The Tuesday Toss: Late Season Drama

June 12, 2018
By Evan Lepler

As I write the very first sentence of this Tuesday Toss, I’m already worried that the column will be too long. And for me, your verbose, long-form ultimate scribe, to be fretting about that this early, it’s troubling.

I have strived to embrace brevity more regularly this season—if you haven’t noticed, the 2018 Toss has been closer to 5,000 words than 7,500 each week—but sometimes there are just so many stories to be told.

 

Photo by Rob Gilmor

 

That’s the case with Week 11, which, despite only eight games on the schedule, featured an abundance of extraordinary drama with countless meaningful subplots. Four of the contests were one-goal games, another was decided by two, and a pair—both of which were tied in the fourth quarter—were eventually settled by three.

We witnessed overtime twice in the East, with the league’s last remaining undefeated team going down. We watched the Madison Radicals wobble dangerously toward a winless weekend, only to emerge unscathed in their two challenging tests. In the South, the status quo continued even though gaps between regional rivals have significantly narrowed. And out West, after many of us on the east coast had gone to bed on Saturday night, an 18-11 score late in the third was suddenly 21-20 in the final seconds of the fourth.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the Week 11 slate, starting with the dramatic showdown in DC.

The Full-Field Layout

At the outset on Saturday, the Toronto Rush looked the part of the 8-0 juggernaut. Only 97 seconds had ticked off the clock and Toronto had already registered two breaks. By halftime, the Rush, even without a bunch of their superstars in uniform, had extended the lead to four.

But the DC Breeze would battle back as they gradually found their identity and rhythm, a couple things that they have spent much of the season searching for. On this day, the DC roster had shifted its personnel to put standout Rowan McDonnell in the offensive backfield, moving Lloyd Blake into the O-line cutting core and putting handler Xavier Maxstadt on the D-line to hopefully anchor a string of breaks. The changing of roles was influenced by a variety of factors, from injuries to absences to specific game-planning for certain matchups.

“The Toronto game was a microcosm of [our full-season] development,” shared Breeze cutter Matt Kerrigan. “In the first half, I felt like the team was a bit timid, missing that edge to finish some 50/50 plays. But in the second half, we started to play with the confidence that we belonged in the game.”

By the end of the third quarter, the Breeze had crawled back within one at 19-18. Toronto held to start the fourth in just 45 seconds, and DC responded 33 seconds later to make it 20-19, setting the stage for the Breeze to make their move.

While the first two points of the fourth had required just 78 seconds, the next two would need 470, or nearly eight minutes. Amazingly, both of these multi-turnover, timeout-littered battles ended the exact same way, with McDonnell connecting with Jeff Wodatch for Breeze breaks, giving DC a 21-20 advantage—their first least of the game—with 2:52 remaining.

Toronto used just 10 throws on the ensuing point to even things at 21 with 2:18 left, and the Breeze followed that with a 22-throw hold for their 22nd goal of the game, retaking a one-goal lead with 1:03 left as McDonnell hit Blake. Then, with just three seconds remaining, Ben Burelle found Nathan Hirst near the goal line, and Hirst acrobatically landed one foot in the end zone to give the Rush their equalizer, tying the game at 22 and sending it to overtime.

The excitement continued into the extra session, as DC delivered back-to-back breaks to begin the five-minute period, only to see Toronto score twice in a 36 second span to again tie the score at 24 with 1:40 left.

2018 Game of the Week Archive

With the game on the line, Breeze Coach Darryl Stanley called Christian Boxley and Joe Richards, both of whom had primarily played D throughout the game, onto the field for the pivotal O-point at 24-all, and on the 15th throw of the sequence, Richards elevated for a skying score, hauling in Nathan Prior’s flick to give the Breeze a 25-24 edge with 38 seconds left.

Toronto had plenty of time to get a decent look, but the DC defense made it difficult. Isaiah Masek-Kelly caught a swing with five seconds left, standing 16 yards away from the front of the end zone. With three seconds remaining, he released a backhand around the contested mark of Richards, seeking teammate Jay Boychuk who was cutting diagonally toward the front pylon. Defensively, Ryan Swift was chasing.

