By Owen Krucoff
February 6, 2018
On Jan. 25, the AUDL announced a new media deal with Watch Stadium, extending the league’s Game of the Week network broadcasts for at least another two seasons and greatly expanding the reach of these marquee games. This new partnership will mean far more national exposure for the entire league and likely more opportunities for the Breeze as well. The Breeze have appeared in the AUDL Game of the Week six times since its inception in 2014, posting a 3-3 overall record including a 2-2 home record and a 1-1 road clip.
Following is a recap and video link for all six Games of the Week that have featured the Breeze over the past four seasons. What will 2018 bring? Hopefully a couple more appearances, and a couple more wins.
June 28, 2014 at Montreal Royal
After a 4-12 inaugural season in 2013, the Breeze leapt out to a 7-2 start in 2014 and were on the verge of clinching a playoff spot before their trip north to face the Royal. The Breeze already possessed a narrow home win over Montreal from earlier in the campaign, but were now without two of their leading players, Tyler DeGirolamo and Alex Thorne, and new head coach Alex “Dutchy” Ghesquiere.
Nevertheless, the Breeze leapt out to an early 6-2 lead, and extended their advantage with a 4-0 run to start the second quarter, going up 13-6 midway through the period. What had looked like a challenging road test for a shorthanded team had become a successful first half.
The third quarter was much more even and high-scoring than the first two, with eight points for each team leaving the Breeze on top, 22-17 heading into the final 12 minutes. A 5-1 run to start the fourth gave D.C. a nine-point lead that essentially put the game away in what became a 29-20 win.
The Breeze clinched the first playoff berth in team history at the expense of the Royal, who effectively saw their playoff hopes dashed with the loss. D.C. was led by its defensive line, including Brad Scott, who had 4 Ds and 3 goals, and Brett Matzuka, who finished with 6 assists. Both players accumulated a +7 plus-minus rating despite playing far more defensive points than offensive ones.
After the Royal broke to take a 1-0 lead at the start of the game, the Breeze never trailed again en route to their eighth win of the year. After losing at the New York Empire the following day, the Breeze returned home for another showdown with New York in what would be the team’s second Game of the Week appearance.
July 5, 2014 vs New York
Much of the 2014 Breeze season was characterized by the four-game regular season series with the New York Empire. Following the June 28 win in Montreal, it was mostly clear that the high-flying Toronto Rush would win the East Division’s regular season title going away, and that D.C. and New York would duel it out for the right to finish second and avoid traveling to Toronto for the first round of the playoffs.
After the Breeze topped the Empire at home on June 14, New York responded with a 21-13 home victory on June 29, the second leg of D.C.’s road trip that had begun in Montreal. With the Empire holding a far superior point differential entering the game, the Breeze would have to win both remaining games against New York in order to finish second in the East and host a Midwest Division team in the playoffs. The first opportunity was D.C.’s home finale on July 5 at the University of Maryland’s Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, and the AUDL Game of the Week crew had followed the Breeze down to D.C. to broadcast the game.
After an even start that saw New York take a 6-5 lead, the Empire surged to score the next five points in a row, ending up with a 12-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and an 18-13 halftime advantage. The Breeze needed a big third quarter to remain in striking distance. The deficit was lowered to two goals on multiple occasions, but New York scored two straight points to end the quarter up 23-19. The fourth quarter was all New York, as the visitors outscored the Breeze 8-4 to walk away 31-23 winners.
It would go down as D.C.’s worst game of the regular season in terms of points allowed, eventually being topped two weeks later when the Rush dropped 37 on the Breeze in the Toronto playoff matchup that had been confirmed by that result in College Park against the Empire. In their first game back since missing the northern road trip, either DeGirolamo or Thorne led the Breeze in plus-minus, assists, goals and points played.
April 23, 2016 vs Toronto
After not appearing on the Game of the Week at all in 2015, the Breeze returned to the spotlight in their second game of 2016 against the Toronto Rush. D.C. came in with an 0-8 all-time record against the Rush, who had never failed to win the East Division dating back to their inaugural year in 2013. After a huge 2015-16 offseason that saw the Breeze sign several of the area’s top players, the hosts would go on to give Toronto a run for their money in the first ever Game of the Week within the borders of Washington, D.C.
Although the Breeze’s only lead was after the first point of the game, the first half was still tightly contested, with the Rush never going up by more than three and heading into halftime with a 15-12 advantage. Toronto then led by five part way through the third before the Breeze slowly battled back, never retaking the lead but tying the game at 22 on a throw from Tom Doi to Rowan McDonnell with 16 seconds left in regulation. That goal ended a Toronto advantage that had been in place since the score was 2-1.
Following the end of regulation and a 2-2 overtime period in which the Breeze still never retook the lead, the contest proceeded to sudden death double overtime. Placed in the difficult position of pulling on universe point, the D.C. defensive line would need a stop in order to have a chance to win the game. Instead, the Rush offense reached the end zone in just 24 seconds, winning the game on a 15-yard scoober to extend their perfect record against the Breeze.
Alan Kolick led the losing effort in just his second game for the Breeze, racking up 5 assists, 37 completions and 28 catches, all team-highs. The loss also proved to ignite the longest active home winning streak in the AUDL, a 14-game run so far that the team hopes to extend well into 2018.
