May 15, 2018
By Louis Zatzman
Though a Toronto Rush victory is rarely a shock, beating Montreal with a final score of 21-18 in Montreal is certainly a monkey off of the collective Toronto back. The Rush held on to their lead, despite a late Royal push on Sunday, May 13th.
“It's nice to actually start the year against those guys with a win,” explained coach Sachin Raina. “It's been a couple of years. Last year we lost the first one in Montreal, and then [again] at home. And then the year before, it was the year when we went up to Montreal with a pretty short crew and lost as well.”
Toronto won, as always, with a team effort. It’s easy to know who will be the scoring leaders for some teams in any particular game (*cough*, Seattle, *cough*). When Toronto goes into a game, seemingly any player could lead the team in any statistical category. Assist leaders pop out of post-game box scores as randomly as Bob Dylan’s chosen syllable emphasis.
The three assist leaders in the three previous games have been Adrian Yearwood (3), Andrew Carroll (3), and Ben Burelle (4). Against Montreal, Isaiah Masek-Kelly won the prize, dishing four assists in the winning effort. Ben Burelle continued his hot-streak, which began in his season-opener against San Francisco, by adding six more goals, bringing his season total to a team-high 11. Toronto continued rolling, despite missing key players in Mark Lloyd, Andrew Carroll, Jaret Meron, and Adrian Yearwood.
The missing rotation players meant that Toronto had an opportunity to play several rookies, who all contributed in solid, replicable ways.
“Early in the game [Dan LaFrance] had an opportunity, and he made a great layout bid, and he got a piece of the disc, but not enough, and Montreal was still able to score the goal. We knew it was just a matter of time. For him to get his first goal was big. For Dacquisto to get his first goal was big,” said Raina.
Toronto began the game on a tear, jumping to a 2-0 lead, both on break points. Jason ‘Sparkles’ Huynh caught the team’s first goal, and his first of the season. He provides a massive boost to Toronto with his speedy legs, precise short-range throws, and lightning handler cuts.
“Having him back on our D-Line gives our D-Line another facet,” explained Raina. “A lot of our D-Line handlers are good huckers, when you think about [Jeremy] Norden and Jerry [Meron], for example. Sparkles brings this other facet, where he can really push the tempo. He can really throw and go, especially when teams force us flick, because he's left-handed. He can throw in stride with his pivot step and really make a lot of separation between him and his mark.”
Even as Toronto grew its lead to 6-2, the team always knew that Montreal would fight back. In the second quarter, Montreal’s offence cleaned up its act, throwing far fewer turnovers. As Montreal’s O-Line scored increasingly quickly, the Rush offence played several points with insufficient rest in between points. A handful of Montreal breaks tightened the score to 9-8, still in favour of Toronto.
On the ensuing point, Toronto needed a stabilizer. Though Masek-Kelly threw a turnover, Thomson McKnight came up with a huge block, reclaiming possession. Bretton Tan threw a key goal to Burelle to end the point and push Toronto’s lead back to two. Two more breaks followed – with both assists thrown by Geoff ‘Bomber’ Powell – to right Toronto’s previously listing ship.
Coming out of halftime, Huynh offered some theatrics on a goal, providing a monster, scorpion-style layout for the goal. Though none of the passes for the break point were on-target, it certainly made for some entertaining catches.
“Iain [McKenzie] made a sweet grab, popped up, gave Brett a bad throw who skied for it, and then Brett gave Sparkles a [worse] throw, who laid out for it and made a sweet grab,” laughed Raina.
Though a pair of clean Montreal offensive holds sandwiched an impressive Toronto pull play that saw Masek-Kelly tossing a goal to rookie Ben Oort, both teams soon compiled a series of turnovers. After a Rush drop resulted in a Montreal break, Toronto tried its best to offer Montreal another break, amassing three turnovers in one offensive point. Eventually Marijo Zlatic blocked a Cam Burden throw, before catching a goal, recording bookends while pushing Toronto’s lead to 15-11.
Another short Toronto run would stretch the lead to 18-12, as Nick Dacquisto caught his first goal from Jeff Lindquist. That would be the high point for Toronto, as a series of offensive miscues again allowed Montreal to fight back into the game.
The fourth quarter saw Toronto’s sure-handed offensive stars make uncharacteristic mistakes. Ben Burelle, Cam Harris, and Masek-Kelly all faltered on plays they could ordinarily complete in their sleep. A trio of sequential Montreal scores set up a potentially thrilling finish, with Montreal within two points and only two minutes remaining in the game. Montreal had to be thinking about their recent game in Ottawa, in which a stirring comeback allowed them to win in overtime.
Toronto would allow no such thing. A Toronto D-Line, boosted by Cam Harris, trotted to the line to receive the pull, and they played keep-away for long enough to run out the clock. Huynh and Powell, especially, were able to find themselves open time and again for important, clock-killing, reset passes. The line killed almost two minutes on the clock before Jonathan Martin found Iain MacKenzie in the endzone for a goal. That the score was completely unnecessary – there were only seven seconds remaining on the game clock – wasn’t a concern for the Rush.
“They scored with seven seconds left, just because a guy was open and they had to throw it to him. If they had known how much time was on the clock, they would have just held it. But they were just moving the disc, and they had to score,” laughed Raina. “[Iain] was the only open guy on the field, and he happened to be in the endzone.”
The win pushed the Rush to 4-0 on the season, with their home-opener against Rowan McDonnell and the D.C Breeze waiting next weekend. The Rush will play their first ever game in Monarch Stadium on Saturday, May 19th. Tickets are still available.