“During that last point, I actually matched up against someone that I hadn’t covered the entire game, so I didn’t know their tendencies when cutting,” Swift explained. “You can see me be a step behind on the last strike cut, but luckily I was able to catch up enough. When I saw Masek-Kelly get the disc, I knew there was only about four seconds left on the clock so he had to make a quick decision. I knew that I could bite on the strike cut because I didn’t think there was going to be enough time for my man to double back and get the inside break. Lucky for us, Joe Richards has a long reach and put a flick/away mark on quickly to cause Masek-Kelly to have to throw a break that popped up. I knew I had the D when it popped up and was behind his target, but I don’t think I would have had it if I he had put it more to the corner of the end zone. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

 

via Gfycat

 

In an instant, Swift’s deflection finished the game, ended Toronto’s quest for a perfect season, and commenced a raucous celebration on the Breeze sideline. Swift, known amongst his teammates for his calm, quiet demeanor, was as fired up as anybody.

“That’s also a very unique situation since most of the ultimate I’ve played you can’t win on a D,” remarked Swift. “That’s the most excited I’ve been on the field in a long time. You can see it too because I don’t really show that much emotion during a game, but I got up and was pumped I got a D, since I haven’t had many this season, so I started yelling and celebrating with my teammates. Having the entire team mob you after a play like that is just so much fun.”

If Swift had not gotten the D and the Rush had tied the game at the buzzer, the Breeze would have received the disc for universe point in double OT, but the sensational leaping block capped the emotional roller coaster and moved DC to 5-4-1, above .500 for the first time all season.

“Ryan Swift, who has been developing over the last season and this year into one of the best players in the division, took another step with the game-winning block,” commented McDonnell. “Getting real blocks in big spots is what separates elite defenders from great defenders. Happy to see him making that jump.”

McDonnell was the statistical superstar for the Breeze once again, though he functioned much more as the key distributor compared to his usual role as primary cutter. He finished with eight assists, two goals, and a team-high 72 completions with only two throwaways in his return from a tweaked hamstring two weeks prior.

It felt healthy all night,” McDonnell said about his hamstring, “and I never felt it threaten to pull again.”

Toronto, on the other hand, dealt with the injury bug throughout the night, forcing the Rush to also re-shuffle their lines. Dynamic defender Bretton Tan was under the weather and deactivated from the active 20 shortly before the game, while Ben Oort, the team’s leading scorer on the season, dislocated his thumb while snagging a layout score in the opening quarter and did not return.

Toronto received a huge boost from Hugh Knapp, who shined in his Rush debut, and Masek-Kelly helped to stabilize the O-line when Cam Harris uncharacteristically struggled with his throwing accuracy, but the Rush were still left frustrated by the result, one they felt they let slip away.

“At the end of it all, I think the game came down to a couple fundamental execution errors on our part, and when you’re shorthanded, after a long trip, in front of an intense crowd, being able to execute your fundamentals is what will get you through it,” explained Rush Coach Sachin Raina. “I have no problem with defenses earning Ds on us, but unforced errors are tough to overcome, and unfortunately we just made one or two too many.”

At 8-1, Toronto does have the luxury of four straight games at home over the next four weeks, including a rematch with DC on June 23. First, though, the Rush host a pair this weekend, welcoming Ottawa on Saturday and New York on Sunday.

“While the game didn’t go our way, it gave us the motivation to keep pushing the rest of the way,” said Rush Captain Thomson McKnight. “We have such a deep team and have so many good players that weren’t even on the roster this weekend. We know if we keep putting in the effort at the gym and practice that we will be right where we want and expect to be.”

*****

Coming off their worst loss in franchise history, a not-as-close-as-the-final-score-indicated 24-16 drubbing against the Raleigh Flyers on Memorial Day Weekend, the Madison Radicals realized that June 8 and 9 would go long way into defining their regular season. With a Friday night home game against Minnesota and a Saturday night trip to Chicago, the Radicals were staring at a pair of tough tests.

On Friday versus the Minnesota Wind Chill, neither team’s offense was all that crisp or consistent, and a wild back-and-forth battle of runs ensued. The scoring unfolded with a bevy of breaks, as Minnesota led 2-0 and then Madison jumped ahead 4-2. After the Wind Chill tied it at four, the Radicals scored three straight to surge ahead 7-4, only to immediately surrender the advantage, and the game was even again at seven.

