WASHINGTON D.C. – The weather could not have been more perfect and the play of the home team rivaled the perfection, as the DC Breeze throttled the Toronto Rush in their season opener 32-21 at Hotchkiss Field. It was a day when a big and festive crowd including DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and AUDL Commissioner Steve Gordon came out to see a big performance, and the Breeze certainly did not disappoint.
It was the first league-wide Game of the Week broadcast of the 2017 season, and also the first ever AUDL game to be broadcast nationally on a cable network. And you can see the entire game as it was broadcast, right here:
Behind Tyler Monroe, who had a career, and game, high seven goals, the Breeze offense could not be stopped. In total, the Rush were only able to break the O-line of D.C. twice, with one of the breaks being in the final minutes as the Breeze were already up by double digits. The 6’1” Monroe was consistently streaking deep and always found himself open against a historically solid Toronto defense. Adding four assists and a block, the George Washington University senior had his best game ever as a professional, while the Rush suffered their worst loss in team history.
“This is definitely the best shape I have ever been in coming into a season,” Monroe said. “I have a lot of feelings about how the end of the season felt last year against them in the playoffs, I didn’t really have my best game. I really wanted to come out here have a clear mind and play well, and I was able to do that.”
It was a contest that the Breeze (1-0) controlled from the onset of the game. Alan Kolick (three goals, two assists) Quickly scored the first goal of the game, and that was followed by two breaks by the team’s defensive unit for a 3-0 lead. And the Breeze essentially controlled the game from there.
Scoring for the Breeze really opened up in the second half when Rowan McDonnell (three goals, three assists) took over on the first handful of defensive possessions. As each team was trading holds, the Breeze defense starkly shifted to zone, completely throwing off the Rush’s O-line. On those points, McDonnell made it a priority to get the disc in the end zone after each turn. He would score back-to-back goals and follow it up with an assist during a stretch where the Breeze scored three straight breaks.
“We overloaded how many classic handlers we had and that allowed us to push some guys downfield a little bit more,” head coach Darryl Stanley said. Regarding the defense and his assistant coach he added, “Will [Smolinski] kept mixing things up for us. We never showed the same look more than two times in a row.”
The Breeze broke the scoring open in the 3rd quarter, giving the home team a commanding 21-13 edge.
Toronto (1-1) was coming off a season opening win the day prior, overcoming the New York Empire 22-17. With a limited roster missing Mark Lloyd and Geoff Powell, the Rush were simply overpowered and out of sorts against a loaded Breeze lineup. In total the Rush had 28 turnovers, nearly doubling the Breeze’s tally.
Rush leading goal scorer Andrew Carroll (six goals, one assist, and two blocks) seemed to be the only player D.C. struggled to keep up with on Sunday afternoon. Longtime impact player Cameron Harris attempted to will the team back from their monster deficit with two goals and five assists, but never made a dent. Jeff Lindquist would also toss four assists on the day.
“I’m thankful we’re super deep,” offensive cutter Jeff Wodatch said. “I saw names who have been on the roster for a couple years stepping up, like Tyler Monroe and Max Cassell. They had smaller roles last year and they stepped up, they can play any role out there. We just have a deep seven, eight, nine guys on [offense].”
Cassell finished with four goals and three assists on the O-line, along with the towering Wodatch who had three goals and four assists. Defensively, Chuck Cantone was able to bait numerous Toronto throwers into situations where he could bid past his man. He finished with three blocks on the day and scored two break goals.
In total, only four players on the game day roster did not record a goal or an assist for the Breeze.
This loss was Toronto’s largest in franchise history as they entered their fifth season as a team. In addition, it is only their fifth loss ever in the regular season, their second to the Breeze (the three others were to the Montréal Royal).
D.C’s win puts the team at the top of the division to start the season after bringing in a plethora of talented local players this off-season. However, three of the division’s teams have yet to play.
“It’s a good confidence builder going into the season, but we’re going to have to look a ton past it,” Wodatch said.
**All stats listed in this piece are currently unofficial.**