SEALS SUMMARIZED: Volume 2
After a stretch of six games to begin their inaugural National Lacrosse League (NLL) season, the San Diego Seals climbed to the top of Western Division standings. After a 1-2 start to the season, San Diego rattled off three straight wins, including back to back home victories over the Rochester Knighthawks (1/12) and the Calgary Roughnecks (1/18). The Seals then completed a divisional weekend sweep with a road victory over the Vancouver Warriors (1/19) to take over first place.
San Diego then enjoyed back-to-back bye weeks after the Vancouver victory. Seals Head Coach and General Manager Patrick Merrill joined members of the media during one of the bye weeks to chat about the team's start to the season. Coach Merrill had nothing but high praise for the highly touted rookie Austin Staats.
"I think he's a very intelligent player,” said Merrill. “His shooting style is very unique. He's the total package that way. More importantly, he's a difference maker and he can be creative to make plays from something out of nothing."
While the offense did its part in games, Merrill also gave credit to the team's defensive energy, including goaltender Frank Scigliano and defensive coordinator Bill Greer.
"Frankie [Scigliano] has certainly been our rock and giving us a chance to win every night. Billy Greer has done an outstanding job establishing a system. We have a lot of high-end potential. We tried to build the team from the back end out, it's a really determined group. I think we can get a little bit better as the season goes on."
A big talking point has been how would San Diego sports fans would welcome a new sport and a new league. Patrick recalls how the crowd came alive during the team's home opener against Rochester. "In our home opener late in the fourth quarter, I remember taking a step back and looking around and thinking 'these guys are behind us and they helped us get through those two games. I was most impressed by the fans' energy that they seem to bring. We could feel it. They cheered and celebrated at the right times and it was probably surprising for the opposition to see that crowd." San Diego's three home games have drawn a total crowd of 27,312 at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
One thing that will take some time to get used to for fans who have officially "Dived In" with the Seals and the NLL, is a bye week, sometimes consecutive bye weeks. Coach Merrill elaborated about having two weeks off after playing six straight games. "I think the break had some challenges having a few weeks off. The momentum has been positive. It was a welcome break since we've been in a grind. To go into that break at 4-2 has helped us get healthy, but also we can hit the reset button. The pros out-weight the cons for the break."
San Diego was back on the floor for the first of two games in the month of February, and their lone home game when they faced the Vancouver Warriors on February 8th. San Diego held a 3-2 lead after the first quarter, but the game flipped on its head after Jules Heningburg would be called for a five minute major and game misconduct for Goaltender Interference.
Vancouver seized the opportunity and would go on a 6-0 run in the first half, and a 7-0 run in the second half to run away with a 14-6 victory. Coach Merrill called the effort "disappointing," and further added that "Our success came from early on and from outworking teams. We weren't willing for some reason to pay the same price."
Dan Dawson echoed those comments, proclaiming, "That was ugly. They took it to us in every aspect of the game. We allowed them to control and dictate every facet of the game and that is inexcusable, let alone at home. We didn't give them this game, they [Vancouver] earned this one."
San Diego looked to shrug off the home defeat on February 15th when they travelled to Toronto to face the Eastern Division and NLL leading Toronto Rock. The Seals battled from opening faceoff until the final buzzer, but they would fall short 12-11. The comeback bid that fell just short was praised by Coach Merrill. "We were proud of the fact that we hung in there and gave ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter. We are going to regroup, refocus and prepare mentally and physically for the next game against Vancouver.”
Casey Jackson registered another hat trick in the loss, but he praised the offense for getting back on track after the Vancouver loss. "The offense is clicking again, which is nice to see out there. We’ll go into the bye week with our heads held high and looking for a little revenge.”
Austin Staats reverberated those same statements, but he also added that "We felt like ourselves again tonight, We were following the game plan and listening to the coaches, just fell a little short. We had our chance there at the very end, they’re a good team. We’re going to come out strong against Vancouver.”