“Generally, I would say that it is the kind of game that we expected to be in,” said Minnesota’s Colin Berry, who led the Wind Chill D-line with four blocks. “We have experience playing them and one thing that is consistent is that they can score in bunches. Good teams can do that, and part of being a good team is stringing together runs of your own and staying resilient throughout the whole game.”

After the game featured eight breaks in the first 14 points, the offenses stabilized with 11 consecutive holds in the second and third quarters. The Madison offense was buoyed when Coach Tim DeByl pulled the trigger to shift Peter Graffy onto the Radicals’ O-line at halftime.

“Peter just brings a new energy,” said DeByl. “I think we’ve been doing the same thing for so long that he sort of shocked the offense into a new gear.”

But even with Graffy helping the O find its rhythm, the Radicals still fell behind by two heading into the fourth quarter, as Berry skied for a buzzer beater to give the Wind Chill a 16-14 lead at the end of the third.  

“The Wind Chill were definitely in control for the most part, but you could tell that by the fourth quarter their O-line was gassed,” said Graffy, who would finish Friday’s game with three goals and five assists. “They didn’t work for unders anymore, so everyone could smell blood in the water.”

The Radicals dominated a topsy-turvy fourth quarter, outscoring the worn out Wind Chill 6-1 in the pivotal stretch. Numerous times, Minnesota would work it down the field, only to cough it up near the goal-line, and afterwards, the Wind Chill admitted that fatigue was a critical factor.

“By the fourth, I think our O-line was cashed,” acknowledged Wind Chill Coach Erin Mirocha. “Madison put on a brackety poach to slow the game down and ramped up their physicality. It was good time management on their part, and unfortunately we couldn’t be efficient anymore so we just ran out of time to answer their run with one of our own. Some of their defenders had really strong performances, and we missed some goals by a few inches. In a game of inches and legs, we were just off by a little.”

While the Wind Chill’s weekend was over, the Radicals had to hit the road on Saturday to battle the Chicago Wildfire. Much like their last meeting with the Wildfire on May 19, the Radicals trailed by a small margin after one. But unlike that previous matchup, the massive string of breaks to blow it open never materialized, as Chicago led 13-12 at the half and stretched the lead to 17-14 midway through the third.

“While both teams’ defenses maintained pressure throughout the game, I think the underlying story was about offensive execution,” said Wildfire Coach Adrian King. “In the first half, our O was stingy with the disc and Madison coughed it up a few times. During the second half, we lost focus in a few points and allowed Madison to go ahead. Madison will occasionally lose a quarter, but they are consistent enough to make adjustments and stay within striking distance of a win. That’s basically what they did.”

By the end of the third, the Radicals had evened the score at 18, and when they held on offense to start the fourth, their 19-18 edge was their first lead since 1-0 in the opening minute of the game. Chicago broke Madison midway through the final quarter to retake a 21-20 advantage, but the Radicals responded with a break of their own to surge in front 22-21 with about two and half minutes remaining. As they lined up for the next point, no one would have imagined that it would be the final one of the game.

“I think there were four fouls, two ref huddles, three timeouts, four or five turnovers, all in one point,” said Madison’s Kevin Pettit-Scantling. “In the end, it came down to a seven second play by Chicago that Peter ate up.”

While Graffy’s presence on offense may have been the biggest story of the weekend for the Radicals, his block at the buzzer ensured a 2-0 weekend for his team.

“Chicago called a timeout with eight seconds left on the clock and the disc about 25 yards out,” remembered Graffy. “We sent out the zone to run it out with the intention of making their first pass go backwards and the second pass go laterally instead of upfield. It worked. They dumped the disc back and then swung it over to Ross [Barker], my right-hand side of the field with about two seconds left. He let off a rising backhand that went between our wing and middle and I was the only one who could make a play on it, so I went up and attacked it with two hands, making sure to catch it. It was definitely a mixture of relief and celebration afterward, but definitely more celebration. It’s not very often anymore that people put up floaty things to me while I’m deep in the zone, so I had to take advantage of the opportunity while I had it.”

Graffy finished the two-game weekend with nine goals, 10 assists, and two blocks, bolstering the Radicals’ O-line significantly. Interestingly, DeByl felt the D-line also benefitted from realizing that it could be effective without needing Graffy to be the focal point of the attack.

