Di Miller, Lacrosse Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Di Miller
The first game in their new arena, Dickies Arena in Ft. Worth, TX for the newest franchise to the NLL, the Panther City Panthers (0-2) was not what they had hoped for. The 7,209 Panthers fans were looking forward to watching their first ever NLL franchise come out victorious but the Vancouver Warriors (2-0) were just too much for the new team to handle. The amount of talent on the Panthers is not in question but having only one regular season game under their belt heading into the contest showed that the new team hasn’t yet jelled. They were no match for the brick wall Alex Buque (55 SA; 8 GA; 47 Saves) in net for the Warriors or the stealthy offense and defense of their opponents. FINAL SCORE: Warriors 14—Panthers 8.
Vancouver got it started quickly in the contest off a skip pass from Logan Schuss (1g, 6a) to Jordan McBride (1g) only 33 seconds in to get them on the board 1-0. About five minutes ticked off the clock before we’d see another point go up and it would come from the home squad. Will Malcom (1g, 1a) with the skip pass on the backside to Phil Caputo (1g) would come across in front of the crease wide open on the back door to tie it up 1-1 scoring the first home goal for the Panthers at the 5:48 mark. Logan Schuss (1g, 6a) would notch the go ahead goal, his first of the year with 8:48 left in the quarter putting the Warriors back up 2-1. That would be it in the first as the net minders would stand on their heads for the rest of the frame. Shots in the first—Panthers 11 Warriors 7. Score at the end of one: Warriors 2—Panthers 1.
It was the Vancouver show in the second as the Warriors would score five straight including two man-up goals. Mitch Jones (2g, 4a) would fire one off just inside the restraining line with a nice step down shot top corner at 4:02. He’d score back-to-back on a power-play a little over two minutes later off a ricochet shot that trickled under the legs of Nick Damude (9g, 29 shots, 19 saves). The Warriors would notch another on the Panthers penalty less than 30 seconds letter when Jones set up Kyle Killen (2g) who would sneak one in for the inside finish and his first goal of the season putting them up 5-1. The Panthers could not stop the Warriors offense from scoring and Tyrell Hamer-Jackson (1g, 1a) on the fast break would look right and shoot left firing one over the top extending the lead 6-1 at 7:18. As he fired the shot, Chad Cummings of the Panthers knocked him into the goalie causing a pile up in the net, knocking it from its pegs and of course a fight ensued. The men in black and white broke it up with no penalties assessed. On the ensuing face-off, Hamer-Jackson got the break, headed down the floor, hit pipe and Reid Bowering (3g, 1a) would get the rebound and fire it in at 7:27 putting the Warriors up 7-1. At this point, it was all Vancouver with the Panthers not having scored since 1:19 in the first and the Warriors on a six-goal run. The ball would go up and down the field for over five and a half minutes until Malcolm on the fast break would fake right and left, jump up in front of the crease and dunk it in for the Panthers with 2:12 left in the half stopping the Vancouver run and putting a bit of a spark on the Panther City bench. That fire showed up again when Ryan Benesch (1g, 3a) would blast one straight up the middle glove side past Buque with 1:26 in the frame and the last goal in the half. Shots were in favor of Vancouver 14 with Panther City sitting at 10. Score at the end of two: Warriors 7—Panthers 3.
Looking at the stat sheet for the first half, we saw a total of 16 penalty minutes. There were six in first (four for Vancouver and two for Panther City) and 10 in the second quarter (six for Vancouver and four for Panther City). The only man-up goals scored happened in the second with Vancouver scoring two and Panther City scoring one.
