May 22, 2018
By Louis Zatzman
Toronto could never top its momentous smack-down of D.C in its Sunday game on the following afternoon against Ottawa, but it did just enough to get the victory 21-19. Toronto jumped out to an early lead before Ottawa fought back, gaining the lead before the end of the third quarter. Clutch play allowed the Rush to hold on to the win, moving their record to 6-0 on the season.
Toronto is playing its first games in its new home, Monarch Stadium, but the experience is no less vibrant and thrilling than in past years. Comedian Al Val and announcer Chris Povey share duties on the mic, and they are terrific keeping the crowd engaged and dancing throughout the game. New mascot, Dash – a bird, perhaps a thrush? – and Al in particular have a great shtick. Toronto is thrilled with its weekend, beyond just the two wins. On to the game.
Both teams started with clean offensive holds, as the offences slowly and methodically moved the disc down the field.
The Toronto defence then immediately made an imprint, as rookie Drew Wilson knocked down a too-floaty pop pass meant as a swing between handlers. The next point saw another Ottawa mistake, as former Rush player Greg Ellis threw a backhand into the dirt. Toronto’s defensive offence soon found the endzone, as a Jeremy Norden huck found Iain MacKenzie streaking deep put the team in perfect field position, before Bomber Powell punched in the score to Nick Dacquisto.
“We're trying to move it quickly, take open shots, and the more that we can hit people in stride and move the disc early in the count, that's when we can use our fitness, and all our legs, and all the hard work that we've put in in practice,” said Norden, of the D-Line’s success all weekend long. Norden finished with two assists against Ottawa and nine total during the two-game home stand.
A missed Outlaws huck was converted by Mike MacKenzie, who threw a short flick into the endzone to Jason Huynh to push the score to 5-1. Though it would seem as though the rout was on, Ottawa would clean up its game immensely from this point going forward.
“There's a lot of game left to play, and anything can happen,” explained Ottawa captain Erik Hunter. “You look at the game where Montreal came back on us, I've been part of those comebacks in the past on other teams, and it's just something you kind of have to believe can occur before it will.”
The Outlaws offence finally connected as Alec Arsenault caught a disc past the fully-extended layout from Dan LaFrance, before turning to dish a short goal to Ken Alexander.
The well-rested Toronto offence immediately re-threw the gauntlet back to the defence, scoring in only a few seconds via an Isaiah Masek-Kelly huck to Andrew Carroll, who turned and tossed a simple goal to Ben Oort. Oort would impress a few points later, as he threw a picture-perfect backhand, stepping out to the break side, which floated perfectly in front of Masek-Kelly for a goal.
With time expiring in the quarter, Andy Ouchterlony caught a disc in the pile from Kinley Gee to fix the score at 8-4 coming into the second quarter.
An ugly Rush offensive point, full of cuts to the same space, and cramped spacing, resulted in a turnover while Oort tried to fit a flick into too tight a window in the endzone. The Rush reclaimed the disc but failed to properly run their endzone offence, and coach Sachin Raina furiously called a timeout. Even with a massive lead, Raina demands perfection from his squad. The team responded, with Masek-Kelly flipping a simple pass towards Thomson McKnight for the goal.
“When we were rolling, I was a little hotter on the guys to make sure that we were still working on the things we wanted to,” said Raina, explaining his attention to detail despite the large margin of victory. “We didn't want to start winning by playing poorly.”
A Derek Alexander hammer scored another goal for Ottawa, and a Connor Armstrong turf gave Ottawa another chance for a goal. After a timeout, Alexander found his monster target, Alec Arsenault, with a short scoober for a break goal. The Rush lead was cut 9-6.
A well-needed hold was provided by Ben Burelle, who tossed a little pop pass into the endzone ahead of Armstrong, who beat his defender to the disc. The defence tried to respond in kind, as an Outlaws huck flew too high, and Dacquisto skied over multiple defenders for a highlight catch. However, a turnover allowed Arsenault to fly an OI flick into the endzone for Kinley Gee, who celebrated his goal with a running, leaping, dab dance that fired up the crowd, despite Gee playing for the opposing team.