“I think we figured out that we can score without Peter on D; that is a game-changer,” said DeByl. “Victor [Luo] played really well on the D-line O, and we’re hoping he can keep that up. Also, Adam Drews is back this week for the rest of the way."

Adam Drews, who has helped anchor the Radicals D-line in the past, has been unavailable throughout the 2018 season thus far. But with 52 career assists while mostly playing defense since 2014, Drews should be give the Radicals a boost and enable Graffy to have even more reps with the offense.

“When Tim moved me over to the O-line, it was with the caveat that I basically had the keys to the car,” said Graffy. “Every time we stepped on the line for O, I was called as one of the primary cutters and the O-line expected me to take charge, so I did just that. They would clear sides of the field for me and just let me work as much as I wanted, which was awesome. It reminded me of my [college] days playing O for Luther. I love the responsibility of O-line and honestly my dream role on a team is what I did this weekend—O-line but pulled over to D-line for important breaks. I’m cautious about dominating playing time or disc time on O as well, but it was what the team needed in those two games and it was what the coaches asked me to do.”

At 8-1, the Radicals have two more games on tap this coming weekend, with trips to Pittsburgh and Indy scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. After that, Madison will enjoy its final three games of the season at home, where they haven’t lost to a divisional opponent May 12, 2013. They hope to be able to play from ahead more frequently, but they did build confidence by escaping with two wins despite trailing for the majority of the time.

“We showed ourselves that we can play from behind and be consistent,” said Pettit-Scantling. “Sometimes all you need to do is play your game wait for the other team to not play theirs. We waited for opportunities in both games, and when time came, capitalized.”

*****

Poor Austin.

The Austin Sol have knocked off the Los Angeles Aviators and Raleigh, beaten Atlanta twice, and at full-strength look like a team that can compete with anyone at Championship Weekend. Unfortunately, a pair of road losses to Nashville along with their inability to surpass the Dallas Roughnecks has Austin’s playoff position suddenly looking even more precarious.

The Sol, who have gone 16-12 against everyone else since 2016, dropped to 0-11 all-time against the Roughnecks after letting a slim fourth quarter lead slip away on Saturday night in Austin. For much of the evening, however, it felt like maybe the Sol had finally cracked the Roughnecks’ code.

“They came out with fire and drive and took it to us in the first quarter,” remarked Dallas’ Jay Froude.

Austin did fall behind 2-0, but then soared on an 8-3 run to lead 8-5 after one. Dallas evened the score at 11-all by halftime, but the Roughnecks fell behind again in the third, and the Sol clung to a 14-13 advantage into the fourth.

Over the final 12 minutes, the team that has won 88 percent of its games since its inception made the big plays when it counted most. And Austin, who had numerous chances to tie the game late, once again fell short against the one opponent they would most like to beat.

“Neither team had their best game,” said Austin’s Jeff Loskorn. “The game is won and lost on the margins, and we made too many mistakes.”

Aside from benefitting from Sol miscues, the Roughnecks, as a team has to do to beat another strong foe 11 times in a row, also took advantage of some fortunate breaks.

“I will say we had some luck on our side,” remarked Froude, who led Dallas with a +7, including four goals, one assist, and two Ds. “Multiple tipped discs went our way, and Austin’s frustration was apparent; they were playing good defense. We did have some guys missing, but the beauty of this team is that we have depth. Connor Olson and Henry Furuta filled in nicely with our O-line and it was good to have Steven Borik back as a handler defender. The younger guys always give it their all when on the field. It’s awesome to have that type of passion on your side.”

As the Roughnecks rose to 8-1, the Sol dropped to 5-6, a game behind 5-4 Atlanta, who moved into third place in the South after winning in Nashville. Dallas, meanwhile, is hopeful to hold off 7-3 Raleigh for the top spot in the division down the stretch.

“The South has been a little jumbled this year and teams are pushing for playoffs, hoping for upsets,” commented Froude. “We have to take care of business to secure our spot, and that’s what we plan to do.”

The Outside-In

Before this weekend, Ethan Fortin had played in 14 AUDL games and thrown five assists. Against the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds on Saturday, Fortin matched that career assist total with five dimes in Philly’s 30-21 victory. He also led the Phoenix by completing all 50 of his throws. None of his teammates were surprised.

