Photo by Michael Bury – Ultiphotos.com
After beating the Nighthawks in two home games, the Rainmakers are trying for a trifecta this weekend. The Nighthawks are a young team with no wins under their belt so far this season, but they are steadily improving.
Last week against the Rainmakers they scored 18 points and registered seven blocks, more than in any other game so far this season on both accounts. After losing their first two games against the undefeated Portland Stags the Seattle Rainmakers are gelling and looking more like the team that took the Western Conference Championship from the Stags last season. In the last game, Seattle scored more than 20 goals for the second time this season, and had 20 blocks as well. They had 16 breaks, coming close to the single game record of 18. Standout players from last game include Evan Klein, who scored four goals, threw two assists, and got two blocks, and Ben Beehner, who caught a career high of five goals to go along with two blocks of his own. Spencer Sheridan found Luke Jeseperson with a huge flick that was recognized as the Innova Throw of the Week. With 28 points scored by Seattle, seven players scored at least two points and five more players scored one. The Rainmakers have pulled ahead of the San Francisco Dogfish for second place in the Western Conference, and Seattle looks to put more wins under their belt before they meet the Dogfish in Seattle on May 22nd.
Rainmakers who will not be playing in the game include Gavin McKibben, Drew Lockhart, Jesperson, Klein, and Todd Sliva. Klein, the Western Conference Rookie of the Year for 2015, is the Rainmakers leader in goals with 12 to his name, and he is second in the league for break goals with eight, and the loss of his scoring prowess is sure to be noticed. McKibben’s handling ability is sure to be missed; he’s had three goals and five assists this season. Jesperson had the first callahan of the MLU season last game. Three players who are listed as injured but probable to play are Dylan Harrington, Matthew Neeley, and Brad Houser. Neeley and Houser being inactive could seriously effect the Rainmakers strategy. Neeley leads the Rainmakers and the league in break assists with nine, and is third on the Rainmakers goals and assists with 14. Houser is a powerhouse scorer for Seattle, getting 16 goals and assists. Klein will not be playing, and if Houser and Neeley end up sitting out the top three scorers for Seattle will be on the sidelines. A notable addition to the roster is Khalif El-Salaam, who has been inactive since week one while playing for the University of Washington Sundodgers. El-Salaam got two goals and seven assists in that game.
For the Nighthawks, five players will be missing, including Jazz Groden-Gilchrist, Ty Barbieri, and Francisco Mogollon. There were ten players out for Vancouver’s last matchup against Seattle, so they will have a more complete roster of young talent for this game. Players to watch on the Nighthawks include Erik Hunter, Taylor Nadon, and Graeme Barber, who lead the team in goals and assists this season with 22, 17, and 13 respectively. Nathan Lam has also been doing well, with eight goals and assists and two blocks this season. Mitchell Dozzi-Dagle is Vancouver’s rising star, with eight goals and assists and a team-leading seven blocks in three games he’s played.
This third meeting of Seattle and Vancouver will likely be more competitive than their previous two games. Co-Head Coach Kate Kingery expects that it will be a tougher game for the Rainmakers. “I anticipate that the game will be very different than the previous two since the Nighthawks will be playing at home,” said Kingery. She added that Seattle will be working on their mental game, which broke down in the second half of last week’s game against Vancouver and let them score 12 of their 18 points and six of their seven breaks in the second half. “We are working on the mental game and will be experimenting with some new strategies this coming weekend in Vancouver.”