The Vancouver Warriors are hosting Country Night Friday at Rogers Arena, suggesting fans go full-western-wear for their game against the San Diego Seals, and then offering up an Aaron Pritchett concert for spectators afterwards.
The Warriors’ playoff hopes happen to feel right now like they’re riding a mechanical bull, getting bounced around this-way-and-that. A triumph for Vancouver against San Diego would certainly calm things down for the squad.
Vancouver (5-7) has lost four games in a row and the Panther City Lacrosse Club (5-8) — the NNL expansion team from Fort Worth, Tex. — are suddenly hot on their feels for the third and final automatic playoff spot out of the Western Conference. The Calgary Roughnecks (4-7) and the Saskatchewan Rush (4-9) are starting to clog-up Vancouver’s rear-view mirror as well.
Fourth place from the six-team West gets the eighth and final post-season spot overall if it has a better record than fifth spot from the eight-team East.
San Diego Seals vs. Vancouver Warriors
The Warriors have made the playoffs just eleven in the past seven seasons. The same goes for winning six or more games in a year over that span. Vancouver has six games left on their schedule to try to hit both marks, and that all starts with the game against the Seals (9-2). They’re the front-runners in the West, just in front of the Colorado Mammoth (7-5).
“We could have made moves at the trade deadline,” Warriors general manager Dan Richardson said, pointing to the March 15 deadline, “and we didn’t. We didn’t because we believe in this group.
“We have confidence that we’re going to work our way out of this. We haven’t suddenly become a terrible team. We have the offense and the defense and the goaltending and the special teams that if we play a full 60 minutes we can compete with anybody.
“You need everybody going for the full 60 minutes. That’s the problem. We’ve been getting 38 minutes or 42 minutes or whatever of late.”
Vancouver was up 14-7 late in the third quarter last week against the Mammoth, got outscored 7-2 in the fourth, and wound up losing 17-16 in overtime in Denver.
The week before that, they got run over 14-5 by the Toronto Rock in front of an announced crowd of 8,283 at Rogers Arena. The week before that, they gave up a 10-7 halftime lead and fell 14-12 to the Halifax Thunderbirds and goaltender Aaron Bolda former Warrior who was making his first start with Halifax.
And this all began by Vancouver coming out on the wrong end of Panther City’s first-ever home win in an 11-10 result.
“We need to play a full 60 minutes,” said Warriors forward Riley Loewen. “Right now we’re playing three-quarters of a game and we’re having confidence issues in the fourth quarter. There will be a mental lapse and then mistakes compound and the other team is suddenly going on a four- or a five-goal run.”
Forward Keegan Bal added: “I think we’ve had spurts where we’ve been very good and spurts where we’ve been pretty pathetic to be honest, doing things we shouldn’t be doing. We need to stay locked in for a full 60 minutes. We need to stay focused. If we can do that, we can beat any team in the league.”
The Warriors are missing forward Mitch Jones (foot surgery), who’s their best player. It was a freak injury, with Jones getting hurt getting ready to practice in Denver before Vancouver’s Jan. 29 game there. The Warriors, to their credit, have n’t used his absence from him as an excuse for their struggles of late.
“It’s a team sport,” Bal said. “We’ve liked our depth coming into this year and that’s why you have depth. This is giving guys a chance to move up and take on larger roles.”
The Warriors had initially hoped that Jones would be back in eight weeks, but Richardson admits that there’s been “a couple of setbacks,” and the goal with Jones now is to have him back for the playoffs.
“We obviously want him back as soon as possible, but he’s not coming back until we’re sure that he’s ready to be back,” Richardson said.
It’s interesting to see the Warriors tie Jones’s return to the playoffs, considering their lack of post-season history. It offers up an idea of the club’s mindset.
“It would be big. It would be massive,” coach Chris Gill said when asked about what getting into the playoffs would mean to the Warriors. “And we think we’re close. We’ve shown that we can compete against the best teams when we play for a full 60 minutes.
“We’ve seen in this league that if you get in and you get hot at the right time, you can do things in this league.”