This afternoon, the San Francisco Dogfish meet the Vancouver Nighthawks for the first time this season. The Dogfish went 3-0 against the Nighthawks in close matches in 2013, but the Nighthawks had been favored to take the Western Conference title this year.
The Dogfish started their season with a close win over the Seattle Rainmakers last weekend and a one-point loss to them last night in overtime. The Nighthawks suffered a close but surprising loss to the Portland Stags last weekend.
“I had expected the Nighthawks to be our strongest competition this year, so their loss to the Stags was a surprise,” said Dogfish Head Coach Justin Safdie. “I think there will be a lot of parity in the west this season.”
The Nighthawks retained two of their three top scorers, throwers and their top defender. Overall, 15 players from 2013 returned to Vancouver’s roster, while the Dogfish squad is mostly composed of new faces. In addition, four Dogfish veterans and four first-year players are out this week, which meant lots of playing time in last night’s game, especially for team captain Evan Boucher, who stayed on the field to lead the team’s comeback and force the game into overtime.
Last week may have been an extended case of the “unluckies” for the Nighthawks. Their bus was late, so they had minimal time to warm up before the game. They also had a lot of drops, which may have been lack of readiness or nerves, but is unlikely to strike two weeks in a row in San Francisco’s favor. This week they have two inactive players and Andre Gailits is still out with a leg injury. But Morgan Hibbert will be playing, and he was the defensive thorn in the Stags’ side last weekend.
Both teams use the double-team defense to great advantage, but efficiency will be one of the keys to winning this game. The Dogfish have been lacking in consistent disc possession, while the Nighthawks were much better at converting on turnovers against the Stags. In addition to missing players, the Dogfish face the Nighthawks after their tough battle yesterday in Seattle.
Still, in the wild, wild Western Conference the saying about “any given Sunday” is certainly true. The Nighthawks will have to shake off their loss from last weekend and the Dogfish will have to draw on their reserves and shake off their loss from last night. This game may be a battle of wills more than anything else.