Photo by Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com
On a beautiful night of record-setting warm temperatures, the 650 noisy fans that came out to see the Vancouver Nighthawks went home happy when the Nighthawks picked up their first home win by prevailing in a high-scoring huckfest, with the final score 24-21 over Portland Stags.
Soon after the game started, it became clear that this was not going to be a defensive struggle; neither team’s defence seemed to be able to do much to stop their opponent’s offense. Within the first minute the Nighthawks’ Mark Leduc found Kirk Savage in the end zone for the first goal, and only a few seconds later Cody Bjorklund hit Eli Friedman with first of many Portland hucks to tie it up.
On the next point Alex Davis made a sterling defensive play on his own goal line which led to the 2-1 goal by Savage, and after a turnover a nice pass from Mauro Ortiz to Kevin Underhill, back from playing for his university team, gave Vancouver a 3-1 lead, and it looked like the Nighthawks might be off to the races.
But the Stags settled in and the teams then traded goals until 6-4, with the most frenetic point featuring a great poach D by Max Hunter in his own end zone and another great end zone D by Alex Davis, but each time the Nighthawks turned the disc back over and eventually Steven Gussin scored for Portland.
Around this point in the game, Portland took advantage of the perfect throwing conditions to get their huck game going. The Nighthawks had no answer on defense, particularly when Timmy Perston was striking. It was Perston’s goal that started the second quarter by tying the game at 6-6. From there it was goal for goal, with Perston’s long strikes for Portland goals offset by Mauro Ortiz’s exquisite passing for Vancouver. The first half ended 11-11, with Perston totalling 5 goals and Ortiz 5 assists.
The third quarter continued the back and forth play, with lots of hucks and neither team getting a break. Cory Bjorklund scored a Callahan to tie it up at 16-16, but then the Nighthawks, thanks to top notch defensive plays by Andre Gailits and Alex Davis, captured two breaks to take an 18-16 lead to end the quarter, a lead they never relinquished.
The fans were really enjoying all the action, and their support seemed to energize some of the bench players the shorthanded Nighthawks brought in to play in the fourth quarter. (Five of their top players missed the game attending a tryout camp for the team which will represent Canada at the World Games this summer.) Timmy Perston finally slowed down – he scored only one of his eight goals in the 4th quarter – and the Stags seemed to be tiring and made a few bad passes for turnovers, allowing the Nighthawks to gradually pull away. In the end they deserved the 24-21 win.
The winners of the Player of the Game awards, donated by the Vancouver Ultimate League, were Mauro Ortiz for the Nighthawks and Cody Bjorklund for the Stags.