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Killing three birds with one stone: Yeti seemingly the answer for rejuvenated SSG heading into Jönköping Major

Spacestation Gaming nearly signed Dexter permanently before Stage 3 started, but opted for Yeti instead.

Image: Ubisoft/Joao Ferreira

It has certainly been a long time coming for Spacestation Gaming. The 2022 season has not exactly been kind to them.

World champions in 2020 and perennial favourites throughout the 2021 season, they were just outside of the top four in Stage 1 but fell hard to ninth place by the time Stage 2 rolled around. Aside from their appearance at the Six Invitational 2022 to cap off the 2021 season, they only qualified to the Saudi Arabian Gamers8, failing to make it to both the Charlotte and Berlin Majors.

"The biggest problem ... was basically inner turmoil," shared Spacestation coach Justin "Lycan" Woods. "Some of the choices that we made after SI... not all of the people that were on the team agreed with them."

That lead to a breakdown in trust between that player -- later confirmed by Lycan to be Alexander "Skys" Magor -- and the rest of the team. Skys felt unhappy at "what [he was] forced to deal with". This, said the coach, led to Skys effectively becoming detached from the team. Skys would later go on to share his side of the story in Stage 3, in response to a Ubisoft interview with Spacestation.

Skys had an acrimonious exit from Spacestation Gaming. (Photo: Ubisoft/Joao Ferreira)

"I think that really hurt us. We have always been a team that has been built on trust and teamwork," he said.

With the first two stages effectively write-offs for Spacestation's title aspirations, a roster change to replace Skys was in order and the trials for new players began accordingly. Most promising out of those trials was Lorenzo "Dexter" Albeira, an NA Challenger League player on RentFree.

Dexter seemed to have a fairly strong trial at Gamers8, even though Spacestation were eliminated in the group stage. While roles had to shift to accomodate him, the team looked happy to bring him on permanently.

"People weren't, like, I thought in their best spots," explained Lycan of the discomfort on roles for the team after SI 2022. "We had Fultz on flex, which I thought he was good at, but he's also good on main entry. But the problem was, it didn't put a place for Hotancold to live -- he ended up being on our flank watch, which I don't think was, like, a really true, good spot for him."

With little time after Stage 2 to reconfigure and experiment with a variety of roles to maximise the players they had, Lycan opted to keep things simple.

"We just wanted to put [Nathanial "Rampy" Duvall] on top-down, keep [Hotancold] on flank watch and Fultz on flex and then we were just gonna throw a young gun into the talent," said Lycan of the team's plans at the end of Stage 2. The trust in young talent was one that many teams in Brazil had been rewarded for, most notably w7m esports, but was also given in the NAL with teams like DarkZero Esports and TSM FTX.

Things, however, changed when Soniqs found that TSM were about to sign two exciting young talents -- though one of those had already debuted in the NAL. As a result, Emilio "Geometrics" Leynez became free and the knock-on effect was that Soniqs opted to also replace Alexander "Yeti" Lawson.

"All of a sudden, Yeti DMs me and tells me that he had left," recalled Lycan. But the Spacestation coach initially gave little thought to the notion of signing him, as he had been focused on securing a player that could do what Dexter was set to do -- play on the entry -- which Yeti could not.

"(But) the next morning, I was literally drinking coffee ... and I was like, 'wait'... we could untangle our roles (with Yeti)," said Lycan. "Throw Fultz back on Entry, put [Hotancold] on flex like I want, and Yeti would make way more sense if we put him on flank watch than putting Dexter on flank watch."

Yeti and Spacestation Gaming have been a powerful combination. (Photo: Ubisoft/Joao Ferreira)

The team, too, initially was not immediately warm to the idea. They had been looking for a player that matched the "energy" on the team and Dexter fit that well, even if others had to be on less-than-optimal roles with him on board. The plan had been to sign him permanently and the players initially felt that was the most prudent course of action.

Nevertheless, they decided to re-open their trials to see if Yeti fit -- and he most certainly did. The experience that Yeti brought from his years of play at the top level saw Spacestation excel in counter-strategising, which a less-experienced Dexter could not help with. Yeti joining from a "structured" team like Soniqs also meant that there was little to no lag-time before the team was performing at or close to full potential. And, of course, every other player also moved onto their optimal roles.

"I do think that Dex was a great person and our plan was to move forward with him into Stage 3," explained Lycan, but reiterated that the opportunity to kill three birds with one Yeti was too good to pass up. "I felt bad."

The move worked for Spacestation Gaming. They shot up immediately to third place in the NAL in Stage 3 and will now head to the Jönköping Major to first play in the group stage alongside Team BDS, w7m esports, and FURY.

Their goal is to win, says Lycan, but their challenge will first be to qualify for the playoff -- something easier said than done when alongside a high-flying BDS and a nigh-unbeatable w7m.

Catch Spacestation Gaming on the international stage again at the Jönköping Major, which will take place from Nov. 21 to 27.

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