“Ethan played a good game, though I have to say that is not unusual for him,” commented Philly’s Mike Arcata, who added five goals and five assists himself to the Phoenix’s cause. “Although he logged more stats this past week, he is always a consistent piece of our offense. Handling against New York, I think he had six or seven possession-saving layouts in the backfield, but that’s just not something that shows up on a stat sheet.”

An ACL injury halted Fortin’s disc dominance for a time in college, but most everyone agrees that he has rediscovered his pre-injury form. On Saturday, with the Phoenix missing a couple key players, Fortin took charge more frequently, creating the opportunity for the 22-year-old Villanova grad to step into the spotlight.

“I think he just asserted himself a little more and took more shots than normal,” added Arcata. “We were missing Ethan Peck and Scott Xu this weekend and they are staple offensive shooters for us, so I think Ethan shifted his game a bit to make up that gap.”

The Thunderbirds hung tough with Philly for most of the first half, only trailing 10-9 late in the second quarter. But the Phoenix closed the half on a 3-0 spurt, erupted for 10 goals in the third, and stretched the lead as large as 10 in the fourth. After losing four consecutive games, the Phoenix have now won two straight to improve to 4-5-1. Idle this coming weekend, they will host Montreal on June 24 before trips to DC and New York the following two weeks. They’ll close the season with another home game against the Empire, the make-up date for the contest that was previously postponed due to inclement weather.

“We have the opportunity to knock Montreal down a peg, and because of how our tie game from Week 5 against DC is shaping us, a win in DC would give us the standings tiebreaker as well as dropping a close competitor in the standings,” assessed Arcata. “Our entire roster knows how important these contests are, and we’ll be laser focused on winning each matchup.”

The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)

Ed. note: Evan wanted to put a tweet here about a lame picture sunset or something. But there's some much, much more interesting news in the ultimate world this week. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

 

 

Traveling Tales

Have you ever had a day where you took three different cars to the gas station before 11:00 AM? Well, that was part of the tale this past Sunday.

If you know anything about me, you may be aware that I am a night owl, much more inclined to stay up well past midnight rather than rise at the crack of dawn. Consequently, I very much dislike obscenely early flights.

But this past weekend, I was compelled to return home for a family event on Sunday afternoon, and my DC departure was set for 7:00 AM. When the alarm went off at 5:00 AM, it felt very much like the middle of the night.

I filled up the rental car around 5:40, and by 6:40 I was boarding my flight when my phone buzzed. Though my trip from DC to Charlotte was on schedule, the connecting flight to Greensboro had abruptly been cancelled.

Waiting six hours for another 19-minute flight was highly unappealing, so I quickly booked another car rental, which I would drive the 95 minutes from Charlotte to Greensboro, where my car had been parked since Friday morning. By 9:00 AM, I was on the North Carolina road—listening to Sol’d Out—cruising from one airport to another.

Of course, the fuel meter dipped to about three-quarters, so rather than get charged $19.95 a gallon (or whatever), I spent seven bucks to fill it up, dropped it off at the airport less than two hours after renting it, and finally was back in my car and on track to get home by 11.

But, as you may have inferred already, the tank in my Toyota was also low, and before I made it all the way home, I was back at the gas station again. I was a tad perturbed that my credit card didn’t send a “fraud alert” text under the ‘who in their right mind goes to three different gas stations in three different towns before 11:00 AM on a Sunday?’ clause.

In the end, I made it home in time for an enjoyable afternoon full of family and friends, certainly worth the hassle and the 5:00 AM alarm. To quote the old MasterCard commercials, the surprise car rental cost $96.45, the three trips to the gas station ran $5.77, $7.97, and $28.27, and the rare Sunday at home was priceless.

Seven On The Line

  1. The San Jose Spiders earned a crucial victory and potential tiebreaker edge by surviving the San Diego Growlers' fourth quarter rally on Saturday night.