While this was certainly a gut-wrenching overtime loss for D.C., the toughness put on display by the hosts was a sign of things to come over the remainder of 2016, especially on June 11 when the New York Empire came to town for another AUDL Game of the Week.
June 11, 2016 vs New York
The Breeze and the Empire found themselves in a situation similar to when they had previously met in a Game of the Week in 2014, as both were again chasing the second spot in the East Division behind the Rush. The season series was not tied this time with the Breeze up 2-0 in games, but the previous two matchups had each been decided by a single point in favor of the Breeze, including a sudden death win on May 7 at Hotchkiss Field.
The Breeze entered with good form and plenty of motivation, having finally notched the team’s first ever win over Toronto the week before and with the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot with a triumph over the Empire.
The first half was as tight as the previous two Breeze vs. Empire games had been, with the Breeze never trailing but never leading by more than three. They held a narrow 11-10 advantage at halftime. Both teams then nearly doubled their first half scores in the third quarter alone, with D.C. running out to a 19-14 lead before the visitors worked it back to a 20-18 deficit entering the fourth quarter.
In the tense final period of regulation, the Empire tied the game at 21 before falling behind again and needing a buzzer-beating score to force the game into overtime tied at 24. New York then broke the Breeze’s offensive line on the first point of the extra period to take their first lead of the game. D.C. remained resilient, scoring the next two points to put victory in sight. But the Empire struck back with yet another buzzer beater, this one a cross field hammer, to send the game to sudden death double overtime and guarantee a third straight one-goal game between the two division rivals.
The Empire received the pull and worked their way to what appeared to be the game-winning score as former D.C. resident Sean Keegan caught the disc in the end zone. However, a pick call reversed the goal, and New York turned the disc over shortly after the restart. The Breeze did not waste their chance, winning the game on an Alan Kolick huck to Matt Kerrigan.
The win clinched a playoff spot for the Breeze after missing out on the postseason in 2015, and also put D.C. in the fast lane to second place and a home field advantage in the looming playoff rematch with New York. It also represented the team’s first Game of the Week win in front of its home fans. Kolick once again led the team in assists, plus-minus, completions and catches despite playing predominantly on defensive points.
April 9, 2017 vs Toronto
In the 2017 season opener the Breeze caught the visiting Rush at an opportune time, on a Sunday afternoon with Toronto having just played in New York the previous day and traveling without star player Mark Lloyd. With D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser on hand, the game also made AUDL history as the first game to be broadcast live on a national cable channel as part of the league’s new deal with Eleven Sports Network.
New Breeze head coach Darryl Stanley’s team did not disappoint, taking it to the Rush early by winning the first three points and then steadily increasing the lead for the remainder of the 48 minutes. When the final whistle blew, the Breeze had finished off an emphatic and memorable 32-21 win over the four-time consecutive AUDL East champions..
The loss was Toronto’s first ever in the month of April in their franchise history, and just their second ever at the hands of the Breeze. A standout performance from D.C.’s Tyler Monroe included 7 goals and a +11 plus-minus rating, both team-highs. Jonathan Neeley was a key offensive line contributor as well, leading the Breeze in completions (29) and catches (21).
The win set the stage for the Breeze’s first ever trip south two weeks later, when they made more AUDL history in another Game of the Week.
April 22, 2017 at Raleigh
After four-plus years of taking on the same divisional opponents, the Breeze traveled to North Carolina to face their first ever interdivisional opponent, the powerful Raleigh Flyers. As the first of four games in the AUDL’s new Cross Coast Challenge, the game was also the first interdivisional regular season contest since the league’s inaugural season in 2012.
Whereas the Breeze came in with only one 2017 game in the books, the home win over Toronto, the Flyers were already off to a 3-1 start and were quickly establishing themselves as one of the top teams in the league. It was perhaps this relative freshness that allowed the Breeze to win five of the first six points. Raleigh remained within striking distance from there, but could never completely close the gap in the first half, with the visitors taking a 12-9 lead into the break.
A number of key absences for the Breeze, including Tyler Monroe on offense and Rowan McDonnell on defense, may have been what came back to bite D.C. in the second half. Despite the lead reaching 17-12 at the end of the third quarter, the Flyers roared back to tie the game at 19 and then at 20 to force overtime. After a D.C. hold to start the extra five minutes, Raleigh fought back with three straight points to take their only lead of the game and seal off a 23-21 win. Alan Kolick stood out once again for the Breeze with 7 assists on the night, while the Flyers were led by the passing of Jonathan Nethercutt and David Snoke, who each finished with 3 assists and 25 completions.
Possibly the most notable trend across the Breeze’s six Game of the Week appearances is that half have gone beyond regulation into overtime, likely due to the tendency to select evenly matched games for the weekly showcase. Additionally, two of D.C.’s three all-time playoff appearances were clinched with Game of the Week wins.
All but two of D.C.’s Games of the Week have been against Toronto or New York, while the Breeze still have yet to face two of their division rivals on a national broadcast: the Philadelphia Phoenix and the Ottawa Outlaws. With the new two year Stadium Network media deal now in place, more Games of the Week are set to take place at least through 2019.
Stadium Network is available on Verizon FIOS #820 and many over-the-air television stations across the nation, as well as a large number of free streaming options including watchstadium.com, Twitter Live, Facebook Live, PlutoTV, SlingTV, and apps on iOS, Android, AppleTV, Roku, and more.