As in every sport, the level of play in the AUDL intensifies in the playoffs. With a trip to the Eastern Division final on the line, hostile weather conditions were simply ignored at Hotchkiss Field. The rain was unrelenting, a two and a half hour lightning delay started 27 seconds into the game(!), and it was a Friday night after many players endured either work or a 10+ hour drive.
In the end, the DC Breeze outlasted the Montréal Royal 28-16, blowing out the three seed.
With players on both sides playing the most intense ultimate of the entire 2017 AUDL season, every mistake was amplified. The only problem for Montréal, though, was that DC’s mistakes were few and far between.
Just look at the end of the first half: DC was up by four and had only allowed the Royal to score twice in the second quarter. Still there were 5.5 seconds remaining on the clock and the Breeze were not content with a four goal lead. Lloyd Blake (one goal, four assists) picked up the disc about 20 yards from the end zone, trapped on break side.
Alan Kolick (two goals, one assist) went streaking up line on the break-side, left uncontested in the end zone. Blake, a lefty, lofted a corner hammer to the open Kolick who secured it in the strongest rain seen all night. Going into halftime with a 12-7 lead, the Breeze would end up coasting for the remainder of the contest.
The game was delayed for two hours and 40 minutes after the completion of the first point. During the delay the team announced on web and social media that the game would in fact be completed that evening no matter how long it took. Clearly cancellation or even postponement was not an option, as the outcome had to be determined in time for the winner to travel and prepare for a Division Title game Sunday at 1pm in Toronto.
“I think the secret was to not focus during the delay,” Breeze head coach Darryl Stanley said. “This team has been good at turning on the focus and intensity when needed, so we let guys keep loose however they needed.”
Again, considering the conditions, Montreal did not commit many turnovers until the final quarter. However, of the early turnovers that the Royal did commit early, seven of them were going backwards. DC took advantage and converted all of those backwards turns into scores, except for one.
Joe Freund was the leading scorer for DC with a career-high six goals, three of them coming the first quarter.
“I really have to give that one to the other players on offense,” Freund said. “We were all moving the disc very well in those conditions, and were able to work calmly and effectively up the field. The support from my teammates is really what keeps me motivated!”
Defensively, David Boylan-Kolchin had three blocks and scored two break goals for the Breeze.
Despite Quentin Bonnaud scoring five goals and two assists, it was not enough for the Royal. Maxwell Rick added four assists and a goal for Montreal’s offense.
During the final quarter of play, DC capped their home campaign with five breaks while the Royal only scored twice. In total the Breeze converted 12 breaks, with Montréal only scoring one and that was to make it 2-0. The Breeze finished the year 8-0 at home including the playoff victory. The win extended the team’s franchise record home winning streak to 14 games, dating back to May 2016.
— DC Breeze Gameday (@DCBgameday) August 12, 2017
Although the rain was unrelenting even as the game was nearing completion, the crowd gave mother nature a run for its money. Just short of a sell-out, DC had the largest crowd in franchise history with over 800 in attendance. Surprisingly, a good quarter to third of the fans either stayed or returned following the delay, which was longer than a typical entire AUDL game. They witnessed the Breeze win their second straight home playoff game, and were then treated to thank you speeches from the team followed by a downpour of brand new Breeze discs as each player and coach on the team threw a signed disc into the diehard fanbase. It was 11:43pm.
Advancing to the next round of the playoffs, DC will play the Toronto Rush Sunday at 1:00pm. The game will be live streamed at audl.tv/live. The winner will move on to the Final Four Championship Weekend August 26-27 in Montréal, Canada.
This has been edited from the original post