Only one team in the East Division won their season series against the DC Breeze during the 2017 campaign. The Montréal Royal bested the Breeze by a one-goal margin after both teams won their home contest. In fact, that one loss in Montréal ended up being the determining factor for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
For the third time this season these two teams will meet, only this time it will be a winner-take-all. As the higher seed, DC earned the right to host the first round game at Hotchkiss Field this Friday night at 7:00 p.m. The victor advances to play the top seeded Toronto Rush two days later, while the loser’s season will come to an end. This is the first time all season that either team will face a true must-win situation. It’s tough to anticipate what to expect when a team has to dig deep from within themselves and deliver, much less when it’s both teams.
All season long, the Royal and the Breeze essentially cruised into the playoffs. During the final stretch of the season, the only match-up that was do-or-die for either team was when Montreal hosted the New York Empire. A 29-20 win by the home team would all but end any chance of the Empire squeaking back into the playoffs. With another victory down the stretch, the Royal had their second post-season berth in their four year history.
Each team had their fair share of close games in 2017 despite the nature of their seasons. Half of the Royal’s games this season (seven) were decided by four points or more. DC had one more with eight. Montreal was 5-2 in those close games, DC was 5-3. Both of the regular season match-ups between these teams were in that category.
As much as the No. 3 seeded Montreal Royal (9-5) hold a slight season series advantage, traveling away from Canada, much less away from Montréal, has been difficult this season. They are 2-2 in the United States this season, and 4-3 overall on the road. Unlike the Breeze, road woes are not due to an insufficient roster as their top three players have been active in every contest this year. Quentin Bonnaud was the team’s top cutter this season with 49 goals and a +77 plus/minus (second highest in the East). In two games against the Breeze, he scored eight goals and threw three assists, including a six goal performance in their home win against DC.
The other two, Stève Bonneau and André Arsenault, are the other pillars on the roster. Bonneau lead the team in assists with 51, the second best in the East, and Arsenault had 20 blocks as the team leader on that front.
Another player who was successful in the two head-to-heads was Mike Voelpel with nine goals for the offensive line. However, he also had three drops during the same two games.
Stylistically the teams are similar. Each has its own offensive system that it runs and tries to best the opponent. On the other side, realizing the importance of a defensive line that can consistently force turnovers and covert them into scores, both teams will be going after it hard when on the other side of the disc.
For the No. 2 seeded DC Breeze (10-4), the effort at home has been a clear point of consistency throughout the season. At Hotchkiss Field, the team is a perfect 7-0 in 2017 and can wrap a perfect year in DC by winning this contest. Taking a look at the 28-man playoff roster, there are no potential holes with all of the top players available for the post-season. The team leader in goals, Max Cassell, had a field day against Montreal in the regular season with five goals, eight assists, and a block. Also successful this season and ready to suit up against his former team tomorrow was Chuck Cantone, who split his time on offense and defense for the Breeze. He had six goals, four assists, and three blocks.
Three starters will be seeing their first action against Montreal this weekend. Alan Kolick, Brian Marshall, and Joe Freund missed both regular season contests against the Royal but are expected to be active for Friday’s game. Both Kolick and Freund should be able to jump right in with no problems and be a huge boost for the offense. Marshall, as one of the top defenders on the East coast thanks to plays like the one below, should work right into the D-line with the success he had the final weeks of the season.
Early breaks could be the determining factor, as was the case in both regular season match-ups. If a squad gains a break or two in each of the first two quarters, a comeback could start to become unlikely. We have yet to see a late game comeback attempt from either team this year.
Do not have tickets yet? Get the early-bird deal (online only) before Friday at 12pm for your chance to see your DC Breeze at home one final time as they push to the AUDL Championship. $12 online, $14 at the gate (kids 12 & under are free). Friday, August 11, 7:00pm ET.
The winner will advance to play the No. 1 seeded Toronto for a quick turnaround game on Sunday. First pull will be at 1:00 pm ET where the Rush will be looking for their fifth straight AUDL East Division title.