SEALS SUMMARIZED: Volume 3
It's the home stretch of the 2018-19 National Lacrosse League (NLL) regular season, and the San Diego Seals are getting hot at the right time. The month of March has been a busy one for San Diego that has seen the team win four out of five games and jump back into first place in the Western Division. Inside this edition of Seals Summarized, we'll look back at the team's four-game win streak, shine the light on a few player milestones and another achieved first in franchise history.
SEALS vs. VANCOUVER (3/2): In the team's first game of March, Kyle Buchanan found the net five times, while Austin Staats added four of his own as the San Diego Seals defeated the Vancouver Warriors 13-10 before 9,117 at Pechanga Arena San Diego to take the season series from their Pacific Northwest rivals.
Buchanan was asked about what the team adjusted in this game that didn't go right in the team's previous meeting back on February 8th when they were defeated 14-6. "We started the game with a lot of energy and a lot of speed. We got a lot of weapons so the ball is finding the back of the net."
Many people thought that San Diego's rival would've been the Calgary Roughnecks, but Buchanan claims otherwise. "We've established a pretty early rivalry with them. They're kinda in the rearview mirror now. It's nice to have the Western Conference tiebreaker against them. It's absolutely huge."
STAATS NAMED NLL ROOKIE OF THE WEEK (3-4): Austin Staats has been nothing short of spectacular this season for San Diego. The top overall entry draft pick this past September was named the NLL Rookie of the Week after his six-point effort in the Seals 13-10 victory over the Vancouver Warriors.
SEALS ACQUIRE PAUL DAWSON FRON ROCHESTER (3/6): There was a multitude of transactions made on March 6th across the NLL, which included the Seals acquiring Paul Dawson from the Rochester Knighthawks in exchange for a second-round pick in 2020 and a conditional second-round pick in 2022. For the fourth time in their careers, the Dawson brothers, Dan and Paul are playing on the same team.
SEALS @ COLORADO (3/9): San Diego hit the road for their second meeting of the season with the Colorado Mammoth at Pepsi Center. It was the first time the two teams faced off since the Seals played, and won their inaugural game in franchise history. Garrett Billings recorded a hat trick and added four assists, while eight different players scored at least one goal and eleven players made the score sheet, along with a perfect night on the power play resulted in taking the season series from Colorado with a 13-10 win to snag another season series victory.
Patrick Merrill was pleased with his team's performance and how everybody contributed. “That’s the way we need to win, We need to score goals by committee and not just rely on a couple of guys to get the job done. Everyone contributed tonight and that was a huge part of our success.”
Rookie Connor Kelly also scored his first career NLL goal that night in Denver, the rookie said that “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been patiently waiting for my opportunity and I’m trying to make the best of it. We’re playing with a great group of guys and to be able to get my first here tonight, it’s an honor. This was a huge win, It’s huge for our playoff push to win this series, and we’re going to carry it over into our two home games.”
BILLINGS NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK (3/11): For his performance in the team's 13-10 win over Colorado, Garrett Billings was named the National Lacrosse League's (NLL) Player of the Week. The 33-year-old veteran recorded a hat trick to go along with four assists in a seven-point effort to propel the Seals into the winner's circle on Saturday. The 2018-19 season has been an outstanding bounce-back for the Langley, B.C. native, who last played in 2017 with the Vancouver Stealth (now the Warriors), where he posted four goals and ten assists in just four games played, a year removed from a sixty point campaign in 2016 (13g - 47a).
SEALS vs. PHILADELPHIA (3/16): The luck of the Irish was definitely on the side of the Seals when they hosted their expansion partners, the Philadelphia Wings for the first-ever meeting between the NLL's newest franchises on March 16th. With San Diego trailing 10-7 with just over five minutes left in the game, Dan Dawson strapped the team on his back and led them to a six-goal fourth quarter outburst as they rallied for a 13-11 victory before 7,606 at Pechanga Arena San Diego. San Diego went on to score six goals in 4:28 to complete the comeback.