    After leading 18-11 late in the third, the Spiders’ offense was broken five times down the stretch as the Growlers transformed the potential rout into an exciting finish. “Yea, it got a little close there,” commented San Jose Coach Tyler Grant. “We were up by seven, got broken, and then failed to score the last point of the [third] quarter. After that, we ended up making a simple mistake on a number of offensive points that ended up costing us breaks. We had the disc at 21-19 with our D-line, but after a timeout our offense ended up getting handblocked and scored on with 16 seconds left. When San Diego pulled, they tried to drop the disc on their end zone line with the intent to set up a double team. Thanks to a nice bail-out hammer by Justin [Norden], we escaped the double team and ran out the clock for a 21-20 victory.” San Diego was left to regret its disastrous third quarter, which largely cost the Growlers the game. “We gave up five breaks coming out of halftime,” said San Diego Coach Kevin Stuart, wistfully. “The tough thing was, we were doing everything good on offense up to a point where someone would make a poor decision and there was a turnover. To San Jose’s credit, they made us pay for each turnover.” The result lifted the Spiders to 5-5 and back into second-place in the West, a half-game better than 4-5 San Francisco (who was idle this past weekend) and a game up on 4-6 San Diego. “Our tiebreaker over San Diego could be huge,” said Grant. “There are a number of fun possibilities to think about, but we can at least control our fate…I do enjoy looking at the various win-loss combinations, but I also have to remind myself to focus on what we can control. Too mush speculation just isn’t worth it.” As far as Stuart is concerned, the Growlers are still alive, but have absolutely no margin for further error. “I feel we have to win our last four to have a shot at the playoffs,” he said. “It’ll be tough if we play like we did on Saturday, but if we put together a complete game and play as a team, I still like our chances.”
  2. Prior to the opening pull in San Jose on Saturday night, the national anthem was performed by injured Spider Gabe Hernandez, the recently anointed 2018 Callahan Award winner, who sang a melodious rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” for the fans at Foothill College. He’s not the first AUDL player to deliver the anthem before a game. Minnesota’s Colin Berry usually regales the Wind Chill fans with his vocal stylings before every game in the Twin Cities, while LA’s Michael Kiyoi played the anthem on his saxophone at least once last season. It’s always fun when players showcase their talent in other ways in front of the fans, and these guys deserve kudos for their musical abilities.
  3. While I would by no means claim to match Hernandez, Berry, or Kiyoi in melodic acumen, I can identify with their multi-tasking gamedays. Back during my high school days, I often was tasked with performing the anthem at the varsity basketball games, which I would then broadcast on local television. During my seven years working in minor league baseball, I usually would deliver the anthem on the field once a season before focusing on my nightly nine innings on the radio. Though I haven’t yet subjected an AUDL crowd to my anthem yet—let’s be honest, the frisbee world already hears more than enough of my voice—perhaps I will get an opportunity at some point down the road. For the record, I am not begging for the chance to sing; but if a team needs someone in a pinch, I’ll always be ready to go.
  4. If the Atlanta Hustle and Montreal Royal can advance to the postseason in their respective divisions, their clutch playmaking late in tight games will be the primary reason why. The Hustle are now 5-2 in games decided by three or less (and 5-4 overall) after surpassing Nashville 24-21 underneath that majestic Music City sky on Saturday evening. It was a rare game where Atlanta never trailed the entire way but also never led by more than three. “Somewhere in the second or third quarter, the weather looked like it would take a turn for the worse and the wind definitely picked up for a bit,” said Hustle Captain Matt Smith, who registered two goals, two assists, and two Ds in the game. “If you watch the film, you’ll see several sloppy turnovers than can likely be attributed to the conditions. It was still close fairly late in the fourth, but we were able to put it away with a couple timely breaks. Running a zone can also be very effective for running out the clock, and we were able to take off over a minute on some of their possessions late in the game when they were trying to get back in it.” Parker Bray led the Hustle offense with five assists, while JP Burns paced the scoring with four goals. “A win against Nashville is definitely much more meaningful than it has been in years past,” added Smith. “They’ve shown consistent improvement every year and it’s just unfortunate for their win-loss record that the South is a pretty difficult division. It’s actually very cool to see them improving and getting wins over Austin and Tampa, not only because it helps the Hustle’s playoff chances, but because it makes our whole division that much more competitive.”
  5. Meanwhile, the Royal are now 4-0 in games decided by one or two goals after winning their second overtime battle in Ottawa this season.

