come.
Just because the Warriors playoff chances may be finite, doesn’t mean their desire to win for themselves, their fans and their organization has to be. Each game going forward, regardless of what happens with the playoff race, still holds plenty of weight.
“Our next three games, starting with the one on Sunday, is going to tell us a lot about this group,” said Gill. “We’re still in the playoff fight right now, and it’s going to show us how much we want to be in it. Are we going to put a full 60 minutes in? Are we going to prove that we deserve to be in there? If it’s out of our hands and things go sideways, it’ll be even more of a test to see what this group’s character is. I’m confident in this group and I know they’re going to put the fight in.”
Much like the Warriors (4-11), the Wings are looking to close out their season on a high note. Due to their struggles to either start or close out games, the Wings record (3-12) isn’t indicative of the team’s overall fight to remain in contests.
However, their energy level might be a concern on Sunday considering they’re travelling from Philadelphia to first play the Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday night before heading to Vancouver to finish their back-to-back.
Nevertheless, they should likely have an advantage at the face-off dot with Trevor Baptiste holding down the fort. Baptiste has already set the record for most face-offs won in a rookie season, but with two games this weekend, he can inch closer to Jay Thorimbert’s NLL single-season record of 338 face-off wins. Baptiste currently has 286 face-off victories.
The Warriors are currently in last place in face-off percentage in the NLL (38.8%) while the Wings have the best percentage (65.8%). Coach Gill recognizes this could be one of the biggest challenges for his team this weekend and they are planning accordingly.
“We’ve got a game plan in place,” said Gill. “We know [Baptiste] is really good. He’s breaking records and is probably going to break more records. We know how great he’s going to be. But we have something in mind, we just have to execute it.”
Execution, focus and determination will be key for the Warriors the rest of the season no matter what happens in the playoff race. The team will continue to fight until the final whistle of the season.
If there are no playoff implications on the line come Sunday afternoon, pride surely will be, and both teams should be hungry to show how much of it they have for their respective clubs. To see how much the Warriors and Wings leave on the floor, catch the game on B/R Live at 6:00 pm EST on April 14th.