Photos by Scobel Wiggins and John King – UltiPhotos.com
When the Vancouver Nighthawks lost to the high-flying Portland Stags at Thunderbird Stadium two weeks ago, the final margin was four goals but it never felt like a close game.
Vancouver lost to the Stags again yesterday down in Portland, but even though the final margin in this contest was almost as large, three goals, this time it did feel like a close game.
The Stags sent out this tweet after the end of the third quarter:
Stags could be in trouble, Nighthawks have tied it back up at 15’s.
But alas for Nighthawks fans, it was not to be. The Stags, particularly Topher Davis, stepped up the defensive pressure and outscored them 4-1 in the 4th quarter to take the game 19-16.
It’s been a while since the Nighthawks have been held to a single goal in a quarter. What happened?
“We got a bit ‘tight’ in the fourth quarter,” said Kirk Savage. “I made some poor choices which contributed to our lack of scoring.”
“I felt like we were in the game, as it was close until the end, but we just were not making the easy plays. It is a credit to the Stags for continuing to make and create big play opportunities down the stretch.”
Perhaps fatigue due to a bus ride that started at 5 a.m. was a factor; not so, according to Coach Andrew Lugsdin.
“You have to give credit to the Portland D for stepping up in crunch time, but at the same time, I had hoped that we would play better offensively. We struggled with making big plays throughout the game, weren’t able to get open consistently enough, and forced a few throws as things got tighter.”
This was disappointing for Lugsdin, who had targeted offensive consistency in the practises during the bye week between the two games, but there were aspects of this contest that the team can use to build on. After The Nighthawks got out to an early lead – the first time the Stags had trailed in a game all season – and then fell behind, the O-line really picked it up to get Vancouver back in the game
“Our O-line starting playing better part way into the second quarter and early in the third quarter,” said Lugsdin. “When we weren’t giving them breaks, we were able to close the gap on them thanks to our D-line, which played pretty well throughout the game and got a few back for us.”
And speaking of the D-line, both Savage and Lugsdin were once again impressed by Nathan Lam.
“Nathan played great on Cody Bjorklund,” said Savage. “It was inspiring to see him matchup so well on their big gun and limit his impact.”
“Nate played a great game against one of their best players,” added Lugsdin. “We continue to give him tougher matchups defensively and he continues to exceed expectations.”
On offense, Lugsdin singled out another of the young rookies, Sam Creed, who tied with veteran Jon Hayduk for most passes attempted with 17 and completed 16 of them.
“I thought Sam played a good game. He got open well and moved the disc really well.”
With Bjorklund limited to one goal and three assists, the Stags’ scoring burden fell to the usual suspect, Timmy Perston. He went into the game as the leading goal scorer in MLU, and added to his tally with four more goals plus two assists. Peter Woodside continued his outstanding play on the Portland D-line with four goals, while Riley Meinershagen had three important blocks.
In spite of his continuing struggles with a sore ankle, Brendan Wong led the Nighthawks with four goals and two assists, with Hayduk, Savage and Morgan Hibbert each adding two goals plus an assist. As usual, Hibbert, with 24, played the most points for Vancouver.
As is his wont, Savage found some positives to take to the next game.
“We are disappointed with our record so far, but we believe that we will make some adjustments and improve for next week so that we get back in the win column.”
And speaking of next week, the Nighthawks’ next game is against the Seattle Rainmakers on Saturday, May 23 at 6:00 p.m. at Thunderbird Stadium.
You can buy tickets here.