The DC Breeze faced a daunting task heading into the weekend: two crunch-time games on a long road trip to Canada. Despite a strong Sunday win to show for the weekend’s efforts, there is still a bit of saltiness for the team as they return home 1-1 instead of 2-0.
On Saturday, the Breeze were squared up against the playoff contending Montréal Royal. A win would come close to locking in the Breeze as at least the number two seed in the East Division. However, Montréal showed that their early season win over the Toronto Rush was no fluke. The Royal pulled ahead in the second quarter and did not relinquish it for the rest of the contest. Unable to mount a late comeback in front of a strong Royal home crowd, the Breeze dropped their fourth game of the season, 27-23.
Both teams were missing a few stars with the World Championships of Beach Ultimate beginning this week in France. It was essentially a battle between the rest of the starters and reserves to see which team had stronger depth. Early on both squads showed weaknesses in their offensive lines, but Montréal was a notch better and cleaned up, converting on 80 percent of their offensive points. DC only managed four breaks against Montréal all evening, which was not enough to get a road victory against a strong team. With the regulars missing, the D-line was going to be the difference in the game, and the Royal clearly outperformed the visitors on that front.
Montréal scored five of the eight points in the second quarter. Two of those five were breaks by the Royal. Offensively, Quentin Bonnaud (six goals, two assists, one block 18/19 throws) and Stève Bonneau (six assists, 39/41) ran the show for Montréal (7-4). No one on the DC D-line was able to break up their consistency. Part of this was due to new players being worked in-and-out of the D-line. Missing three key offensive players, different faces were worked in to fill in the void. The Breeze tried to work in Jonny Malks (one goal, one block, 6/6 throws) early, then quickly moved starting defensive players over after giving up some early breaks. Rotating in Chuck Cantone, Nate Castine, Delrico Johnson, and David Cranston helped the O-line but limited the power of the defensive unit.
Playing primarily on offense, Cantone had a monster performance, enough to earn the player of the game. Cantone scored five goals, threw two assists, and notched two blocks against his former team. With only on turnover (a stall), his plus/minus was a game-high +8.
The Breeze woke up Sunday morning at their hotel near Ottawa reeling from a tough loss and at risk of derailing their season with another setback. Instead, DC pulled out a dominating win against the Ottawa Outlaws Sunday afternoon. A major thunderstorm rolled through about an hour before the game, only temporarily lowering the warm game-time temperature and leaving behind partly cloudy skies but unpredictable gusty winds that wreaked havoc on the disc all afternoon.
Scoring the first three points of the contest, the Breeze adjusted to the difficult conditions better than the Outlaws and never looked back. They pushed the lead to 10 at halftime, 11 after three quarters, and finished with a 28-13 win. DC’s maturity shined through in the wind as the took advantage of the Outlaws’ 52 turnovers. Although DC had 39 of their own, they often got the disc right back.
This game saw a much more balanced outcome for the Breeze. 80 percent of their offensive points were eventually converted, which allowed the O-line regulars to get rest. No offensive player played more than 20 points. Max Cassell scored five goals in the contest but also had four turnovers. In total the team has 290 touches in the game.
Ottawa (2-6) was simply outplayed, and there was only so much Derek Alexander could do. He led all players with eight assists, but he was only 37/47 on his throws in the difficult conditions resulting in only a 79 percent completion mark for the best player on their team.
The split now leaves DC at 8-4, currently second in the Eastern Division. Toronto (8-3) leads following their impressive 33-27 win over the San Francisco Flamethrowers Saturday in the final AUDL Cross-Coast Challenge. Montréal is now 7-4 after Saturday’s victory. The Breeze season series is over with both Toronto and Montréal, and it is important to note that DC owns the tiebreaker over the Rush (2-1 head-to-head record), while Montréal owns the tiebreaker over DC (1-1 head-to-head record with +1 goal differential for the Royal). The Royal and Rush are currently 1-1 head to head with a game left between them, July 8 in Toronto.
Elsewhere in the East, the Philadelphia Phoenix (2-8) are officially eliminated from playoff contention with their 27-14 loss to the New York Empire. Both New York (3-5) and Ottawa (2-6) have slim shots to make the playoffs, with the Breeze owning the tiebreakers over both squads.