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Battle-Tested Warriors Take Valuable Experience into Next Season

The Vancouver Warriors had a milestone season, setting a franchise best five-game winning streak with many players reaching career highs. 

They made progress, but the group is not satisfied.

The team never backed down and fought back from a 2-8 start, barreling through the second half of the season, winning six of their last eight games. With each win, the next game became that much more meaningful, putting themselves in the conversation for playoffs, but they lost tiebreakers in a five-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot. 

Head Coach and General Manager Curt Malawsky said his team showed passion, effort, and dedication and took pride in the crest on their jersey all season. 

“It’s what they did in that room that turned the season around and being a part of a group of young men that really care about something, care about each other, and really cared about the front of the shirt [was special]…I’m really proud of those guys in the room,” Malawsky said. 

The first-year Warriors bench boss’ mantra ‘Stay in the Fight’ was something he continued to impress upon his team whether they were down five goals or up five goals. 

Warriors’ defenceman and team captain Brett Mydske said he’s happy with the strides the team made, but they’re not content, they want to compete for a championship. 

“As a competitor, it’s not the way we wanted the season to end and everyone wants the opportunity to get to the playoffs, but as someone who’s invested in the future and winning a championship with this team, the future’s bright,” Mydske said. 

There was always a belief amongst the team that they could win and Mydske said they wouldn’t have been able to rattle off all those wins if they didn’t have the confidence to battle with the best. 

“I think that the most important part of a winning team and winning culture is belief,” he said. 

In a season with just 18 games, every game matters that much more, and with 13 new players on the roster it took some time to develop chemistry on the floor. 

Looking at those first 10 games, the Warriors lost three of them by one or two goals, and some of the four-goal losses were empty net goals at the end of the game. Mydske felt there were only two games through that 10-game stretch (against Colorado and Calgary) where they were outplayed. 

“The first half of the season, we were learning how to win games and realizing that little mistakes add up throughout the whole game. I think we cleaned it up and were able to put together strong 60-minute games. When our backs are against the wall, we’re a really good team, we just need to have that mentality all the time,” Mydske said. 

He said their ability to claw their way back from a 7-2 deficit against the Las Vegas Desert Dogs to win the game 13-12 was a pivotal moment for their group because they realized they didn’t need to chase the game, they just needed stick to their process and chip away one shift at a time. 

“Curt always preaches five minutes at a time, and you don’t scoreboard watch, you just chip away. I think guys understood that message after that game and it helped out a lot,” he said. 

The team had big expectations before the season and Mydske said no one expected a 2-8 to start the season, but the 13-year veteran said that true colours are shown in the toughest times. 

“There was no finger-pointing whatsoever. Everybody took responsibility, everybody was positive, and we knew that we were just one or two goals away from winning a bunch of games. That was kind of the beauty of being down there, nobody turned on each other. Ultimately, we grew stronger, and we went on a good run the second half of the season. As somebody that’s invested in this team and winning a championship, being 2-8 made this team stronger for years to come,” he shared. 

Mydske knows that winning is a process and he had been through something similar in 2012 with the Edmonton Rush. Defenceman Ryan Dilks and goaltender Aaron Bold were on the Rush team with Mydske when the Rush found themselves in a 2-7 hole to start the season, but they believed in each other and rallied to put a strong second-half together, making it all the way to the NLL Cup Finals.  

Although they lost to Rochester in the Cup Finals, that team ended up being the start of a Rush dynasty’s three championships. 

“When we were 2-7 this season, I remember talking to Dilksy and saying ‘Remember 2-7, all we have to do is run the table,’” Mydske said. 

Once the Warriors hit their stride this season meeting their potential, Mydske said it was motivating game-by-game but also looking at the long-term future of the team. 

“I think we’ve got a good core group that’s going to stay together, and it helps when you’re not revamping the team every year. They’ve got all that experience now, we had a lot of younger guys and the game against San Diego felt like a playoff game, I think everybody kind of felt the pressure which is good,” said Mydske.  

“It’s hard if you haven’t been in playoffs or played in big games like that in the NLL to not let the emotions get to you. So anytime you’re playing meaningful games at the end of the year definitely helps the confidence and helps build experience.” 

Malawsky gave credit to San Diego as an upper echelon team and agreed playing a must-win game against the Seals was great experience for his group. 

“The next time we’re in a position where it’s a do or die game, it’s a different level. You always have to lose before you start to learn to win, and I think that’s an invaluable experience we got. I think that’s something the guys will take away from [the game] but I think they should be proud of the run we made,” Malawsky said. 

The Warriors aren’t satisfied, and they want to use the momentum they build through this season going into next season. They’ve got a strong defensive core with great young defencemen and depth. The offence is clicking, and they’ve got a young goaltender in Aden Walsh who stepped up midway through the season. 

A competitor to the core, Malawsky didn’t finish the season where he wanted to but he’s looking forward to building off this season. 

“Those last few games at home were great with all the fans that were there, and we’ve got some first-round picks in the bank coming and we’ve got another one this year,” Malawsky said. “We’ll continue to get better and try to put a good product on the floor for the province of British Columbia.” 


Vancouver Warriors