Photo by Jeff Bell – Ultiphotos.com
This Saturday, for the first time since Week 4, the Vancouver Nighthawks (1-7) take on the Portland Stags (6-1).
Portland still holds a commanding lead over the Western Conference as the regular season begins to wind down sitting atop the standings at 6-1.
Vancouver, just 1-7 this season after undergoing a myriad of front office and roster changes in the offseason, still has an important role to play this season:
Entering the 2016 season, there’s no doubt that win a over Portland or the Seattle Rainmakers with the young roster that the rookie Head Coach Patrick Gatien and the Nighthawks had constructed would be deemed as an ultimate success. Vancouver has a chance to accomplish that and knock off one of the marquee teams in ultimate. But it won’t be easy.
The Nighthawks’ Physio Room Injury Report is long and daunting in Week 9. With key part of the offensive line missing like Erik Hunter and Sascha Lo, it’ll be interesting to see how Coach Gatien adjusts his lineup to accommodate for the absence of many of his players.
It’s an opportunity for many young players who haven’t played many points in 2016 to get a chance to play against some of the best players in the MLU. Players like Jordan Zhao and Ryley Breiddal, who have played a combined 23 points in 2016, could potentially see significant playing time for the first time depending on how Gatien and his staff choose to use their rotation against Portland.
Both Taylor Nadon and Graeme Barber will both be suited up for the Nighthawks in Week 9 and it’ll be worth keeping an eye on where Barber lines up. He’s shifted to primarily be a defensive handler over the last two weeks, but with the lengthy injury report he could see time on Gatien’s top O-Line.
The Stags still have plenty to play for with the streaking Rainmakers (5-2 and winners of five straight) just one game behind the Stags for first place in the West.
With Cody Bjorklund, Timmy Perston, and Raphy Hayes playing elite ultimate, Vancouver will only be able to hope to contain the trio and force the rest of the Stags to make plays to win. Limiting what Bjorklund and Perston do on offense is much easier said than done, but teams were able to take Perston out of the game early in the season. The Nighthawks should take a look at what Seattle and San Francisco Dogfish were doing on defense to stifle the explosive cutter.
Opening pull is set for 3:00PM PT at Milwaukie High School in Milwaukie, so get your tickets now. The game will be streamed on MLULive.com.