San Diego Seals Lacrosse
San Diego Seals players celebrating after a goal. Courtesy photo

Indoor lacrosse made its labor-delayed debut in San Diego on Saturday evening with the San Diego Seals defeating the Rochester Knighthawks, 12- 10, at Pechanga Arena San Diego.

Dan Dawson scored with four minutes, 54 seconds to play to give the Seals an 11-10 lead and Austin Staats added an insurance goal with 1:24 left before a crowd announced at 12,075,

“Our introduction to San Diego was phenomenal,” Dawson said. “It was pretty cool being able to show them all what lacrosse is all about.

“I said it from the get-go, to be a part of something from the foundation up is really special and we had a really emotional special day and it carried on to the game.”

The score was tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter, 6-6 at halftime and 8-8 entering the fourth quarter.

Staats, the first choice in the NLL entry draft and one of a league-high six rookies on the Seals, scored a game-high four goals, Dawson added three, Kyle Buchanan two, and Garrett Billings, Turner Evans and Adrian Sorichetti one each.

“We’ve been working hard this whole week and it showed in how we played tonight,” Staats said. “I grabbed the Seal on the front of my jersey in the fourth quarter to show the fans how much I respected them and enjoyed their presence. It was pretty cool.”

Kyle Jackson led Rochester (1-2) with three goals. Joe Resetarits and Cory Vitarelli each added two, and Graeme Hossack, Cody Jamieson and Austin Shanks one each.

The Seals led in shots, 49-48. Seals goaltender Frank Scigliano (2-2) made 38 saves. Angus Goodleaf (1-2) made 37 for the Knighthawks.

The Seals were scoreless in six power-play opportunities. Rochester scored on four of its five power-play opportunities.

Billionaire Joseph Tsai was awarded a National Lacrosse League expansion team on Aug. 30, 2017, in what commissioner Nick Sakiewicz called “the culmination of months of work and part of the five-year strategic plan to grow the sport of lacrosse through the thoughtful expansion of the NLL.”

The Seals are the league’s first team in California since 2009, when the San Jose Stealth moved to Everett, Washington. They are among two NLL expansion teams beginning play this season, along with the Philadelphia Wings, increasing the membership in the league that began play in 1987 to 11.

Teams in Uniondale, New York and Halifax, Nova Scotia are set to begin play in the 2019-20 season.

Tsai, vice chairman of the Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba Group, is 168th on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people with a net worth of $8.5 billion.

Tsai played lacrosse at Yale, “all three of his kids have played lacrosse in this market for a couple of years, he had a passion for the market, he has a passion for the global game of lacrosse, he’s a big supporter of the Hong Kong national team, big supporter of the Federation of International Lacrosse, big supporter of Yale University lacrosse and this was just a natural progression to step forward into the professional game,” Seals President Steve Govett told City News Service.

When the franchise was awarded, Tsai said, “Our team is committed to creating a fan-first experience and to being an integral part of the local community.”

On their website, the Seals say their mission in San Diego is “to immerse ourselves in the local community, promoting philanthropy, good citizenship, and growing the game of lacrosse throughout Southern California.”

The team offers schools programs promoting a healthy, active lifestyle, providing an anti-bullying message and introducing lacrosse. Seals players will make about 200 appearances at schools this season, Govett said.

The longer period between the awarding of the franchise and start of play than the NLL’s two previous California franchises has given the Seals “a runway to introduce the sport at a grass-roots level,” Govett said.

The Seals are following the modern professional sports practice of mixing entertainment with the games, including having a mascot, Salty, and a dance team, the Sirens, who will both make frequent appearances at events other than the games.

“By putting on a great show, the game will ultimately be embraced because it is a great and exciting game,” said Govett, who was the president of the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth from 2002-17.

Govett has set a goal of averaging 10,000 fans for the nine home games. The team will break even if it averages 7,500 fans per game, Govett said.

The Seals had been scheduled to play their home opener Dec. 8 but the NLL canceled the first two weekends of play on Nov. 15 after it was unable to reach an agreement with its players union on a new collective bargaining agreement. The new agreement was announced Nov. 24 and the Seals began training camp Nov. 30.

The Seals began the season with three games on the road, defeating Colorado, 17-12, Dec. 22, but then losing at Calgary, 9-5, Dec. 28, and to the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush, 16-12, last Saturday.

Indoor lacrosse is played on hockey rinks covered by a green dieter turf carpet that is laid down over the ice.

Each team has five runners — forwards, transition players and defensemen and a goaltender — on the floor during the game, with players rotating on and off the floor in shifts, similar to hockey. The game consists of four 15-minute quarters. A game tied at the end of regulation is decided in sudden-death overtime.

An average of 25 goals are scored in an NLL game.

The Seals next game is Friday, when they will play host to Calgary at Pechanga Arena San Diego. The Seals lost to the Roughnecks, 9-5, Dec. 28 in Calgary, Alberta.

— City News Service