Somewhere under the rainbow last Saturday night the Breeze found what it took to secure their first playoff win in franchise history, prevailing 24-20 over the talented and determined New York Empire at Gallaudet University in DC.
The skies opened up about 20 minutes before the scheduled 6:30pm start, and those who had gathered for the youth clinic, food, craft beer and live performance by Indie Rock band the Radiographers quickly headed for shelter from the lightning and rain. An hour later the storm cell had passed, the players warmed up in the sunlight, fans came back into the venue in record-breaking numbers, and DC singer Alex Vaughn beautifully performed the national anthem right after DC Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke to the home crowd and accepted a framed #51 jersey from the team.
— DC Breeze (@theDCBreeze) July 16, 2016
Shortly after the opening pull and right about the time a full rainbow materialized directly across the field, former DC area resident Sean Keegan registered the opening goal for the visitors on a gorgeous layout grab, then two points later that bid was answered by a similarly spectacular Tyler Monroe layout goal to even things up at 2-2. The teams continued to trade points with one DC break until the quarter ended 6-6, but from there the Breeze started to take charge.
The Breeze showed patience to start Q2 with a 15-pass drive ending in a David Boylan-Kolchin. David Cranston got the block after the following pull, beginning a 3-point break train for a 4-point Breeze lead, 10-6. The two teams were dead even on the half other than the 4-goal outburst that opened the 2nd quarter. The highlight of that 4-goal run was the incredible Alan Kolick goal from a Rowan McDonnell assist that ended up #5 on the ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 Monday night! Props also to Cranston for the block to get the disc back followed by the hockey assist on the play.
New York started the 3rd quarter on offense, but a Brett Matzuka block kicked off another 3-break run to stretch the lead to 17-10. Yes, it was a game of streaks… Following this latest string of Breeze goals the Empire struck back with an impressive run of their own, going 6-1 over the next 7 points to cut the lead to 2 at 18-16.
It was again the Breeze’s turn. Kolick found Goose Helton in the end zone to close the quarter 19-16, then the Breeze took advantage of an Empire throwaway in the 1st drive of the 4th quarter with a Markham Shofner to Jeff Wodatch goal, 20-16. It was one more point for the Empire followed by a hold and two breaks by the Breeze to run the score to 23-17. Things settled down from there, but New York never challenged again. Chuck Cantone put the icing on the cake in fine fashion with a beautiful Callahan for the final Breeze goal before the game ended 24-20.
Overall the Breeze tallied 8 breaks on the day with 6 of them coming in two streaks of 3 in a row, and those streaks were the difference in the game. The Empire didn’t break the Breeze O-line until the 3rd quarter, but ended up with a 3-break streak of their own and 5 overall.
Helton led the Breeze with 5 goals to Brian Marshall‘s 4, while Shofner and Nicky Spiva paced the team with 5 and 4 assists, respectively. Cranston and Cantone had two blocks each, and Kolick led the team in points played with 28 to Spiva’s 26. As has quickly become tradition here in DC, the MVPs for each team were selected by the players from the other team. They were Markian Kuzmowycz for the Empire and Kolick for the Breeze.
Congrats to the New York Empire on a great season. It was a well fought game and extremely satisfying victory against a team separated from the Breeze by only one point in each of their last three contests. And the record number of amazingly supportive DC fans cheered on the Breeze from the packed stands every minute of the way. Now it’s on to Toronto this weekend to battle the 3-time defending division champs Rush for a chance to win the 2016 East Division Title.
Next Game: DC Breeze at Toronto Rush, Saturday, July 23
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