Another overtime thriller between DC and New York!
May 17, 2023 by Alex Rubin in Recap with 0 comments
There were some big-time Power Rankings shakeups after the dust settled on week 3 of the AUDL’s 2023 season. Boston Glory roared back from a 10-3 first quarter deficit against the Philadelphia Phoenix to steal a 19-16 win, while the Indianapolis Alleycats dethroned last season’s Central Division champion the Chicago Union by the same scoreline. The favorites won out in the West, while in the South the Carolina Flyers righted the ship with a 26-19 win over the Austin Sol and Houston Havoc nabbed their first franchise win against the Dallas Legion. Amidst the early-season shifting, we’re breaking down the only game from week 3 to be decided by one point: New York Empire at the DC Breeze.
Standings through Week 3
Same Old Empire, Same Old Groove
A few weeks ago I pointed out that the DC Breeze won their third-straight regular season game over Philadelphia, all three coming with a one point margin. This week, DC fell to the New York Empire by one goal in overtime for seemingly the millionth consecutive time. OK, it hasn’t been that many, but New York always seems to find a way to overcome the Breeze’s best effort and this game was no exception. The Golden State Warriors dynasty may have ended this week, but the New York Empire’s lives on–for now. Though there are positives to take away from the game and plenty to build on for what should by all accounts be a stellar season, the Breeze haven’t toppled the Empire in years and could’ve used the win here to build momentum for their likely rematch in the playoffs.
These two teams entered the game in the 1 and 2 spots of any respectable AUDL Power Rankings…and they should stay there after this impressive game. Given the general hype and their game-of-the-season showdowns the past two seasons, fans, livestream viewers, and even Bill Nye the Science Guy1 knew this was worth tuning in for. If you haven’t watched it now, stop reading this and go put on the replay; yes, it was that good.
The first half proceeded slowly, cautiously, as if the teams were warming up for the eventual crescendo, as the clock methodically ticked ahead. New York upped the speed to forte at the end of the first half, blitzing off two breaks in a mere 93 seconds. In comparison, each of DC’s previous offensive points lasted at least 83 seconds of their own! Ben Jagt was the catalyst, first peeling off of his assignment to pick off a long upline throw then drifting breakside on offense to reel in a hammer to find an open scoring opportunity. New York led by one and doubled that lead a moment later when Tyler Monroe’s ambitious huck was just a foot too far out the back of the end zone for Christian Boxley, who had been torching the Empire so far. A crisp 16 seconds of offense later and New York completed a classic buzzer beater to take a 7-5 lead at halftime.
The Empire’s lead lasted until the end of the fourth quarter, when this meandering symphony picked up its tempo once again. Leading 15-14, Oliver Chartock let an upline slip out of his hand without the necessary float and touch to lead his receiver into the end zone, and Rowan McDonnell and AJ Merriman walked the DC counterattack into the end zone to score. Merriman then point-blocked Jagt, who crossed over to the New York offense for the important point, and notched the hockey assist2 as the Breeze took a late 16-15 lead. Suddenly, DC was in control. New York scored with 29 seconds left, and DC was set to receive with enough time for a typical offensive possession to play out.
But this was no typical game. New York stymied the DC pull play, pushed the Breeze backwards, and then left Ben Oort unmarked in the end zone with no easy options upfield until time ran out and he was forced to launch it into the waiting arms of Babbitt, the AUDL’s king of buzzer beating catches. New York’s offense earns plenty of praise, but on a night when grit and creative strategy were needed, the Empire put together some beautiful defensive points, especially at the end of regulation. Moving at times within a junk look that forced DC to throw into traffic or release high blades to the break side of the field, the Empire wore down DC. Both teams’ offensive and efficiency metrics look similar. The Empire doubled DC’s block total and notched three more turnovers than the Breeze; for a game played between the league’s two best offenses, the Empire defense earned this win.
Once again, four quarters was not enough to separate these two teams. Ben Jagt’s muscle of a catch that scored the first break of overtime set the tone for how this one would end. The Breeze have plenty of powerful players, but Jagt looked like a counselor at summer camp playing against kids on his twirling catch that turned his defender around and left two Breeze players on the ground. With confidence bounding around the New York sideline, a few points later, Babbitt ripped through two defenders on a slash to the front cone, caught the go-ahead goal, and yelled “Is anyone gonna stop me?!?” Nobody on DC really could. He blocked Malks’ early huck to McDonnell on DC’s final possession. The Breeze may have thought they could sneak an attack at the end zone well before the buzzer sounded, but this was not a night on which Babbitt would be fooled. His seven goals and three blocks somehow don’t seem to tell the full story of his impact. Aside from the failed attempts from DC defenders to slow him down, Babbitt played his best in one of the biggest games of the season, and oozed confidence in a way that picked up his teammates and helped them play their best, too.
Babbitt wasn’t the only one doing the heavy lifting: Ryan Osgar’s six assists, four hockey assists, and two goals account for two-thirds of the Empire’s goals. On the other sideline, Ben Oort’s two assists and four goals spell out a nice season debut for him. Boxley continued his torrid season with four assists and two goals of his own, not to mention a game-high four hockey assists. Looking ahead, DC will aim to rebound with a trip up to Toronto, while New York will need to avoid a trap game against a Philadelphia team desperate for a win.