    Just like last time, the Outlaws possessed a multi-goal lead in the fourth quarter, but the Royal’s 3-0 run gave them a 24-23 lead. On the final point of regulation, Ottawa’s Derek Alexander, who led the way with seven assists, snuck downfield for his only goal of the game to tie it at 24. In the closing seconds of regulation, Cam Burden launched a 50-yard hammer to try and win the game, but it landed incomplete after Antoine Genest missed a chance to haul it in. Overtime began similarly to the previous meeting, as the Outlaws again broke the Royal to start the session, but Montreal again rallied and took the lead at 27-26 when Yoland Cabot found André Arsenault to cap a lengthy four-turnover point. The Royal lead held when Mike Voelpel smacked down Alec Arsenault’s 40-yard hammer. The plastic hit the turf with three seconds left, and time expired as the Royal celebrated another heartstopping win. “I’m really proud of who we are as a team,” said Montreal Captain Kevin Quinlan, who led the Royal with four goals and six assists. “Last week against Toronto, our offense was miserable, and this week the defense took a while to find breaks. It was nice to give it back to our defense and be able to hold until they figured it out. It was a huge stepping stone for us to win with pressure like that.” The Outlaws dipped to 2-7, losing their third straight by tight game since hammering Philly by 12 on May 27. Where the Royal are 4-0 in games decided by two or less, the Outlaws have gone 0-4.
  6. Who’s gonna lead the AUDL in goals this season? It’s impossible to predict right now, as the top six scorers all are sitting within two goals of each other. Indy’s Cameron Brock, despite only scoring once in his last game and being idle this past weekend, remains in pole position with 37, but his teammate Rick Gross and LA’s Sean McDougall are close behind with 36. San Francisco’s Lior Givol, Austin’s Kyle Henke, and DC’s Rowan McDonnell each have 35. Beyond that, only four other players have 30 goals through the end of Week 11. Philly’s Sean Mott has 33, Ottawa’s Alec Arsenault has 31, and Raleigh’s Jacob Fairfax and San Diego’s Sean Ham both have 30. Four other players, including two Flyers—Jack Williams and Mischa Freystaetter—are sitting at 29. Last year, the Cannons’ speedy cutter Jordan Huston led the league with 80 goals; currently, Huston has 24.
  7. Through 103 games across the league, there have been 25 games decided by one, 12 decided by two, and 14 decided by three. In fact, more than two-thirds of the games in 2018 have been decided by five or fewer, with 71 of the 103 games fulfilling this distinction.

The Hammer

There are five weeks and 58 games remaining in the 2018 regular season. Every team has at least four games left except for Austin, who sits at 5-6 with only three to play. The New York Empire are the outlier in the other direction, with a 4-2 record and eight games scheduled for the next five weekends, including three doubleheaders.

The Empire are in a fascinating situation, for they could get hot and win the East or they could fizzle and fall out of the playoff picture entirely. After this coming weekend, when they will play at Montreal on Saturday and at Toronto on Sunday, they could emerge on the cusp of first place at 6-2 after a couple marquee victories or they could plausibly dip to 4-4 and into fourth place. The Empire are one of five teams that will face a pair of road tests this weekend, along with Detroit, Seattle, Dallas, and Madison.

Over the course of the first 11 weeks, AUDL teams have gone just 7-13 (.350) in the second game of a two-game road trip within a single weekend. Otherwise, road teams have gone 39-43-1 (.476), a considerably better winning percentage, though the comparative sample size is small.

As you consider how the next five weeks will unfold, it’s wise to note which teams still have two-game treks on tap:
Week 12 (this weekend): Dallas, Detroit, Madison, New York, and Seattle
Week 13: DC, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Nashville
Week 14: New York and San Francisco
Week 15: Tampa Bay
Week 16: Minnesota, Nashville, New York, and Seattle

Having six straight road games to finish their season should doom Nashville’s remote playoff hopes, while the Cascades have separate Bay Area and SoCal doubleheaders remaining as they try to play spoiler in the West. Beyond that, no team in the league has a schedule that’s anywhere near as hectic or daunting as the Empire, a journey that starts this weekend in Canada.

May the late-game drama continue on Saturday in Montreal.

Thanks for reading, and talk to you from Quebec!

 

The Tuesday Toss is published weekly on theAUDL.com during the season. Got a comment or question about the AUDL or the current state of ultimate? E-mail Evan Lepler at AUDLMailbag@gmail.com. Feedback can also be levied on twitter: @EvanLepler