Your San Francisco Dogfish fly to Canada this week to play the Vancouver Nighthawks’ home opener, 7PM Saturday at UBC’s Thunderbird stadium. This game could play out any number of ways, and how you speculate depends on what you think of the teams’ varied performances last week.
The Nighthawks played the Seattle Rainmakers in Seattle last weekend and demonstrated they could be three different teams. The first version can go toe to toe for a half with arguably the best team in the MLU’s Western Conference. The second version can’t match Seattle when the Rainmakers step up the level of play, and can dig themselves a six-point hole in under a quarter. The last version of the team goes on furious six-point rallies where their defense dominates with focus and hustle.
The Dogfish played at home last week against the Portland Stags in what might be called tornado-like conditions. The game was dead-even for three quarters where the wind generated as many turnovers as the defensive play. In the fourth quarter, the Dogfish capitalized on Stag mistakes to get three breaks in a row and put the game away.
It’s hard to tell if the Dogfish and Stags are that evenly matched and only differentiated by the Dogfish’s discipline and experience, or if the wind really concealed what should have been a bigger win for the Dogfish. The San Francisco team has players that have been a consistent presence at World and National Club Ultimate Championships since 2010. The Stags may have shown that this group is on the downward side of its run. On the other hand they could have just missed a rare chance to steal a game from what should be a really strong Dogfish team.
The reality is there is probably a grain of truth in each assessment. The Nighthawks are a fiery, emotional group that can alternatively lose focus against pressure and then overwhelm athletically if an opponent lets up. The Dogfish might just be a little worn out after a few seasons of championship runs, but they also have a deep understanding that winning in Ultimate means playing all four quarters.
This should be an excellent game on Saturday. Both teams learned a lot from their games last week, and the audience should see a step up in the level of play. The Nighthawks have the upper hand playing at Thunderbird, and the energy from the home fans will fuel a couple of Vancouver runs. The Dogfish know what they’re in for, and their steady play will make this game close in the fourth quarter regardless of what happens early. The Vancouver crowd is in for a treat.