After some rain earlier in the day, the conditions were perfect when the Vancouver Nighthawks and Seattle Rainmakers met for the third time in their initial MLU season; clear and sunny with not a breath of wind making for very comfortable playing conditions. The situation was not as comfortable for the Nighthawks, trying to keep their faint playoff hopes alive with a win.
As they have all season, Seattle started the game well, getting out to a 3-1 lead on some nice offensive movement. Setting the tone for the rest of the game, the Rainmakers offense revolved around Adam Simon.
Seattle’s third goal was scored in spite of a great goal line D by Alex Davis of the Nighthawks, and that D seemed to set the tone for the rest of the half, which featured the Nighthawk’s most impressive defensive display of the season, laying out repeatedly, not always getting the disc but managing to slow down Seattle’s O. The Nighthawks offense, which was glad to have Handler Oscar Pottinger back after he missed last weekend’s game, was able to take advantage of their opportunities and the quarter ended 5-4 Rainmakers.
The Nighthawks defensive effort continued into the second quarter, as they immediately forced a stall count turnover that led to a game-tying goal by Oscar Pottinger on a pass from Kirk Savage. Seattle took a 6-5 lead on another goal by Adam Simon, but on the next point Vancouver forced the Seattle offense from midfield back into their own end zone, capped by another stall count turnover on Seattle’s own goal line which led to an Alex Davis goal on a pass by Savage. Vancouver then forced another break on a D by Max Hunter in his own end zone that led to him passing to Mike Aizawa for an 8-6 Nighthawks lead, which Seattle cut in half with a goal right on the half time buzzer by Donald Clark.
Whatever adjustments the Seattle coaching staff made at the half were certainly effective, as the third quarter turned into almost as bad a nightmare for the Nighthawks as they had suffered in their last game against San Francisco, where they gave up an 8-1 run which sealed the win for the Dogfish. Seattle’s offense started rolling and their D shut down the Nighthawks as they scored the next five points to take a quick 13-8 lead.
Special mention must be made of the Rainmakers’ 11th goal. After sprinting a long way after an errant huck, Mark Burton made a headlong dive out of the back corner of the Nighthawks end zone and just as he was going to hit the ground, managed to catch the disc and flip it back over his head to teammate Sam Harkness in the end zone for a goal and what might be the greatest Greatest I have ever witnessed. (A Greatest is the ultimate term for a play where a player leaps from inbounds and manages, before touching the ground, to catch the disc and throw it to an inbounds teammate for a completed pass.)
Plaudits are due to the knowledgeable Vancouver crowd, who applauded the opposing team for making such an outstanding play.
The five point lead the Rainmakers established with that third quarter run meant all they had to do to clinch a playoff spot and eliminate the Nighthawks from post-season play was to trade goals the rest of the way, and that’s what they did, with the third quarter ending with a 16-11 Rainmakers lead. At one point in the 4th quarter the Nighthawks got it down to 4, but they were unable to summon the intensity they had displayed in the first half and the game ended with Seattle cruising to a comfortable 21-15 win.
The Vancouver fans belied their disappointment in the outcome by applauding both teams off the field after an entertaining contest.
The Vancouver Ultimate League Player of the Game awards went to Adam Simon of the Rainmakers, who lead his team in scoring with 2 goals and 5 assists, and Mark Leduc of the Nighthawks, who scored 4 goals. Other notable statistical performances for the Rainmakers included Mark Burton with 6 points and Sam Harkness with 5 goals, and for the Nighthawks Oscar Pottinger with 7 points and Aaron Loach with 6.