Sockeye, Johnny Bravo To Battle For #1 Contender Status: NGN Feature Game Preview

Johnny Bravo's Jimmy Mickle and Sockeye's Vehro Titcomb go for a disc at the 2014 US Open.
Photo by Alex Fraser — UltiPhotos.com

Ask anyone who the top team in the country is and you’ll get the same answer: San Francisco Revolver. Coming off of a second straight win at the World Club Championships, another US Open title, and their third National Championship crown in four years, Revolver is the undisputed champ.

But who’s the top contender? On that question, you might find some disagreement. Some are sure to say Seattle Sockeye, the runner-up at both Worlds and the 2013 National Championships. Others will say Denver Johnny Bravo, the star-studded team that looks most poised to make a run at Revolver this year. Now they will settle it on the field.

The two elite teams face off in the final round of pool play at this weekend’s Pro Flight Finale in Burlington, Washington. You can watch the game LIVE on NGN. Though it will be their second meeting of the season, their first game came back in early July at the US Open; neither team was at full strength.

Both teams looked exceptional at Worlds — until they faced Revolver. In the semifinals, Johnny Bravo jumped out to an early lead and controlled most of the first half against San Francisco, but watched an 8-5 lead evaporate and eventually crumbled in the second half under withering pressure from the Revolver defense. Sockeye stayed close with Revolver throughout the finals, but never lead — and never got the critical break that would have dialed up the drama down the stretch.

Yet both teams come away from the game thinking the same thing: we can beat them next time. First, though, they’ll have to battle each other.

The teams are a contrast in styles, with Sockeye using a high ultimate IQ and creative offensive and defensive sets to overcome a bit of an athletic disadvantage. Johnny Bravo is still true to form: a very tall, very athletic team that wants to pound you in the face on offense. They’ve added some handler finesse with the rostering of Brett Matzuka, but they are still a team that likes to huck to their big receivers like Jimmy Mickle and Sean Keegan.

Sockeye’s shifting defenses will test Bravo, a team that can be impatient at times. And Bravo will need to be prepared to better counter Sockeye’s ping-pong disc movement that hurt them at the US Open. Still, Bravo’s stark advantage on pure athleticism should give them an edge in the game.

If Danny Karlinsky can continue his red-hot play for the Fish, though, they will have more than a fighting chance. Karlinsky almost single-handedly kept Sockeye in the finals against Revolver at Worlds. And Nate Castine is playing elite defense and could take the Jimmy Mickle assignment.

Regardless of how you draw it up, the game between Sockeye and Johnny Bravo is going to be a must-watch. Both teams are honed after a trip to Worlds and eager to prove that they are the #1 contender heading into the postseason.

Watch the game on NGN on Saturday, August 30, at 6 PM Eastern. The individual game is available for $5 and the Pro Flight Finale eight-game tournament package for $15.

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