Heading into the third quarter, Killen had scored at the 11:35 mark that Damude got a piece of. Immediately Panther City Bench Boss Tracey Kelusky threw the challenge flag. This would have put the Warriors up 8-3. After further review it was found that Killen’s toe had caught a piece of the crease prior to the ball breaking the plane of the goal, therefore “No Goal”. Unfortunately, the victory was short lived. At the 3:51 mark, Bowering would draw the two-on-one and with the pump fake froze the defense fired the shot making it 8-3 Vancouver. Less than a minute later Brandon Goodwin fired a shot past Damude at the 4:43 mark. Initially it was rules no goal. Immediately Vancouver Bench Boss Chris Gill tossed the challenge flag. It was obvious by looking at the replay that the ball was in the net as you could clearly see the net move behind Damude. The goal increased the score by six putting the Warriors up 9-3. It was also the nail in the coffin for Damude as he was pulled from the game and sent to the bench in favor of Kevin Orleman at the 9:16 mark. For a couple minutes it seemed to work, until Panther City got hit with yet another penalty and Vancouver would capitalize again. This time it would be Keegan Bal (3g, 3a) as he dropped his hands and hammered it home firing it over the top for a man-up goal at 8:57 making it 10-3. He’d score back-to-back about 90 seconds later off the right side skip pass from Schuss low on the outside with 4:22 left 11-3. The Panthers were having a problem both on offense and defense; they looked disorganized and weren’t setting up in transition. Vancouver was doing a much better job getting their sticks in the passing lane and it showed. The Panthers would finally get some momentum scoring the final two in the frame. Dawson Theede (2g) would notch his first NLL career goal off a backhand pass skipping it over the backside and dunking it on the doorstep with 3:18 left 11-4 still in favor of Vancouver. He’d score back-to-back off the Benesch feed to bury it home pulling it near side with 2:20 remaining and the last goal in the frame. Panther City would take over in shots 15 to 13 by Vancouver. Score at the end of three: Warriors 11—Panther City 5.
It was all or nothing for the Panthers with 15 left and six to tie. Mike Triolo used the pick to fool the defense and with the overhead hanger blew it past Buque 1:04 into the fourth 11-6. Once again, the excitement was halted with another from Killen halting the three-goal run on the break, he had the numbers and a simple cross field pass from Brett Mydske got the goal only 25 seconds later increasing the gap back to six 12-6. Bal would notch his hat-trick on the screen and double pick at 4:39 and a seven goal lead 13-6. The Warriors had done a great job spreading the ball around up to this point; the shots were basically equal; but Vancouver had a higher shot percentage which has been the difference in the game. Less than a minute later Patrick Dodds (1g) hesitated, pump faked fooling the defender and Buque, got them to pause then fired stick side at 5:37 closing the gap back to six 13-7. Vancouver would go two men down and on the three-on-five Panther City would take advantage with Triolo scoring on an overhand laser at 6:56 closing the gap to five 13-8. They would not score again on the two man advantage which could have turned the game around. They would try two separate attempts pulling Orleman in favor of the extra attacker and the last attempt failed with Bowering scoring on the empty net with 27 seconds left. Panther City had outshot Vancouver 19-8 in the fourth but they weren’t quality shots. Final Score: Warriors 14—Panther City 8.
STARS OF THE GAME:
Vancouver Warriors—Alex Buque (55 SOG; 47 Saves; 8 Goals)
Vancouver Warriors—Reid Bowering (3G; 1A; 15LB)
Panther City Panthers—Mike Triolo (2G, 3A; 8LB)
Vancouver Warriors—SOG 42; Saves 47; FO 14-27; PP 3-7
Panther City Panthers—SOG 55; Saves 28: FO 13-27; PP 3-8
The Panther City Panthers (0-2) will host the Colorado Mammoth (1-0) at Dickie’s Arena in Ft. Worth, TX on Friday December 17, 2021. Game time 8:30 p.m. EST. The game can be seen on ESPN+ in the USA and on TSN.ca and the TSN app in Canada.
The Vancouver Warriors (2-0) will play their first home game and will host the Saskatchewan Rush at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC on Friday December 17, 2021. Game time 10:30 p.m. EST. This is also an Alterna Cup game. The game can be seen on ESPN+ in the USA. This is the Game of the Week on TSN.ca and the TSN app in Canada.
Di Miller, Lacrosse Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©