June 14, 2018
By Louis Zatzman
The second match between the Toronto Rush (8-1) and the Ottawa Outlaws (2-7) could not occur in more different circumstances from the first. The May contest saw Toronto host Ottawa on the Sunday after a Saturday massacre of the D.C Breeze. Toronto was tired, yet content and satiated.
This weekend, Toronto is more motivated for a statement win than they have been since the start of 2018. Last weekend, the Rush lost to the Breeze in D.C, stretching their streak of losses in America’s capitol to a whopping three games. By comparison, the Rush have only lost seven regular season games total, including those three.
The Rush can’t beat the Breeze by playing Ottawa, but they sure can relieve some frustrations. Look for the Rush to come out sharp. Toronto is best when hyper-focused, paying attention to every detail on the field.
Last time against Ottawa, Toronto took a quick 7-2 lead. It seemed that they would waltz to an easy win, but the team lost focus. An easy source of blame would be the fact that Toronto and Ottawa players are all friends; most have played together on the same team at some point. Younger Rush players are especially familiar with the Outlaws due to shared time on Canada’s U24 team in Perth, Australia, this past AUDL pre-season. It’s harder to beat up on friends than strangers.
Expect the Rush to harbour no such moral qualms this time around. Coach Sachin Raina noticed that his team lost focus last time against Ottawa. The 7-2 lead evaporated by half, and Ottawa even held a few leads late into the fourth quarter before Toronto pulled ahead. Nothing sharpens a team’s focus like a loss, especially when the players were beginning to believe a perfect season was possible. The Rush have plenty of reasons why they will be better this weekend.
Of course, Andrew Carroll will return on offence, and Bretton Tan will return on defence. They are as important to their respective lines as any other players rostered by the Rush, and the boost from their returns cannot be overstated. Carroll’s return will likely push speedster Jay Boychuk to a fill-in role on both lines, and his fresh legs when joining the offence will punish opponents. Tan’s return to the defence will likely bump athletic rookie Nick Dacquisto back to the second defensive line. Tan will resume his mind-meld handler defender duties alongside Jason Huynh and occasionally Jaret Meron, when Ottawa plays in sets with three handlers.
“If you ever watch [Tan] and [Huynh] play together defensively, they share a brain sometimes. They're just so familiar with each other because they've been playing with each other for years,” raved coach Sachin Raina about their chemistry and switchability.
Rookie Ben Oort will be a gametime decision, as he dislocated his right thumb on a highlight catch in the endzone against D.C. If Oort is unable to go, fellow AUDL rookie Hugh Knapp will likely continue to fill in on the offence. Defensive captain Bomber Powell is another gametime decision; his athleticism and intensity on the D-Line are incredible boosts, as he’s one of Toronto’s best options defending the freakishly athletic Alec Arsenault.
When the Rush beat the Outlaws in May, they were keyed by a variety of contributors. Ben Burelle led the team in assists, with 4. He only attempted 8 passes on the game, but half were thrown to the endzone. Handler Connor Armstrong finished with the most goals for the Rush, at a modest 3. Brothers Derek and Ken Alexander led the Ottawa Outlaws in assists and goals.
The game tips at 6:30 PM Eastern at Toronto’s Monarch Park Stadium. The in-game microphones will, as always, be manned by comedian Al Val and announcer Chris Povey. Their chemistry and performance always match anything the Rush put forward on the field. Tickets are still available.
To help set the stage for the game, defensive captain Nick Boucher helped me by answering a few questions. The transcript below has been lightly edited.
Louis Zatzman: How's the nose? (Editor’s note: Boucher broke his nose last time playing in Toronto.) That must have been a paaaiiiinful drive back to Ottawa.
Nick Boucher: The nose is feeling pretty good now, but it definitely still isn't fully healed. I don't feel like I'm slowed by it anymore. The next few days after were definitely not fun, especially since I had to go three times to get it reset.
Louis: It's basically win out on the season, or miss the playoffs for Ottawa. Going into a game against a team you've never beaten, that must be a difficult situation. How do you stay focused on the present, taking it point by point instead of being stressed out by the big picture?
Nick: We have to focus on the small details and forget about the big picture. We've talked this season how we need to be paying attention to detail at every moment if we want to be successful. Our inability to do that is part of why we are in the situation we are now. We can't be worried about records or opponents. We have to look inward.
Louis: Last game saw an amazing comeback, although Toronto was able to finish strong and win the game. Does that give hope for this upcoming game, or does it give angst that you were so close but couldn't finish the job?
Nick: It definitely gives us hope and confidence. The feeling is that we have yet to play a complete game. Just like last game against Toronto, we've had some strong quarters, and halves, but haven't been able to put it all together. Knowing that we are capable of hanging around with the best definitely gives us some confidence.
Louis: From the last time you matched up with Toronto to now, will Ottawa be making any adjustments? Or are you trusting the gameplan that nearly won it last time?
Nick: We've been continuously making adjustments all season. The nice thing about all these streamed games is that we get to watch film on ourselves. It's so much easier to see our mistakes after the fact, so we spend every week trying to correct where we went wrong the week before, and ensure that we are improving every time we step on the field. Luckily, we are pretty familiar with the personnel on Toronto, just as they are with us. So matchups will likely be the same as usual, with only a few changes depending on gameday rosters.
Ottawa (9 games played)
|Assist Leaders:||Goal Leaders:||Block Leaders:|
Derek Alexander (44)
|Alec Arsenault (31)
Karl Loiseau (26)
Greg Ellis (22)
|Paul Renaud (13)
Nick Boucher (11)
Paul Mensah (11)
Toronto (9 games played)
|Assist Leaders:||Goal Leaders:||Block Leaders:|
|Cam Harris (19)
Andrew Carroll (18)
Ben Burelle (17)
Ben Oort (24)
|Isaiah Masek-Kelly (15)
Cam Harris (12)
The line, per AUDL pick’em: Tor (-4.5) vs. Ott (+4.5)