Photos by Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com
The Seattle Rainmakers harvested an easy 26-18 Major League Ultimate victory against the Vancouver Nighthawks at Thunderbird Stadium last night.
The Nighthawks did not have the game they were hoping for. Seattle came to Vancouver mentally prepared to win and eager for a victory after a 22-20 defeat by the Nighthawks last month in Washington, but Vancouver could not match their intensity.
The game started with a quick point featuring lots of handler movement from Danny Trytiak and Brad Houser, with Houser scoring to establish a Rainmaker lead that Vancouver did not threaten for the rest of the game. Seattle players Khalif El-Salaam and Mark Burton were outstanding as the Rainmakers ended the first quarter with a 7-3 lead.
“We fell behind because they came right into play and we didn’t,” Morgan Hibbert said. “They showed up, ready to run, right from point one, but we were just not ready to work hard.”
The Nighthawks fans were hopeful at the beginning of the second quarter, knowing a four-point disadvantage can be quickly overcome, but Vancouver did not deliver. They did pull it back to a 9-6 deficit, but Gavin McKibben, Matt Neeley, and Bren Byerley, with El-Salaam playing a key part in each goal, scored three in less than a minute to made the score 12-6. Despite some strong play from Charles ‘Bobo’ Eyrick, Hibbert, and Brendan Wong, Vancouver fell further behind and finished the second quarter eight goals behind, making the score at half 16-8.
The Nighthawks came out much stronger after the break, winning the third quarter six goals to five, with Samson Hoy, Hibbert, Ari Nitikman, Wong, and Dave Hochhalter stepping up their game. Two huge skies for Hibbert late in the quarter altered the atmosphere in the stadium, and the Nighthawks’ fans had clearly not lost hope even though the third quarter ended 21-14 Rainmakers.
Even though Vancouver scored the first goal of the final quarter, hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed when Rainmakers extended their lead by responding with yet another three goal scoring streak. The resulting 24-15 lead with eight minutes left meant the game was essentially decided, and the Rainmakers coasted to a 26-18 win..
“I think what we need to work on is individuals bringing the pressure and intensity on each other,” said Hibbert after the game. “In a practice, it’s really hard to replicate the game scenario, but we have to push each other beyond our limits and what we’re comfortable with, plus perhaps just a little bit more heart and care as well.”
Nighthawks Coach Andrew Lugsdin was clearly unhappy with the performance of his charges.
“We came out flat, and it was disappointing. We’re 1-4 so far this season, though we certainly have had moments when we showed our potential. The last time we played Seattle, for example, the team played extremely well, but this game was just flat. We had some guys open but the many execution errors, drops, and bad throws did us in. It just didn’t seem like we came into the game ready to play.”
One tactic that Vancouver teams have always relied on, and one that always revs up the fans in the stands, was conspicuously under-utilized in this game. Where were the hucks? There were entire series of points where not one Nighthawk made a striking cut, and again and again a Vancouver handler would receive a swing pass in perfect position to launch a big throw but would look up and see no one striking. In contrast, the Rainmakers received repeated payoff from utilizing this important weapon.
Second-year Rainmaker Khalif El-Salaam was the outstanding player on the field this day, leading Seattle in scoring with four goals and three assists and adding a block, while McKibben and Burton chipped in with five points apiece.
For the Nighthawks, Hibbert continued his outstanding play by leading the team with three goals, four assists, and three blocks while playing 25 points, again the most by any player from either team. Wong added three goals, two assists, and two blocks.
El-Salaam and Hibbert received the Vancouver Ultimate League Most Valuable Spirited Player Award for the Rainmakers and Nighthawks, respectively.
After another bye week, the Nighthawks will attempt to revenge the loss when they again host the Rainmakers on Saturday, June 6, 2015, at 6:00 pm.
You can buy tickets here.