- ReLaxing Luke
New York Riptide Season Outlook
The 2019/2020 NLL season began with a bang. Rochester and Halifax met for the first time. Colorado stunned Calgary. Georgia’s looked as dominant as ever. All thirteen NLL teams have been reviewed except one. High tide has been reported around Long Island. Sailing has become especially dangerous. For the New York Riptide are arriving December 28 to Uniondale looking to drown a group of prairie boys from Saskatchewan. Yes, the wait is over. NLL lacrosse has arrived in Long Island.
What do the New York Giants, New York Jets, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and New York Riptide all have in common? In a longstanding New York sports tradition (looking at you Giants and Jets), all five lost their season openers. Talk about rough. Barring the Yankees, the Big Apple lacks a good professional sports team. The New York Riptide, who are experiencing the franchise’s worst losing streak in history, look to change that.
The Riptide are in their first season of NLL play. They are one of the new expansion franchises. Being twenty minutes from New York City, I am absolutely ecstatic the Riptide formed. Finally, I have good professional box lacrosse near my doorstep. The team has marketed itself well and hopes to be rewarded with a large inaugural night crowd. Sadly, I’m back in Colorado for the holidays, so I’m unable to attend; however, I will be there in spirit. Sentimentalism and personal bias aside, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
Think of the worst possible way a season opener could go. Got it? Good. Whatever you thought of, that’s what happened to New York. They were absolutely obliterated by Halifax. The Thunderbirds eased to a 12-4 win. New York didn’t look ready. Players didn’t look like a coherent unit. They looked like a couple of guys in a pick up beer league. No chemistry.
Against Halifax, New York went 2 of 19 on faceoffs, 0 for 3 on power plays, and garnered 13 penalty minutes. Talk about rough. The only bright side? The number one pick in the 2019 NLL draft, Tyson Gibson, scored the first goal in Riptide history. It was a beautiful goal. The only problem? The game was already out of reach at 8-0.
I know I sound doom and gloom, but as someone whose oozed with anticipation for Riptide lacrosse since their formal announcement, I was extremely disappointed. They didn’t have to win. But at least make it exciting.
Fortunately, game two, a 10-14 loss in Vancouver, provided hope. It seems the squad needed more time together before things clicked. Statistically, everything improved against Vancouver. The Riptide went 17 of 29 on faceoffs, 3 of 4 on power plays, and won the loose ball battle 75 to 68. A much better performance! New York could have won this game. Sadly, Vancouver’s 5 goal second quarter and New York’s 1 goal third quarter made the difference. While a loss, New York clearly improved between games one and two. To build a foundation, they must continue to do so.
Offensively, New York has studs. Forwards Connor Kelly (3 goals, 4 assists), Dan Lomas (3 goals, 4 assists), Tyler Digby (2 goals, 4 assists), and Travis Longboat (2 goals, 3 assists) have impressed. The quartet, along with Tyson Gibson, are the offensive core. They have begun to produce.
Alex Woodall, who didn’t play in game one, did what he’s known to do. Win faceoffs. The number one draft pick in the 2019 MLL draft went 17 of 29 on faceoffs against Vancouver. His absence in game one led to the abysmal faceoff performance against Halifax. As long as Woodall plays, faceoffs won’t be an issue.
The Riptide have a solid defensive core. Dan MacRae (9 loose balls, 6 turnovers), Tyson Bomberry (7 loose balls), and Andrew Suitor (1 game played: 15 loose balls, 2 turnovers) have impressed. They form a good nucleus to protect goaltender Alex Buque. On the year, Buque has a .748 save percentage. As the defense continues to gel, I expect this number to come up. At times, he’s had no help.
One major concern is the Riptide have played two games without their full roster. Alex Woodall missed game one. This led to New York getting murdered at the faceoff dot. Andrew Suitor and Tyson Gibson missed game two against Vancouver. With both on the field, New York probably wins. I don’t know if these absences are due to health or personal reasons. If health is the issue, New York must do whatever it can to keep them upright. Riptide nation needs all three.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Riptide visit red hot New England on December 27 before booking it back home to play Saskatchewan the following day. Two home games against Philly and Georgia follow. Those are not easy games. New York is being thrown into the fire. It’ll be tough to beat New England and Saskatchewan; however, I could see Philadelphia being a close one.
New York is a work in progress, which is expected for a first-year franchise. I was hoping they’d pull a 2018 San Diego, but that doesn’t look likely. This is their first year playing together and the team is young. Growing pains are expected. Don’t focus too much on the win/loss column. If the Riptide show gradual improvement throughout the season, while playing competitively and snagging some wins, this season is a success. I know New Yorkers aren’t always patient (hell, I get honked at if I don’t drive at a green light in .2 seconds in Manhattan) but patience is key with this team. The improvement is already evident. New York will be successful.
How awesome is it for the NLL to arrive in Long Island? I love New York sports because of the passionate fanbases. No matter how bad the Giants are, folks still go out and support (including me). Long Island is a lacrosse mecca. The NLL nailed it by placing a franchise here. Fellow New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, let’s give the Riptide the support they deserve. In a couple years, the franchise and us (the fans) will be something special. We don’t get the opportunity to support new teams in New York, so let’s take advantage of this opportunity and build something great.
Do you agree with my New York Riptide outlook? Disagree? Are you excited for NLL lacrosse in Long Island? Seeing as I’m an hour drive away, in New Jersey, I’m stoked! Whatever your thoughts, air them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can comment directly onto this article by subscribing. By subscribing, you’ll be notified whenever I publish a new article. Any and all support is appreciated. Regardless, thank you for reading. Merry Christmas Eve! Go Riptide!