It’s only the fifth game of the Breeze season, and it is already time to start looking at rematches. The D.C. Breeze head north of the border this weekend to face the Toronto Rush, a team seeking vengeance after being embarrassed in DC back in April. The Breeze have never won in Toronto. It’s the first of two trips to Canada for the Breeze this year, as they will also visit Montréal and Ottawa June 17-18. Follow the action of tomorrow’s game on Twitter @DCBGameday.
Many storylines remain the same from the April 9 meeting, except the roles of these two teams have essentially reversed. The Breeze (3-1) have yet to lose an intra-division game this season (the only loss was at the hands of the South Division’s Raleigh Flyers), and after their season opening victory over the Rush, the Breeze currently control the playoff hunt. Playing catch up is unfamiliar territory for the Rush (3-2), a team that has essentially controlled the division from by the end of April in all four years of its existence. Although only 1/2 game behind the Breeze in the standings, the Rush are a full game back in the loss column with DC currently owning the head-to-head tiebreaker. A Breeze win tomorrow would not only bring the lead to 1.5 games over the 4-time reigning division champions, but it would result in a 2-game difference in the loss column and guarantee the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage for the Breeze on the season. Although this would not be an insurmountable deficit by any means, it would create a difficult road for the Rush to win the division title for the 5th consecutive time.
On the other hand, if the Rush hold serve in Toronto this weekend, then all bets are off. We could end up with 5 of the division’s 6 teams all with exactly two losses at the end of the weekend! The Breeze will be back in town to host the Montréal Royal May 20 either alone in first place or in the thick if an intense division battle. Either way, strong crowd support and a win at home against the hosts of this year’s Championship Weekend are a must next weekend!
Coming back to the team after missing last weekend to College Regionals is Tyler Monroe. A true breakout performer for the Breeze this year with 14 goals in his 2 games, the team is 2-0 with him in the lineup with a +16 goal advantage. Without him the team is 1-1 with a minus-1 goal differential. Despite missing those two games his 14 goals are good for top goal scorer on the team, and he is also tied for second in assists (9).
Monroe will be unleashed on this Toronto roster once again when these teams face off at Varsity Stadium Saturday. In the first matchup April 9, the 6’1″ cutter scored seven goals and threw four assists. Not only was Monroe’s performance notable in the first chapter of this series, but the entire offensive unit performed well. The team’s 32 points with only 2 breaks were by far their best results of the season to date.
This time, though, Toronto will not be on a back-to-back weekend at the end of a long road trip. Just being at home will be a huge advantage for the Rush, as the Eastern Division games have typically been dominated by the home team. There is also a good chance the Geoff Powell will be playing in this contest. So far this season, he has only suited up for one game. He will be a huge addition to the defensive unit that was shredded in D.C. earlier this season. It is also expected that Mark Lloyd will be back in town and on the active roster — he moved to Winnipeg during the offseason so will not play many games for the Rush this year, but we understand he’s coming in for this one.
The biggest scoring threat on the offensive side of the disc for the Rush is Andrew Carroll. In four contests, he has a team-high 16 goals, has thrown seven assists, and holds a steady plus-minus of +13. Throwing the disc to him and other receivers will be Jeff Lindquist, Adrian Yearwood, and Cameron Harris, who have 11 assists each.
The good news for the Breeze is that they have reinforcements of their own back for the trip to Canada. Markham Shofner as a starting O-line handler will be back for a second straight game. This contest will force him to have a larger role than the one assist, 11/11 performance against New York. Alan Kolick (16 assists, 9 goals, 92 percent passing) and Lloyd Blake (9 assists, 4 goals, 98 percent passing) will need to maintain their high level of productivity, and the trio of handlers together will need to be nearly flawless to get the win against a hungry Toronto team with momentum from a two-win trip to Montréal and Ottawa last weekend. Shofner’s addition does come at a cost, as in-form handler Max Cassell will not be making the trip.
Defensively the team will be without David Cranston due to a minor hamstring injury. Other than this defensive superstar, most of the starting lineup remains intact for this weekend’s game.
The first pull against the four-time defending Eastern Division Champions is at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. A win in this contest will skyrocket the Breeze into legitimate contention for the AUDL’s Final Four. A loss will essentially leave the Breeze on equal footing with Toronto, New York and Montréal for the title as we return home to head into the thick of the season, which isn’t such a bad consolation.