The doctor is in. The Vancouver Nighthawks of Major League Ultimate put on a clinic Saturday night when the shorthanded Seattle Rainmakers came to town. Thunderbird Stadium has been a stronghold for the Nighthawks this season (now 3-1 on the year) and that trend continued in the club’s most recent action.
Prior to the game, a short ceremony was held to honour this year’s Ultimate Canada Hall of Fame inductees since all three hail from B.C.: Jim Brown (builder), Leslie Calder (player), and the Victoria Nomads (team). It would have looked bad for the lone Canadian team in the league to slump through a match-up with such esteemed persons in attendance and the Nighthawks weren’t about to allow that to happen in front of a thousand supporters.
Seattle knew it had to get up on the hosts early to have a chance, so the first point of the game was just what they were looking for when Ben Beehner connected with Bryson Uhrig-Fox for a break. Unfortunately for the Rainmakers, that was the only lead they would have all day. The very next point, Kevin Underhill sent a deep pass that seemed to hang forever. Another receiver might have panicked and mistimed it, but Brendan Wong, the MLU’s leading scorer, calmly waited for the right moment before going up and plucking it out of the air. The next point, Kevin Greer came up with an end zone D to allow the Nighthawks to take the disc and work it up the field, culminating in a gorgeous backhand up the sideline from Morgan Hibbert to Allan Cowan. Two Andy Collins scores later, on passes from Rumi Tejpar and Bobo Eyrich, and the Nighthawks were up 4-1. Matthew Zemel tried to keep it tight for Seattle, assisting on two goals, but by the end of the quarter it was 7-3 for Vancouver.
With Vancouver dominant almost right from the outset of the game, there wasn’t a true turning point. That said, the opening points of the second frame let Seattle know they weren’t getting back into this one. First, Myles Sinclair kicked off the quarter with a Double Happiness. Continuing the defensive lockdown, Jordan Tessarolo then came up with a D allowing Peter Yu to eventually score from a Nathan Dandurand toss. Pushing the score to 10-3, the Nighthawks capitalized on a poor Seattle throw when Cowan laid out for a Greer pass. The Rainmakers picked up a few points to end the quarter, finishing on a Hail Mary reception by Isaac Entz from Danny Trytiak, but the hosts were still well in front 13-8 at half thanks to some consistent scoring.[iframe src=”http://gfycat.com/iframe/IllegalImpoliteGentoopenguin” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” width=”630″ height=”318″ ] Tessarolo layout D
The Nighthawks have been plagued by spots of bad luck this season, but if Saturday’s game was any indicator, that unfortunate tide may be turning. For the first point of the second half Aaron Loach, who had another strong game sent a hammer into the end zone. The throw was deflected away from the intended receiver by a Seattle defender, but instead of falling harmlessly to the turf it found its way into the hands of one of the surest receivers in the league, as an unmarked Wong hauled it in. Vancouver went on to dominate the rest of the quarter. Only a last-second buzzer beater from Seattle saved the visitors from being shut out as the Nighthawks outscored their opponents 6-1. [iframe src=”http://gfycat.com/iframe/ThornyPerfectErne” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” width=”630″ height=”318″ ] Wong Tip Grab
Going into the final 10 minutes with the home team up 19-9, Seattle needed nothing short of a miracle to pull out a win. There was no miracle. The Nighthawks held the Rainmakers to three points while tacking on another seven of their own. The highlight of the quarter had to be Tessarolo recording not one, but two, Double Happinesses. A gigantic layout D led to Tessarolo’s first on a toss from Nick Menzies. A point later, he again came up with the D before finishing off a short give and go with Collins for the score. With MLU commissioner Jeff Snader in the house, the Vancouver fans weren’t shy about showing how loud it can get at the Nest, chanting for the players to hammer on every throw. When the Rainmakers finally obliged, the crowd erupted in cheers, sending everyone home on a high note as the game finished 27-12.
“We’re starting to gel as a team. We had a couple of rough games in there but we’re starting to feel confident now both in practice and in games,” said Cowan following the victory.
“The way we played [last week] really gave us a lot of confidence,” commented head coach Andrew Lugsdin. “The team felt great and came out and showed it. Our D-line probably played the best they’ve played all year. Seattle was a little shorthanded, missing a few of their key guys offensively, so that helped us. But at the same time I thought our guys played really well, taking advantage of the situation, executing on offense when they got the turns, and just kept building for us.”
Picking up the Vancouver Ultimate League Most Valuable Spirit Player awards were Gavin McKibben for Seattle with four points (four goals) and Cowan for Vancouver with four points (two goals, two assists).
Now tied with Seattle with a 4-4 record, the Nighthawks have earned the tie break over the Rainmakers by winning the seasons series, so just need to match them the rest of the way to clinch a playoff spot. Seattle plays the first place Portland Stags twice while Vancouver plays the Stags next Sunday before traveling to play the last place San Francisco Dogfish to close out the season.
“That’s always the way we want it to be,” said Tessarolo. “You never want to be relying on other teams losing games or winning by a certain number of points. There’s no better spot than when you control your own destiny.”
Next Saturday Seattle hosts the Portland Stags at 7 p.m. before Vancouver welcomes the Stags the next day.
You can catch the Nighthawks’ game against the Portland Stags on Sunday, June 15 at 6 p.m at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Stadium.