How It Happened: The Whitecaps increased their win streak to four straight games and seven straight home games with a single point victory this Saturday over the previously undefeated Stags. While the teams seemed evenly matched through the first quarter, Boston was able to earn two breaks to Portland’s one thanks in large part to defensive efforts by Frederik Brasz, Christian Foster, and Ben Katz. Heading into the second quarter, the Whitecaps were able to widen their lead to four points on the back of a five point scoring streak – which included a block by Jack Hatchett to set the MLU record for career blocks.
The Stags, having not yet lost a game this season, were unwilling to give up so easily – star players Raphy Hayes and Cody Bjorklund made life difficult for the Whitecaps defenders and the Portland offensive line did not get broken once during the third quarter. The boys from Boston, on the other hand, dealt with some execution errors and gave up two breaks to the Stags by the end of the period. The Stags broke the Whitecaps twice in the high-scoring fourth period as well, but thanks to their early lead, Boston was able to stay on top and eke out a crucial win.
Turning Point: The Stags tied the game at 5’s partly through the second quarter after giving up a couple of early breaks. But Boston was able to make crucial adjustments and used a prolonged scoring streak to keep Portland’s offensive line on its heels, prevent a close third quarter, and guarantee their victory.
Player(s) of the Game: Hatchett, Bjorklund and Timmy Perston. In this incredibly close and historic game, Player of the Game honors go to three players who have been leaders on their teams for four seasons, and who all hit major career milestones in the game. Hatchett passed Morgan Hibbert for most career blocks, now with 47, while Bjorklund and Perston became the first players in league history to record 100 assists and 100 goals respectively.
Stat of the Game: 14. There were 14 goals scored in the fourth quarter of this game, eight by Portland and six by Boston. Many of these took less than 30 seconds.
Quotable: After the game, Foster said “this win means a lot to the team. This game means a lot to us. We’ve been looking to play Portland since the league started… We’ve been playing a lot better, we still need to work on a few things but we’re slowly making progress, which is great, and this game helped us with that. It was great to have a great opponent and a good home crowd behind us. I feel like we’re really upward trending.”
What’s next: The Whitecaps have stirred up some new competition – there are no undefeated teams remaining in the MLU this season. The Stags are now 6-1, the Spinners and the Whitecaps are both 5-1, and the momentum has shifted in Boston’s favor heading into the final stretch of the regular season. While the Stags still seem to be the Western Conference’s most dominant team, the Whitecaps and Spinners will have a chance to prove themselves against each other in two weeks during the season’s final East Coast rivalry game. This game could determine which team will earn home field advantage for the Eastern Conference playoffs. While many believe today’s game was a preview of the MLU Championship Game, it is still possible for Philadelphia to make that final trip instead. Whether or not the Whitecaps can beat the Spinners twice more this season remains to be seen.