Game Preview - Halifax @ Vancouver

Apr 4, 2024

The Halifax Thunderbirds wrap up a three-game road trip on Friday night as they travel West for a showdown with the Vancouver Warriors at Rogers Arena. Opening face-off is set for 11:00 p.m. AT. 

Head to Head

While these two organizations have played in the past, this will be just the second meeting with the Warriors since the Thunderbirds’ move to Halifax. The two teams met back in 2022 in Halifax, with the Thunderbirds pulling out a 14-12 victory at Scotiabank Centre.

Vancouver has managed to put themselves in the postseason conversation after opening the season 3-9 and sitting in the bottom three just a few weeks ago. A three-game win streak has vaulted them just a win out of the eighth seed.

With some ups and downs this year, Halifax sits in the fifth seed with a 9-7 record. They are 1-1 on this current road swing, with a close overtime loss to Toronto being followed by a big road victory against Rochester a week ago. 

With just a few weeks remaining for teams to sort out their final seeding heading into the postseason, this game is crucial for both the Thunderbirds and Warriors.

Scouting the Thunderbirds

It was all hands on deck last weekend, as the Thunderbirds got one of their most efficient offensive nights from their forwards, with four players having six-plus point nights. 

Once again, Clarke Petterson (36G, 53A) posted a tidy three-goal, six-point game while veteran lefty Ryan Benesch (41G, 33A) continues to have one of the best seasons of his NLL career at 39 years old. He finished with a team-high seven points in Rochester and surpassed Dan Dawson for fourth in NLL history in goals (552).

Thunderbirds captain Cody Jamieson (19G, 36A) also put in one of his best shifts of the season in his 200th career game, finishing with a hat trick and six points of his own.

Austin Shanks sits tied with Benesch for second in team scoring (19G, 55A) and has already set his career-high in points for a single season, and so has Dawson Theede (28G, 25A), who also had six points against the Knighthawks. 

The face-off unit will be paramount once again in this matchup as Jake Withers goes up against a pesky drawman in Tyrell Hamer-Jackson. Withers continues to push for the single-season record in face-off wins and is just 11 off becoming the fifth player in NLL history to reach 1,800 for a career. He and Ryan Terefenko have been locked in when it comes to grabbing loose balls this year. They combined for 17 last weekend, with Terefenko getting 11.

Warren Hill has been terrific over the last month, holding opponents to single-digit goals in the past three outings. He also set a new season-high last weekend with a 45-save performance to get his eighth win on the campaign. In 16 outings, the Halifax starter has a 10.70 goals-against average and a .770 save percentage.

Scouting the Warriors

The Vancouver offence has exploded over their current winning streak, posting 46 goals over that span – including a 21-goal game against Philadelphia two weeks ago. 

A massive reason for this resurgence has been the play of top righty Keegan Bal (37G, 47A), who, over his last five games, has posted 22 goals and 42 points. 

He plays alongside dynamic talents in veterans Kevin Crowley (22G, 30A) and Kyle Killen (10G, 16A) on the right. But the breakout of the Warriors’ season has been former top-three pick Adam Charalambides (31G, 49A), who has already surpassed his previous career-high in points by 20 with three games left in the year.

The lefties for the Warriors include Ryan Martel (23G, 32A), Riley Loewen (13G, 32A), and Brad McCulley (4G, 8A), who the team picked up midseason from Buffalo. 

Defensively, the Warriors have gone through a facelift since last season, adding some big names through free agency and the NLL Draft. On top of top pick Reid Bowering and captain Brett Mydske, Vancouver acquired Steph Charbonneau last season, brought in veteran defenders Ryan Dilks and Matt Beers, and drafted Owen Grant and Brayden Laity. 

Grant, the 2022 third-overall pick, is having a fantastic rookie year for the Warriors, sitting at seven goals and eight points for the season along with 79 loose balls and 23 caused turnovers. Laity is also coming into his own over the last stretch of games. The 2003-born defender is a big piece of the future in Vancouver. 

The Warriors opened the season with Aaron Bold occupying the crease. But Curt Malawsky has recently made the switch to 23-year-old Aden Walsh as the starter. He’s been able to post a 4-4 record with an 11.16 GAA and a .770 SV%.

Milestone Tracker

  • Ryan Benesch needs nine points to become the seventh player in NLL history to reach 1,300 for a career
  • Austin Shanks needs eight assists to reach 200 for his career
  • Jake Withers needs 11 face-off wins to become the fifth player in NLL history to reach 1,800 for a career
  • Trevor Smyth needs eight loose balls to reach 200 for his career

Broadcast Info

Thunderbirds fans can catch all the action on Friday night on TSN+ in Canada and ESPN+ in the United States.

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