The first time the Vancouver Nighthawks and San Francisco Dogfish met at the Nighthawks’ home opener at Thunderbird Stadium, it was a thriller, with the Dogfish scoring the winning goal in the last few seconds.

When they met again last month in San Francisco, the Dogfish went on a rampage in the 3rd quarter and turned a close game into a rout. I am betting that tomorrow night’s rematch at Thunderbird stadium will be a lot more like the first meeting than the second one.

First off, the Nighthawks are back at home in front of their raucous fans, boosted this weekend by the addition of many participants in the Flower Bowl tournament being held on the UBC campus near the stadium. As the Flower Bowl participants are all from BC or the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver is the underdog, here’s hoping they get behind the home team en masse.

Second, the weather will be beautiful and conditions should be perfect. Last month at San Francisco, the winds were strong, variable, and swirly, pretty well shutting down Vancouver’s usual huck game.

Thirdly, the playoff participants for the Western Conference have been decided, with San Francisco and Seattle in and Vancouver and Portland out. This means San Francisco has literally nothing on the line, so if Vancouver can get the jump on them they might be able to carry the day.

Head Coach Andrew Lugsdin isn’t worried about getting the Nighthawks motivated.

“There should be no problem getting guys to play hard. They’re competitors and being on the field should be enough for them. We’re tying to get better as a team and improve each week, so I would expect our guys to be focused on that. We also want to make our fans proud and to do that, we need to play well and win some games.”

Assistant Coach Greg Shiring agrees.

“I expect the guys to continue to get better and better every week. In a way the pressure will be off due to missing the playoffs, but they’ll be fired up to make a statement against one of the top teams in the league. It’s been quite an intense journey over the last 8 weeks and with the players having nothing to lose but a lot to prove to themselves, I look for the rest of the season to produce the best Nighthawks ultimate to date.”

It was hoped that defensive anchor Morgan Hibbert would be back from his thumb injury this week to match up against Dogfish stars like Beau Kittredge and Mac Taylor, but alas, he is not quite ready. The Nighthawks will also be missing veteran O line handler Mauro Ortiz, but are glad to welcome back Nick Menzies to help out on D. Menzies may also get some time on O.

I asked Lugsdin whether he planned any major changes in his line-up or strategy other than what he needs to do to deal with injuries.

“We have no new wrinkles planned. Some guys are playing themselves into more PT [playing time] and some guys are playing themselves into less, but our philosophy will be basically the same; play the guys who give us the best chance to win.”

It should be a great match-up in a beautiful setting with lots of energized fans in the stands. Get your tickets here.

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