After a Masek-Kelly drop, the Outlaws scored yet another break, bringing the score to a much-closer 10-8 in favour of Toronto. Raina decided to throw his defence onto the field to play offence. A monster Outlaws pull pinned the Rush in their own endzone, and a turnover only moments later allowed the Outlaws to pull within one point for the first time since the score had been 1-0.
With momentum against the Rush, Carroll couldn’t throw the disc before a stall count, and another Ottawa break – with the goal scored by the athletic Paul Mensah – tied the game. A Rush huck couldn’t find the endzone with time expiring, and halftime was called with a surprising score of 10-10.
The Rush opened the half with a block, but the ensuing defensive offence was stagnant. Throwers failed to pass to open cutters, and eventually Norden overthrew a cutter flying deep. With another chance only a moment later, not even a bid from Dacquisto could bring in the goal. Powell found another opportunity, but he threw a flick into an Ottawa defender in the endzone. Rush rookie, Dan LaFrance, bid with a twisting, flying block to get the Rush yet another chance on the marathon point, which they finally converted. Powell found Mike MacKenzie cutting through the endzone only yards in front of him.
An Outlaws hold tied the game as Ken Alexander threw a laser, cross-field hammer to Karl Loiseau for the goal. Ottawa followed that with a break goal, capitalizing on the continued Rush offensive sluggishness, and giving the Outlaws their first lead of the game 11-10.
Though the following Rush offensive point did turn it over on a Jeff Lindquist huck that flew just out of reach for Burelle, Huynh recorded a block in prime field position for an easy Rush hold. Huynh recorded several on the game and received Toronto’s player of the game award for good measure. After the game, he attributed his play to the nice weather.
The teams traded holds, which included a spectacular Ken Alexander sky over multiple Rush defenders to place the Outlaws lead at 14-13. The Outlaws recorded another break after a simple Rush drop on a swing pass, which was the low point for Toronto. Though this was perhaps the most serious threat yet to their undefeated start, Toronto proved unfazed and would rebound from this point onward.
Ben Burelle found Connor Armstrong for a goal with an OI backhand into horizontal space, and the defence mimicked the offence, scoring a break goal in only moments. The Outlaws floated a centering pass above the handler’s ahead, and Jacky Hau intercepted the pass with perfect field position. The goal was simple from there. Another break goal, thrown from Hau to Powell, finally gave the lead back to the Rush, 16-15. The same D-Line played a third consecutive point, and though they didn’t score a goal, they prevented the Outlaws from scoring to end the third quarter.
Though Huynh admitted that the line was tired, Raina was encouraged by their production. “They were rolling,” he explained. They swung the game for Toronto, who never relinquished their lead in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Carroll started the fourth quarter with an athletic catch on a huck from Masek-Kelly. The teams traded holds before an Outlaws huck flew too far, and Huynh found Norden in the endzone for another Rush break.
Though the following Toronto D-Line had chances, Ottawa’s offence eventually scored. The following Rush offence saw a Masek-Kelly huck fly over Ben Oort’s head, and the ensuing Ottawa break brought the Outlaws within one, down 19-18.
Raina put a D-Line on the field for the next offensive point, and they threw several turnovers near their own endzone. Though a spectacular handblock from Huynh and chasedown block from Powell kept the disc in Toronto’s possession multiple times, they still couldn’t convert. A Derek Alexander huck to Karl Loiseau tied the game at 19.
The back-and-forth continued, as Burelle found Carroll in the short corner for a goal on the next point. The following point saw a huge break point to put Toronto ahead by two, as Jeremy Norden found Masek-Kelly for the goal. Time was running out in the game, and Ottawa needed a goal almost immediately.
Dan LaFrance showed his clutch genes on the final point, recording multiple highlight blocks over surrounding bodies. LaFrance is raw, and a rookie, but insanely athletic. A timeout put the Toronto offence on the field, and they ran out the clock, leaving 1 second remaining in the game before the refs called a stall count, giving the disc to Ottawa. Ken Alexander ended the game on a classy note, tossing the disc into the crowd for a fan, instead of forcing a play into the endzone.
Toronto plays its next game in Waterloo – ostensibly a home game – against the Philadelphia Phoenix. The Phoenix have been the only team to lose by one point to the Rush on their 6-0 rampage to start the season, so it should be a can’t-miss affair.