Photo by Michael Bury – Ultiphotos.com
The Nighthawks (1-6) look to make it two wins in a row as the host the Rainmakers (4-2) tomorrow at Thunderbird Stadium.
Seattle enters the contest as winners of four straight, and look like a team that is ready to cement themselves as the second playoff team in the Western Conference behind the Portland Stags who have already clinched a playoff spot.
While the Nighthawks will find themselves on the outside of the 2016 playoff picture looking in, this team still has a lot to play for down the stretch. After players like Erik Hunter and Taylor Nadon emerged early in the season as leaders and stepped up in key offensive situations, younger Nighthawks players have been making an impact in recent weeks.
Jasper Lu made his name known in Week 7 as he was all over the field in the win over the Dogfish. Besides catching the game winning point in sudden death, double overtime by finding a pocket of space in the back left corner of the end zone, Lu scored three goals and had a pair of blocks in the Nighthawks win.
At just 18 years old, Lu played like a veteran against San Francisco and he could develop into an integral part of this Vancouver team down the stretch and well into the future.
After not playing in Week 6, Graeme Barber returned to the lineup in Week 7 to the tune of five assists and a block while assuming the role of the Nighthawks main defensive line handler. After struggling to convert on breaks this season, Vancouver may have found a solution to that with Barber playing heavy defensive points.
Look for Sascha Lo to hold down the top offensive line as the main handler going forward with Barber commanding the offense after the Nighthawks force turnovers on defense.
Once again, the Rainmakers will be without the services of Khalif El-Salaam due to the college season which does change a lot in terms of how the Nighthawks will prepare for the streaking Rainmakers. El-Salaam is a truly unique and dynamic player that is near impossible to defend at times and without needing to focus a significant amount of attention there is a break for Vancouver.
However, Seattle still has plenty of firepower to account for. Todd Sliva’s return in Week 7 gave Seattle another dimension to their game with his size and skillset. Players like Cam Bailey and Evan Klein an cause fits on defense and become dangerous offensive players if you turn the disc over.
Henry Phan has really come on after a bit of a slow start for the Rainmakers and his crafty throws have to be accounted for at all times.
Opening pull is set for 6PM PT at Thunderbird Stadium. Tickets for the game can be purchased here and the game will be available to stream live on MLULive.com.