The Vancouver Nighthawks achieved a lot in the final game of their inaugural MLU season last night at Thunderbird Stadium.

Boosted by a pre-game fan celebration outside the stadium, they attracted 925 fans into the stands this night, meaning they drew more spectators than any other MLU team over the season in spite of a poor record on the field, yet again making the case that Vancouver is the best city there is for Ultimate.

The Nighthawks once again were embraced by the weather gods; all five home games were enhanced by perfect playing and spectating conditions, a miracle for this time of year in a city in the middle of a rain forest. And in four of those games, including last night’s, the sky cleared just before game time after several days of inclement weather. Not even the presence of Rainmakers at several of those games could change that.

But alas, the Nighthawks did not achieve a win, losing 21-20 to their arch-rivals the Seattle Rainmakers. But even here they displayed a spirited approach that was warmly received by the spectators.

Near the end of the 3rd quarter, Seattle was leading 16-15 but the Nighthawks had the disc near their own goal line when they threw an ill-considered pass. Seattle’s Benjamin Beehner was able to deflect the pass and then caught it himself in the Vancouver end zone to apparently score a Callahan goal. (A Callahan goal occurs when a defensive player intercepts a pass by the offensive team in the offensive team’s end zone.)

But then the referees went into a lengthy huddle, and finally it was announced that referees had decided to overrule the scoring play. We in the stands were never told why but my belief is that there was a question as to whether the initial deflection was inside or outside the end zone; if the latter the disc would have had to be brought back to the goal line but Seattle would have been unable to score as time had run out. Or it would have been that the clock had been ruled to have expired when the deflection occurred. In any case, the announcement went on to say that the Nighthawks’ Max Hunter had overruled the referees by invoking the Spirit Rule and the goal was allowed, making the score 17-15 Seattle at the time.

Remember that the final margin of victory for Seattle was one goal. Even so, the Vancouver players and fans applauded the decision, clearly displaying that the presence of referees had not impacted the Spirited approach that so endears Ultimate to us.

The Rainmakers had come into the game very short-handed due to injuries, but that didn’t stop them from taking charge in the first quarter, scoring the last four goals to take a 6-3 lead. Mark Burton was already putting his stamp on the game, scoring a nice goal on a pass from Moses Rifkin, but more importantly repeatedly getting open in the lanes to keep the Seattle offense humming. The Rainmakers capped the quarter when Donald Clark got a nice D and then scored a Double Happiness goal on a pass from Xtehn Titcomb.

The Rainmakers extended their led to 13-8 at halftime as the Nighthawks continued to commit unforced errors. Mark Burton extended his domination of the lanes, passing to Bryson Uhrig-Fox, Rifkin, Beehner, and Matt Rehder for goals and scoring one himself on a pass from Beehner.

The Nighthawks D line came out fired up in the third quarter as Vancouver scored four straight goals to start the quarter, highlighted by Ds by Aaron Liu and Aaron Koenig. The Rainmakers managed to right the ship when Reid Koss got one of his 5 assists on a pass to Donald Clarke, and then Daniel Trytiak made a fantastic layout catch to get the Rainmaker’s lead up to 15-12. But the Vancouver D line was still pressing Seattle, and another D apiece by Liu and Koenig helped get the score to 15-16, which is where we come to the Callahan goal Spirit call described earlier.

By now both teams were playing very well, making the 4th quarter a very entertaining back-and-forth affair. Daniel Trytiak made another spectacular layout grab for a goal after which Adam Simon scored on a pass from Reid Koss to make it 20-17 Seattle, but Mark Roberts got a D that led to a goal by Andre Gailits and then scored one of his own sandwiched around another Burton goal to get it to 19-21.

The next point was epic, featuring both teams using their final timeout and capped by a great D by Matt Berezan that led to him scoring a Double Happiness on a pass from Andy Collins to make it 20-21. But this put the disc in Seattle’s hands with less than a minute left and they were able to pass it around till the clock ran out to preserve the 21-20 final margin.

The outstanding display of Ultimate by both teams was rewarded by a prolonged standing ovation from the fans, a fitting way to end an exciting first season for the Nighthawks.

Mark Burton dominated the scoresheet for the Rainmakers with 4 goals, 4 assists, and a D, while Reid Koss had 5 assists, Daniel Trytiak 4 goals and an assist, and Donald Clark 4 goals and 2 Ds. Needless to say, Burton won the Vancouver Ultimate Award as Seattle’s Player of the Game.

The Nighthawks’ stats sheet was more balanced. Andre Gailits had 4 goals and Allan Cowan and Mark Leduc each contributed 2 goals, 3 assists, and a D, but it was Jordan Tessarolo with his 3 goals and 2 assists who took the VUL award as Vancouver’s Player of the Game.

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