Thursday, July 3, 2014

Conference Championship Recap

This weekend's Conference Championships showcased two dramatic ultimate games. Both were two of the closest games in the MLU all season, which is exactly what you would want when it came to the Conference Championships.  Starting off, the Eastern Conference Championship presented the biggest rivalry in the league thus far in the first two seasons between the DC Current and the Boston Whitecaps. It was another classic game between these two teams I hope we can get accustomed to, that was back and forth before eventually the DC Current came from behind to take the lead and eventually the game. Alan Kolick solidified himself as the clear favorite for East MVP with an incredible six assists, a goal,  as well as two game changing Ds. Once the time ran out on Boston's season, all the focus was turned toward the West Coast where the redemption story, Portland Stags hosted the Vancouver Nighthawks in both teams first ever playoff game. The fifteen minute break between the action was not enough to slow your heart rate down and prepare you for what this game would bring. It was a game of runs by both teams in the first half before transitioning into a back-and-forth match-up with Vancouver scoring the final point. Gritting it out for his team, defensive superstar Morgan Hibbert played an astounding 20 of the game's 27 total points, making his presence known on the field that would eventually surge the team into the MLU Championship.

Star Performer: Brandon Malecek: 6P, 3G, 3A, 36/39 Throws, 0Ds, +5 Point Dif
 Star Performer: Alan Kolick: 7P, 1G, 6A, 37/39 Throws, 2Ds, +6 Point Dif

My Pick: DC over Boston 22-20

I myself witnessed this game at the "Dojo" and it was one of the most jaw-dropping ultimate games I have been a part of. Although the game got off to a shaky start for both teams, DC found themselves on top 4-2 near the end of the first. However the momentum quickly swayed in Boston's favor as they scored four points in a row and looked like they would control the game from there on out. Trailing 10-7 at half, one of the largest deficits of the year for the Current, the team got right back into the game when they got their first break of the second half; thanks in large part to Delrico Johnson's hand block three minutes into the third. DC would then use that energy to come back and go on an 8-4 scoring run that put them on top 17-15 with only 3:45 left to go in the game. Boston would then score but a drop by Calvin Oung, one of the only four drops in the entire game by both teams, gave Boston a break and tied it up at 17. Then an incredible grab by Peter Prial in the end-zone, while surrounded by two Boston players, gave DC a one goal lead that they would hold onto until the final whistle. As mentioned before there was only four drops in this match-up, but there were incredible Ds by both sides, most notably Delrico Johnson's huge sky that prevented a Boston score. Alan Kolick put a stamp on what is sure to be his Eastern Conference MVP Award, recording six more assists on the cleanest offense in the entire league. The home fans for DC also played a huge role, they were loud and obnoxious for the entire game and are a factor into why the Current finished 6-0 at home this season. Once the game was over you could feel the emotion of the players as they rushed the field after defeating the defending champions for the final time this season and finishing the chapter of this rivalry.

Here are the top 5 of some of the incredible plays from this game:

 Star Performer: Topher Davis: 3P, 1G, 2A, 24/26 Throws, 3Ds, +3 Point Dif

 Star Performer: Gagandeep Chatha: 4P. 2G, 2A, 12/15 Throws, +0 Point Dif

My Pick: Vancouver over Portland 25-24

While a vastly different Championship Game than the Eastern Conference and from what was normal between the Portland Stags and the Vancouver Nighthawks, the Western Conference Championship was just as entertaining in a way, if you like game ending drama.  Similar to the first game it started with some Championship jitters while both teams could not get their offenses going, in fact neither team's offense scored in the first quarter which ended with Vancouver scoring 3 straight breaks and holding only a 3-0 lead. The Portland Stags did not score in the first twelve minutes of the entire game but Vancouver would let them come right back and tie the game at four.  After that point the game remained back-and-forth for the rest of the match-up with extremely messy play, silly mistakes on offense, and a trading of turnovers at times. Eventually Kevin Underhill scored making the game 14-13 with only 42 seconds left, plenty of time for Portland to work down the field. But with still 25 seconds remaining Breeze Strout, who was a perfect 33 for 33 in the game, sent a huck down-field to seemingly no one. That overthrow killed the hopes of Portland as the Nighthawks would hold the disk for the final seconds.  While incredibly messy, (9 drops and a ridiculous amount of throwaways) the end of the game was filled with excitement, not knowing who would be the final team to score. Both teams were huck happy, trying to take advantage of every deep cut down-field and neither team had a player record more than four points. Surprisingly to me there was no 10 goal performance by Brendan Wong nor Timmy Perston (who was back for his first game in six weeks), or a 5 assist game by either Morgan Hibbert, Jeremy Norden, Eli Friedman, or Kevin Underhill.  Quite frankly I wanted a little bit more in this championship game and hopefully when the Nighthawks travel to Philadelphia for the MLU Championship their game play will be a whole lot cleaner. 

While the play from both teams was severely lacking compared the Eastern Conference Championship, the top plays were just as impressive:

The MLU Championship will now be played between the DC Current and the Vancouver Nighthawks at PPL Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 19th at 6:30. 
Later this week be on the lookout for City Bios of both teams heading into the game,
 as well as an MLU Championship Preview within the next two weeks.

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