NLL: Warriors fall to defending champs in first contest

Tyler Pace looks for a shot while Curtis Dickson sets a pick against Ian Hawksbee. Calgary Roughnecks at Vancouver Warriors 11.29.19 (Photo credit: Devin Manky/National Lacrosse League)

The 2019-2020 National Lacrosse League home opener for Vancouver saw the hometown Warriors take on the defending champion Calgary Roughnecks. Calgary featured a roster centered on the idea that consistency leads to excellence, with 18 of their 21 roster players returning after having been crowned champions last spring. Vancouver’s roster, however, featured just nine returning players, a complete retool from an awful 2-16 season last year.

The crowd of 7456 fans was rowdy, ferociously cheering for their team throughout the evening although they went home disappointed after a 12-7 loss.

Roughnecks’ captain Dane Dobbie opened the scoring with 9:12 to go in the first after the Warriors failed to score on the man advantage. Jesse King made it 2-0 for the visitors a just over a minute later and Ryan Martel scored off the ensuing faceoff, the third goal for the visitors in a minute and a half stretch, to make it 3-0 barely four minutes into the game.

A video review of a Tyler Pace goal put Calgary up 4-0. Vancouver finally responded with a beautiful behind the back goal from Keegan Bal. The Warriors were able to come within two goals after a shot from Logan Schuss beat Roughnecks’ goalie Christian Del Bianco on the man advantage. The first quarter ended 5-2, with Dobbie scoring his second goal of the night near the end of the frame. Despite trailing by three goals, the game had been tight through the opening frame as Vancouver hit four posts in the opening quarter.

The second quarter only saw three goals but saw Calgary build on their lead. Goals came from Dobbie, who completed his hat trick, and Zach Currier for Calgary, while Schuss scored his second of the night for Vancouver. At halftime, Calgary was up 7-3.

Calgary started off the third by scoring three straight goals in the first six minutes, contributions coming in the form of Curtis Dickson’s first goal of the season, while King and Pace both scored their second goal of the night. Pace’s is already in contention for goal of the year, a nifty wraparound dunk into the top left corner. Mitch Jones scored his first goal of the season for Vancouver at the 12:50 mark of the third. The Roughnecks led 10-4 with one quarter left to play.

Zach Currier vs Logan Schuss. Calgary Roughnecks at Vancouver Warriors 11.29.19 (Photo credit: Devin Manky/National Lacrosse League)

Pace scored to complete his hat trick for Calgary, putting the Roughnecks up 11-4 early in the fourth quarter. Jones responded, showing that although the Warriors were down by six goals there was still some fight left in them. After a brutal collision between Nik Bilic and Tyler Burton, James Rahe scored for Vancouver on a breakout pass from goalie Eric Penney. Jordan McBride then found the back of the net for the Warriors with just under six minutes left to go in the game.

Just seconds after McBride’s goal, chaos ensued. Matt Beers was called for an illegal check and a scuffle broke out. This altercation was nothing compared to the melee that took place with just under a minute and a half to play in the game. Chris O’Dougherty laid out a ruthless illegal hit, causing an all-out fracas which featured Schuss and Currier engaged in barehanded fisticuffs. Dickson scored the empty netter with 21 seconds left.

The first star of the game went to the thoroughly impressive and deserving Christian Del Bianco who stopped 63 of 70 shots faced. Dobbie secured the second star with four points in a hat trick performance while Jones picked up the third star for the Warriors in a five-point losing effort.

After the game Warriors’ coach Chris Gill spoke about his team needing to do a better job on the front end in order to create opportunities inside, praised goalie Eric Penney for his key saves on breakaway opportunities, and credited the defensive core for how they shut down Calgary in the fourth quarter. He also addressed the skirmish that occurred near the end of regulation.

“Divisional games are always big, but [with] Calgary they are usually nasty games. I’m not surprised it got heated. We felt that one of their guys ducked down on one of our players and we might have lost a guy for [the] year.”

Next up, Vancouver play at home against the New York Riptide on December 14, while Calgary hosts the Colorado Mammoth on December 21.