Here we go again. It’s the D.C. Breeze vs the New York Empire, and this time first place and early control of the East Division is on the line.
Every time these two squads meet it is sure to be a show. New York leads the all-time series 8-6, going 8-5 in regular season games and last year’s playoff loss to the Breeze. The teams met four times last season, with the Breeze winning all four games. Three of the games were decided by a single point and two went into double overtime. The next chapter will be written Saturday night at Hotchkiss Field.
Highlights from one of last season’s DC-NY double OT classics
A win by either the Empire or the Breeze would guarantee no less than a tie for first place depending on the result between the Rush and Royal game Sunday. Clearly the winner will be in the catbird’s seat as the season is nearly a third of the way complete.
Getting back into the action on the O-line this weekend after missing the last two games will be Markham Shofner and Jeff Wodatch. Tyler Monroe, the team’s leading scorer, an early contender for one of the breakout players in the AUDL, and a college senior, will miss the game for his college commitments at the Atlantic Coast D1 Regionals for George Washington University.
This will be a similar lineup that squared off against the Empire last season. Alan Kolick will look to continue his strong start and add to his 14 assists. He also has eight goals and is tied for second on the team in plus/minus with +12. Expect rookie Lloyd Blake to have a huge game before long, as the speedy 6’5″ target is an instant mismatch for many defenders.
The defensive unit looks to reunite, with all the top starters anticipated to play. The lone exception may be David Cranston, who is questionable with a minor hamstring injury.
The New York roster is packed with young superstars, putting them on the verge of becoming one the great teams in the league in the near future. Jeff Babbitt is back on the squad after joining late last season and leads the way with 12 goals, most of them from the D-line. He also has 11 blocks and a staggering +22 plus/minus, which both leads the team. Almost keeping pace with him is AUDL rookie Conor Kline with 11 goals. The former Massachusetts player has emerged as an early O-line threat alongside their primary handler Harper Garvey (10 assists, 108 completions).
Other young stars on the roster include Ben Jagt from Minnesota Grey Duck, but he has yet to play a game this season. The Empire also boast the talents of Chris Kocher (who played for the Breeze in 2014), John Wodatch (younger brother of the Breeze’s Jeff), and the Drost brothers (Ryan and Mike). Former D.C. area player Sean Keegan also has yet to play for the Empire this season, but will be sure to be a fan favorite when he plays in DC again. Jagt, Kocher and Keegan were all left off New York’s roster this week.
Toronto is the only similar opponent so far this season. New York lost to Toronto 22-17 in their first game of the year, while the Breeze took care of business against the Rush on the back end of the same long road trip, 32-21. The two New York wins came in a 21-8 drubbing of the Royal and a 18-13 win over the Philadelphia Phoenix.
More analysis of the upcoming game by the AUDL commentator and writer Evan Lepler:
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: WEEK 6