Do you have any “over reactions” and “wait and sees” from around the league? Who are you ready to proclaim good/bad? – Davepetm on Discord
Now that we are about one-quarter of the way through the season, I’m ready to take a stab at this. First the easy part:
- Definitely Good: New York, DC, Colorado, Atlanta, Salt Lake, Minnesota
- Probably Good but we haven’t seen it click yet: Carolina
- Definitely Bad: Detroit, Dallas, Portland, Seattle, Madison
- Probably Bad but it’s a small sample size: Montreal, San Diego, Pittsburgh
Wait and See:
Houston – OK, it was a win over Dallas, but the Havoc were leading Austin in their first game by multiple goals. They play a fun brand of ultimate and it would not shock me if they notch a win against Carolina or Atlanta depending on their traveling rosters. I doubt Houston will make the playoffs, but I’m convinced they aren’t bad.
Los Angeles – They didn’t look like the part of division challengers against Colorado, but they handily put away Portland. That Nitro game is the type of game LA would let be close last season. Good for the Aviators for scoring easy wins-I’ll put them in the good category when they win a game against a playoff team.
Oakland: A close win over a bad Seattle team and a close loss against a good Salt Lake team tells me this team has the talent to play up to anyone in the league and the inexperience to play down to anyone in the West division (no, you won’t trick me into thinking the Spiders would lose to Detroit or Dallas). I want to believe this could be a playoff team, but it’s gonna be a wild ride for the Spiders this season if they keep playing like this.
Boston: I wasn’t going to overreact to the pasting Boston gave Toronto last week–the Rush have travel-related excuses for that and just got rolled by New York the night before. But after their win over Philadelphia, color me intrigued by this Glory team. A team never known for its defense tallied 17 blocks. Ben Sadok has continued playing like an MVP candidate, Tanner Halkyard is back hulking up his goals, and Cole Davis-Brand’s star hasn’t dimmed after last year’s breakout season. Simon Carapella is looking great in his rookie season, as is fellow young buck Jay Clark. What’s not to like. I’m going to wait and see what the roster consistency looks like, because that’s been an issue for Boston in the past. If this group plays consistently though, I think this is just Boston’s potential finally coming through in year three, and I like the sound of that.
Philadelphia – The loss in Boston is bad for the Phoenix. There is no shame in losing to New York or DC, especially with how well the Phoenix played in the DC game. But for a team that believes itself to be the owner of the third playoff spot in the East, it’s a bad look to lose by three to a team that hasn’t won a lot before. With another game against the Empire coming up, it could be Memorial Day weekend before Philadelphia gets a dub.
Toronto: I had a lot of hope for this Rush team and I still think they could make the playoffs given what you just read above. But the 49-25 drubbing of an opening road trip isn’t sitting right. Maybe the Rush still need another year to get up to speed.
Chicago: He really wants me to type this and I think I have to: the Union just can’t win without Pawel. There’s still eleven more games to play and the Union are still in a position to claim a playoff spot, but wow, a three point loss to Indianapolis at home was just not what I thought we’d see out of the Union this season. Despite their talent, they cannot be considered the favorite in the division anymore.
Indianapolis: Alleycats to the playoffs! The last remaining competitive franchise of the original eight squads just took down Chicago on the road. The Central division looks like it might beat up on itself, but the Alleycats kept things close against Minnesota and won in Chicago. If they keep this up, they might even host a playoff game as they look to return to Championship Weekend for the first time since 2019.
Austin: The Sol didn’t look like the best team in the South this weekend. They still could finish atop the division given that Atlanta and Carolina still need to travel to Texas and the Sol have a ton of matchups against worse Dallas and Houston teams, yet come playoff time Austin will know that their likely opponents have multi-point wins over them already this season. For a team that always seems to be climbing uphill, winning once on the road against those top teams would do wonders for their confidence.
News and Notes
- It looks like it might be a different kind of season in Chicago. The Union lost by three at home to the Indianapolis Alleycats. With players in new positions leading the offense, Chicago is fighting an uphill climb to make it to a third consecutive Championship Weekend.
- The Austin Sol grind through a tough road trip, losing to Atlanta and Carolina. The Sol still have an advantageous schedule and can win their first division title, but these losses certainly will knock them down a peg in the Power Rankings.
- The Portland Nitro had a similarly bad trip, dropping a pair to Los Angeles and San Diego. After leading the Shred last week and just losing by two, their seven- and four-point losses in SoCal bring back hints of the inconsistency that plagued Portland last season.
- It is sad to see the news that Jeremy Hill likely tore his ACL during warm-ups before the Rush’s game this weekend. Hill is a fun player to watch and devotes a ton of time to the ultimate community up in Canada. Here’s to hoping he has a full and speedy recovery.
- One fun little nugget from the Empire-Breeze game, we got to see New York’s first draft of a defensive universe line at the end of overtime. Tasked with protecting a one point lead: Jeff Babbitt, Jack Williams, Ben Jagt, Ben Katz, John Randolph, Marques Brownlee, and Antoine Davis.
|1||New York Empire||-||1|
|4||Salt Lake Shred||+2||6|
|6||Minnesota Wind Chill||+2||8|
|9||Los Angeles Aviators||+1||10|
|14||San Diego Growlers||+1||15|
- After their rough debut, Chicago drops below Indy.
- Houston crushed Dallas and begins what could be a nice climb up the rankings if they keep playing so well.
- Portland has shown flashes of potential, but an 0-2 road trip sees them fall near the bottom.
- Austin, who certainly could reclaim a top five spot later this season, drops below Carolina and Atlanta, who returns to the top five for the first time this season.
Notably the Breeze’s favorite and most valued statistic of the season ↩