Patrick Merrill described the gritty comeback as "Not our best by any means, especially the third quarter. [But] what an exciting finish for our fans. Some guys stepped up and made some huge plays in the fourth quarter and we pulled one out."
Connor Kelly was asked about what it's like to play alongside Dan Dawson, one of the many veteran leaders on the San Diego roster and the areas where the team has succeeded in. "[Dan Dawson] is a player I look up too, I try to pick up his brain every practice, such a smart player. We're just clicking offensively and defensively, we're working our tails off defensively, and offensively we're just being unselfish, we don't care who scores. It's such an unselfish group."
Goaltender Frank Scigliano gave he praise to the 7,606 faithful at Pechanga Arena San Diego who, as they have in every home game this season, help lead the team to the finish line. "...At the end of the day, we gutted one out and credit this crowd, with two minutes left and we're down by two they wanted to blow the roof off this place and that's huge for us. I'm still kinda shaken from that. That's a good step in the right direction for us."
DAWSON MOVES INTO 3RD PLACE FOR CAREER ASSISTS (3/16): To go along with his career-high five goals in the comeback victory against Philadelphia, Dan Dawson also moved into third place in NLL history with 858 career assists.
SEALS vs. SASKATCHEWAN (3/22): San Diego's victory over Philadelphia paired up with the Saskatchewan Rush losing to the Buffalo Bandits in Overtime put both teams in a tie for first place in the Western Division. This battle to be the “Best in the West” certainly lived up to being the heavyweight battle it was expected to be. Garrett Billings tallied a team-high ten points while Kyle Buchanan registered eight points as San Diego padded their lead in the Western Division to two games with a gritty 13-12 victory over Saskatchewan before 6,163 at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
Had it not have been for the stellar performance in goal from Frank Scigliano in the fourth quarter, the game could have flipped in favor of Saskatchewan. Frank The Tank made twelve saves in the fourth quarter and was quick to praise the defense for keeping the Rush of the scoreboard for the last seven minutes of the game. "It feels good when the ball is on your side, I credit the defense a lot. They give me an opportunity to see it and we're playing the systems well. I credit a lot of success to them for sure."
Patrick Merrill agreed that Scigliano was the reason the Seals won the game. "We've been riding him [Frank Scigliano] all year along and it seems like he's just getting better and better. He's got that presence that you want out of your starting goalie and it seems like when it matters the most, he's at his best."
Team Captain Brodie Merrill talked about the game itself, what it’s like playing against the Rush and also praised his goaltender. "It was close, there's not much of a margin for error when you play Saskatchewan. You have to be tight with your details every shift and be on and engaged. Any kind of lapse and they'll make you pay. You don't close out a game like this one without great goaltending and he [Frank Scigliano] made some timely saves at the end."
DAWSON MOVES INTO 4TH PLACE ALL-TIME IN POINTS (3/22): With gaining two points in San Diego’s 13-12 victory over Saskatchewan, Dan Dawson passed Seals Assistant Coach Josh Sanderson for fourth place all-time in NLL history in Points.
SEALS CLINCH THE FIRST PLAYOFF BERTH IN FRANCHISE HISTORY (3/23): Along with their victory over Saskatchewan, the Seals needed the Vancouver Warriors to lose both games of a home and home series with the Colorado Mammoth to clinch a berth to the NLL Playoffs.
San Diego officially became the first Western Division team to have their ticket punched to the postseason party as Colorado defeated Vancouver 11-7 on March 22nd in Vancouver and dominated on March 23rd in Denver with a 14-4 win. The Seals now own a two-game lead over both the Calgary Roughnecks and Saskatchewan Rush for first place in the Western Division.
San Diego will end the month of March on the road to wrap up the season series against the Calgary Roughnecks on March 30th from Scotiabank Saddledome at 6pm PDT looking to pad their first-place lead in the Western Division.