Photo by Scobel Wiggins for UltiPhotos – http://www.ultiphotos.com/

Seattle makes their first trip north of the border this season for the third of four match-ups against the Nighthawks in what will be a do-or-die game for Vancouver.

With a win this weekend Seattle can not only seal Vancouver’s fate at the bottom half of the Western Conference, they can also secure their own spot as contenders for the conference championship at the end of the season.

Seattle club teams have not done well historically in the Great White North, especially at Thunderbird Stadium, where they have suffered multiple losses over the years in Vancouver’s home tournament, FlowerBowl. Canada even eked out a victory over Team USA there in the 2008 World Championships.

The Rainmakers certainly have their work cut out for them: they’ll be missing several offensive stars, including Matt Rehder, BJ Sefton, Danny Karlinsky, and Danny Trytiak, and they’ll also be without defensive powerhouse Sean Sears, who is currently averaging 0.75 blocks per point off the bench, as he has been excused from the game for a prior engagement. Also sitting this one out will be O-line cutter Moses Rifkin, O-line cutter Vehro Titcomb from the bench, and injured superstar Seth Wiggins.

At the same time, Vancouver will be taking the field without their defensive anchor Morgan Hibbert, who may be out for the rest of the season with a broken thumb. With Hibbert out, the height differential between the two rival teams shrinks, something that has been one of the Nighthawks’ greatest advantages.

Expect the Nighthawks to lean on veteran handlers #23 Mauro Ortiz, who has a 92% completion rate on 169 throws plus 19 assists, and #25 Oscar Pottinger, who has 15 assists and two goals. They’ll be targeting #6 Andre Gailits and #72 Mark Leduc, each of whom has 13 goals to their name.

The Rainmakers have had trouble all season so far maintaining the leads they establish, particularly against the sharp Nighthawks break-line, so they’ll need to keep their wits about them and prevent Vancouver from striking quickly with deep hucks and combo plays.

Even if Vancouver does win, they’ll have a tough road to travel if they want to make it to the conference championships in the postseason. They’ll need San Francisco to beat Seattle in their next two match-ups (June 15th and 23rd), plus they’ll need the 23-point differential gap between Seattle and Vancouver to close in the latter half of the season. That’s a lot to hope for, but it’ll need to start with a victory over Seattle on Saturday night.

Tune in at 7:00 pm PST to see the game on MLU Live.

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