Just past the midway point the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia Wings at NYCB LIVE, Riptide goalie Alex Buque fired a pass to Tyson Gibson. The first overall pick in the National Lacrosse League draft then beat Wings goalie Zach Higgins for a goal at 6:56 that tied the game at 12. While the Riptide would lose the game 15-12, that goal by Gibson capped off a hat trick and a five-point night in what was the rookie’s breakout performance.
It was an exciting moment, but at the end of the day, the team didn’t get the result that they wanted.
“Obviously, it’s always good when you get the stats with all the work you put in,” said Gibson. “But then again the bottom line is we’re 0-5 now so we’re just working on approaching on our next game and getting that first win under our belt.”
That first win will have to wait until, at least, January 18th when the Riptide welcome the Georgia Swarm to the Coliseum. But this past Saturday was significant for the franchise as the player that they selected with the first draft pick in team history sent a message to the rest of the league that he is officially one of the brightest young stars in box lacrosse.
Coming into the game, Gibson had two goals and five assists over his first NLL contests, but now he has five goals and seven assists, good for twelve points which places him 4th on the Riptide in scoring.
“He was a little more aggressive,” said Riptide Head Coach and General Manager Regy Thorpe. “He scored some timely goals for us. Sometimes you have to be a little more aggressive when you’re a goal scorer and attack a little bit more.”
Gibson has certainly experienced some highs and lows during the early part of his rookie NLL campaign. He scored the first goal in Riptide history in the season opener on December 7th in Halifax but he missed the second game of the season in Vancouver. Growing pains, in any sport, comes with the territory of being a rookie but Gibson certainly has the right perspective.
“I mean it’s a new league for me and obviously it’s the highest level that you can be at so obviously I’m just going through an adjustment period and as an expansion team we all are,” said Gibson who hails from Maple, Ontario. “We’re getting better week by week, myself included, and so is the rest of the offense and defense.”
During last year’s NLL playoffs, the Riptide won a coin-toss against the Rochester Knighthawks for the right to choose either the first overall pick in the Entry Draft or the first pick in the Expansion Draft. The Riptide won the toss and elected to take the first pick in the Entry Draft and wasted no time selecting Gibson. The former Robert Morris star was the 2019 Northeast Conference player of the year and he led the Colonials to back to back trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Gibson also played the last two summers for the Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association where he racked up 30 goals and 29 assists for 59 points over 21 games. Yet when NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz called Gibson’s name as the first overall pick by the Riptide, there were many that were surprised by the selection.
But the Riptide got the man that they wanted.
“(Gibson is) a great player,” said Thorpe. “He’s a great kid…very humble and super good kid to coach. He’s got a high lacrosse IQ. I know he has high expectations with being the first pick and we do too. He’s been shouldering that and he’s been a little frustrated at times with some shots falling but finally the other night they started falling and I think you’re going to see them keep coming from him the harder he works.”
Throughout his first four NLL games, Gibson’s confidence has grown each week and that runs parallel to the confidence of the team as they continue to improve during the Riptide’s inaugural season. But as the first overall pick, the microscope has been on Gibson because he potentially can be the face of the franchise. The 23-year old forward is just trying to do his job and help the Riptide win games.
“I didn’t put any pressure on myself,” said Gibson. “There’s always added pressure of being first overall but on my end, I just go out and do what I can and play to the best that I’m able to. My whole focus is just on me and I’m just getting better on a week to week basis.”
In addition to Gibson, the Riptide has a lot of young players on the team including fellow first round pick Tyson Bomberry, 2nd round selection Jake Fox, and third round picks John Wagner and Travis Longboat. But an expansion team also has to have a veteran presence and the Riptide surrounded their young players with a solid group of experienced players.
Those veterans have certainly eased Gibson’s transition into the National Lacrosse League.
“They’ve been huge,” said Gibson. “I mean we have a great leadership group with Dan MacRae, Digger (Tyler Digby) and Ranny (John Ranagan) so they’ve been great in keeping us positive through some tough times. Them just giving me support and always giving me positive feedback is huge and just keeping my confidence levels up.”
And after Saturday’s performance against Philadelphia, Gibson’s confidence has sky-rocketed and it probably won’t be long before you see many fans inquiring about how they can get “GIBSON 19” added to the blank Riptide jerseys that they purchased at the souvenir stands. Earlier in the season, a lot of his shots were not finding the back of the net but Saturday night he lit the lamp three times.
This is what the staff envisioned when they drafted him first overall.
“Shooters have to shoot,” said Thorpe. “We want him shooting the ball. I think he’s going to have a long life in this league because he’s a hard worker, he listens, he’s humble, he’s not complacent, and he wants to keep getting better. Guys with those attributes last in this league. He has that work ethic, that hunger, that humbleness, to get better every day, every game and every practice and that can take him a long way.”
And as Gibson to shot and score, the Riptide in turn will become a better team and as they eliminate the mistakes, the one bad quarter or a bad stretch of a quarter, it’s going to make the difference between losing games and winning games.
And the wins for Gibson and the Riptide are on the way.
“Yeah absolutely they’re going to come,” said Gibson. “I think if just keep playing together and stay positive and keep working hard, then we’ll get the wins we deserve.”
On Saturday night, Tyson Gibson enjoyed the results that he deserves after working hard throughout the early portion of his NLL career. His confidence is growing and his stats are increasing. But true to his makeup, Gibson is not going to be satisfied until the Riptide start winning games.