The Vancouver Warriors have made a commitment to each other and themselves to work harder on and off the floor while trusting the process.
They’ve been putting in extra time in the gym on conditioning and spending more time getting to know each other off the floor, which are both key pieces to Warriors’ Head Coach and General Manager, Curt Malawsky’s philosophy for successful teams.
“I think the big thing that us coaches talked about is that we can really see how bad they want to be successful and how bad that they want it. They’ve sacrificed more this week and the last couple of weeks, and they’ve got rewarded for it,” Malawsky said of his team.
“Once you do something right and you get the result that you want, that’s proven, that adds to the buy-in and that adds the belief. Doing the right things all the time and not getting results is tough. So doing the right things and getting the results just helps foster those beliefs and relationships that we have with the guys.”
Forward Keegan Bal, who had a five-point night against Saskatchewan (3-2-5), said the margin for error in tight games is slim and they put a tidy final quarter together last weekend. Vancouver’s come-from-behind performance, down 9-5 going into the fourth quarter, was punctuated by six unanswered goals in the final frame and held the Rush scoreless to take the game 11-9.
“I felt that we were very dialed in mentally, especially going into that fourth, and then during the fourth quarter we didn’t really lose assignments,” Bal said. “Guys were really sticking to the game plan and, and just believing in the guy next to them that we would find a way to get it done.”
The Warriors’ dedication to training and holding each other accountable culminates in confidence on the floor in every aspect. Working on getting more shots on net has helped Vancouver improve on the power play. Against the Rush they were 3-for-5 on the man advantage, better than their season average of 38%.
“I think we’re moving the ball a little bit quicker. We’re not shooting off the carry, we’re shooting off the catch a little bit, and are a little bit more deceptive with our shots,” Malawsky said. “Guys maybe took a little bit off their shots and have a little bit more accuracy.”
The group puts an emphasis on conditioning, and Bal mentioned he’s changed his approach slightly, including a heavier focus on cardio this year than in preceding seasons. Leading up to game day, Bal goes hard with morning and evening workouts early in the week alternating strength sessions with cardio and shooting work and tapers off before gameday.
“I think that we were really confident was that our conditioning was good, and we knew we were starting to wear them down, you can kind of feel that,” noted Bal of their most recent game. “The thing I think I’m happiest about is that everyone stuck to our game plan, and we believed that we were going to get it done.”
Malawsky and his team had conversations about buy-in and believing in themselves and each other and creating meaningful bonds teammates off the floor plays into that too. Roughly seventy percent of the Warriors roster lives in Vancouver while the rest live in other cities across Canada and the U.S. so getting together throughout week isn’t a possibility. Malawsky leans on the leadership group, including Bal, to touch base with each other throughout the week, continuing to build on their relationships which of course includes a group chat.
They try to make the most of game weekends as they’re all together in the same city and when they’re in Vancouver, doing things together as a team after games is important for building team cohesion.
“Guys have to sacrifice more time to try to be together and then commit to each other. They have to make time to be together and make time to getting to know each other’s wives and girlfriends and kids. It’s all part of it,” Malawsky shared.
The Warriors are sticking with their practice and game plans and trusting the process. Knowing they can grind out a win is important for the team throughout the rest of the season.
“It’s always good to get a win when you come from behind. I think that just builds a lot of belief and trust in the guys next to you and, and your coaching staff and everything,” Bal said. “So that was that was good for us, but it’s time for us to build and string some wins together, string some good quarters, halves, games all together and take steps forward.”