The Seals will enjoy another bye week before they retake the floor at Pechanga Arena San Diego on March 2nd as they'll look for a little revenge against the Vancouver Warriors at 7pm. Here's a look at San Diego's schedule for the month of March.
After hosting Vancouver, the Seals head to Denver to face the Mammoth on March 9th, San Diego defeated Colorado 17-12 on December 22, 2018, in the club's inaugural game. The Seals return home for a two-game homestand, highlighted by the first-ever matchup of the 2018-19 expansion franchise when San Diego hosts the Philadelphia Wings on March 16th. The defending NLL champion Saskatchewan Rush visit America's Finest City on March 22nd to wrap up the home-stand. San Diego wraps up the month of March when they head up to Calgary to face the Roughnecks on March 30th in a matchup that will break the season series tie between the two teams.
In off the floor news, the Seals announced on Tuesday that the team has a deal in place with KSWB-TV FOX 5 San Diego to deliever live and produced game coverage for the remainder of the season. Fans that can't make the March 2nd home game against Vancouver can watch the game on FOX 5 starting at 7pm with Jon Schaffer, Doug Locker, Tauli Anderson and Kalyn McMackin.
FOX 5 General Manager Scott Heath couldn't be more enthused for the new partnership. “We are thrilled to partner with the San Diego Seals and bring the action and excitement of lacrosse to television on March 2, the Seals have created a groundswell here in San Diego, with a tremendous following and great attendance. FOX 5 is proud to deliver a local lacrosse game to our viewers along with over 820 hours of live sports on FOX 5.”
KSWB will also be airing "Seals in 30" a condensed version of all remaining games featuring goals, hits and saves. Seals In 30 will debut this Saturday (2/23) at 4:30pm featuring the Seals-Warriors game from 2/8. Seals president Steve Govett shared his thoughts on the condensed game show. “Everyone loves highlights, Now more than ever, people want to see what happened – and how! We shared a vision with Scott [Heath] and his management team and instantly recognized that we make great partners. Seals in 30 is the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of our games.”
Below is the schedule for Seals in 30 on FOX 5 (schedule subject to change):
2/23: Seals vs. Vancouver (from 2/8) [4:30pm]
3/10: Seals vs. Vancouver (from 3/2) [6:30pm]
3/23: Seals vs. Philadelphia (from 3/16) [4:30pm]
3/30: Seals vs. Saskatchewan (from 3/22) [6:30pm]
4/7: Seals @ Calgary (from 3/30) [4:30pm]
4/13: Seals @ Georgia (from 4/5) [9:30pm]
4/14: Seals @ New England (from 4/6) [6:30pm]
4/19: Seals vs. Saskatchewan (from 4/12) [2:30pm]
4/27: Seals vs. Colorado (from 4/19) [7:30pm]
5/3: Seals vs. Buffalo (from 4/27) [2:30pm]
But wait there’s more
In other NLL news, the newest expansion teams that will join the league for the 2019-2020 NLL season both officially have their names and logos in place. The Halifax Thunderbirds unveiled their logo at an event held at the Halifax Convention Center. The brand was revealed along with a ceremonial smudging, symbolic for spiritual cleansing. In attendance were Indigenous peoples in full regalia to honor and cement both the team and the region’s connection to Indigenous people.
The New York Riptide named was announced as the team name at a special event at NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the final day of the New York Open, an annual men’s professional ATP tournament owned and operated by GF Sports.
In a span of 18 months, the NLL has added four new teams in emerging lacrosse markets with ownership groups who have experience in live sports and entertainment in state-of-the-art arenas.
Both of the 2018-19 expansion teams, the Seals and Wings have both enjoyed tremendous success in their markets with attendance, sponsorships and live viewership numbers. The league's announcements are part of the league’s long-term goal of reaching 20 teams. One of the key pillars of the NLL Board of Governors’ five-year strategic plan was a thoughtful expansion with a sharp focus on the right markets, arenas, and ownership groups.