The first thing that stood out after the first weekend of Warriors training camp was size.
Sunday’s scrimmage between Team White and Team Black at the Langley Events Centre Fieldhouse featured a Team Black defensive shift with Tyson Roe (6’10”), Patrick O’Meara (6’5”), James Rahe (6’4”), and little guys Justin Salt (6’2”) and Mike Minichiello (6’2”).
The second was the intensity.
Nik Bilic was trouncing guys like he was still playing for the Rush, Captain Matt Beers was embodying his captaincy on every loose ball and Roe was cross checking and getting on hands like he’s found the nasty edge that may finally make him a fulltime pro.
“It was a good tough camp,” said Rahe. “Everyone is putting everything into it and with the higher numbers you really have to because there are a lot of guys competing. It really raised the intensity and it was a good first week.”
Rahe scooped a career high 78 loose balls last season, while causing 7 turnovers and scoring 7 goals after moving to a fulltime defensive role in his 3rd NLL season. This year’s training camp is his first coming solely out of the back gate.
“I didn’t really make a wink at offence this year, unless they say otherwise. I enjoy playing out of the back gate, we’ve got a good solid core of guys back there, good team mentality and it’s nice to know where I stand and where I’m going to be going.”
It wasn’t just size and intensity that jumped out of the back gate; it was athleticism and tempo with O’Meara, Salt, Bilic, Minichiello and Sam Clare pushing the ball up the floor in transition.
“Coaches talk about depth and that’s something we have to address,” said Rahe. “We have the right guys here to do that. On top of athleticism we’ve got a lot of guys who are smart with the ball which is going to make a huge difference. We ran a lot last year but we also turned the ball over a decent amount in transition so good decisions and good sticks should make a difference for us.”
Management seemed super pleased with free agent Bob Snider who put on a clinic in the faceoff dot, going 39-9 over Saturday and Sunday’s scrimmages against Gord Phillips, Owen Barker and Sam Clare.
“I think the intensity was great out there this weekend,” said Snider. “Great dressing room, the guys have been awesome, competitive up and down, there are a lot of great players out here, and it’s great to be here.”
34 year old Snider is top ten all time in the NLL in career (1493) and playoff (96) faceoff wins. He once set the single season faceoff record with 319 in 2012. He spent Calgary’s championship season last year on the practice roster and is hungry to compete for a full time roll again.
“The last couple years have been pretty tough just with injuries or being on the practice roster,” said Snider. “Nothing against Calgary, the opportunity there was great, it’s tough getting into the line-up when the team is winning and succeeding. Not playing last year was a bit of an eye opener, having the time to prepare and get back, I felt great this weekend, I’m looking forward to providing a role again and my team ball possession and doing my job.”
Both weekend scrimmages saw Logan Schuss, Mitch Jones and Riley Loewen playing together on Team Black. Loewen proved to be a seamless addition so far, while White’s lefties were Lyndon Bunio, Jon Phillips and Brody Eastwood. Eastwood, the incumbent of the trio, scored 4 goals on Sunday and looked like he was moving more swiftly than a year ago. Finish and hustle is what you want from a depth forward, and he definitely had both.
The righties stuck together all weekend as well. Newbies Keegan Bell, Chase McIntyre and Colton Clark on Black while Jordan McBride, Keegan Bal and Mike Mallory stuck together on White and made some magic happen.
“I think there’s good chemistry off the hop with the right side,” said McBride. “I’m excited for what’s to come, I think the ball is going to be banging this year. It’s been seamless. I think we’re just scratching the surface and it’s going to be exciting.”
McBride scored hatty’s in both scrimmages and looks like he’s still rolling after his 31 goals last season. He has the pure goal scorers ability to make that one extra move in tight to bury his chances – like diving airborne cross crease and finishing short side, or putting an impossible angle bounce shot five-hole a foot away from the crease. Though now a proven 31 goal guy, his mindset hasn’t changed from a year ago.
“Shift by shift, stay in great shape and keep on banging away,” is how he’s treating 2020. “Big thing is just winning a game, that’s what we’re here to do. Goals if they come they come. Our offence is so dynamic that I think everyone is going to do well if we play well,” said McBride.
Keegan Bal led all players with 14 points in the two scrimmages.
No cuts coming after weekend one. All players will reconvene at the LEC for weekend two.
Click here for upcoming training camp dates (open to the public).
The Warriors open their sophomore season at Rogers Arena against the defending champion Calgary Roughnecks November 29th.