Photos by Jeff Bell and Bob Durling – Ultiphotos.com
Heading into the 2015 season, the record for the highest scoring game in MLU history belonged to the Vancouver Nighthawks 29-24 victory over the Seattle Rainmakers on May 31, 2014. Combining for 52 goals, this game stood as the largest combined offensive outpouring over the first two seasons of MLU play.
That record would stand for over a year until June 6th, 2015 when it would broken… twice.
A rivalry weekend in MLU, with each team playing their closest conference opponent, two of the four games ended in a tie for the new single game combined scoring record.
June 6th, 2015 was a sunny, windless day in Boston. The New York Rumble travelled to Boston for their third matchup with the Whitecaps of the 2015 season. The Rumble were in the midst of a down year, have won only a single game to that point and failing to score more than 20 goals in a game. Boston had won both previous meetings by a combined nine goals. After a slow start, dropping both games in their doubleheader to Philadelphia and Washington D.C., Boston had won 3 of their last four games, due in large part to their potent offense.
Boston’s offense looked predictably strong through the first quarter, going unbroken. While New York struggled to guard the Whitecaps on offense, they looked equally mismatched against Boston’s D-lines. By the end of the first, Boston seemed to have a commanding lead at 11-6. However, the Rumble were not about to lay down and give up.
New York began the second quarter playing with renewed vigor on offense. Their young and talent defense showed up as well. Robbie Gillies (7G, 1A) played particularly well, recording the only break in the quarter. At the half, Whitecaps lead 16-12, but the Rumble had proved they could run with the powerhouse and nothing seemed impossible.
The Rumble carried the momentum into the 3rd quarter and using impressive defense were able to record a few breaks and crawl with three goals, 21-18. Unfortunately for Rumble fans, the comeback began to unravel with a few minutes left in the quarter and Boston was able to rebuild their lead, leading by five goals at the end of the 3rd, 24-19.
In the final quarter, New York struggled to regain their footing, becoming increasingly aggressive on offense and allowing the more patient Whitecaps to capitalize and push the lead to 31-24 by the final buzzer.
With a combined 55 total goals, this became the highest scoring MLU game in the history of the league. Boston rookie Tyler Chan (5G, 8A) recorded a team-high 13 points with five goals, eight assists and a block. Gillies lead the Rumble 8 pts on seven goals, one assist and a block. Whitecaps rookie Mat Little (1G) along with veterans Teddy Browar-Jarus (2G, 6A) and Jake Taylor (1A) facilitated the efficient Whitecaps offense. The trio threw for an impressive 89 for 89 and recorded 85 catches.
“Today’s game was brought to you by zero wind,” said Browar-Jarus. “When there’s no wind there’s no defense.”
Eventual 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, Christian Foster added, “Teddy was perfect.”
While the score differential may have been ugly for New York, they showed all the signs of a team putting the pieces together. Joining Gillies with strong games were veterans Andrew Bosco (1G, 2A) and Michael Hennessy (2G) who completed 100% of their throws, combining for 56 completions. Gillies, Sean Murray, Marques Brownlee and Jacob Price all walked away with blocks (2 for Murray) against a dominant and efficient Boston offense.
On the other side of the continent, Vancouver B.C. was enjoying a similar warm, windless evening to the one that had just seen the Whitecaps dominate the Rumble. The weather was one of only two similarities between the New York vs. Boston game and the one between the Seattle Rainmakers and Vancouver Nighthawks that was about to begin. The other was goals. Lots of goals.
While Boston fans had known from the end of the first quarter that they would most like win, Nighthawks fans were kept on the edge of their streets right to the end of the game.
With a storied rivalry existing in the ultimate communities of Seattle and Vancouver, the matches between the Rainmakers and Nighthawks have always brought out the best in competition. Until that point, Seattle had been the dominant player in the rivalry, winning 8 of 12 previous matchups. The Nighthawks came into the 2015 season as the reigning MLU Western Conference Champions and have always given the Rainmakers a challenge, especially in Vancouver.
This game was no different. Unlike in Boston, this game was close from the start, with the Nighthawks taking half 13-12, and the Rainmakers equalizing the score by the end of the 3rd quarter, 20-20.
The 4th quarter followed suit, with the teams trading points. With just under 4 minutes to go in regulation, the score was knotted at 24-24, tied for the 17th time. Both teams looked to their respective superstars to help bring home the victory. Seattle received the disc and positioned themselves to take the late lead, but like some many ultimate players in the Northwest, their attempts placed the disc right into the hands of a leaping Morgan Hibbert (4G, 8A). The 2014 Defensive Player of the Year and eventual 2015 MLU leader in Blocks, Assists and Points Played, Hibbert went for the quick assist, only to see the disc find the turf. Regaining possession, the Rainmakers move the disc downfield and found their superstar, Mark Burton (10G, 2A) in the end zone to take the lead, 25-24. Burton would end the 2015 season as Western Conference MVP and win the MLU Scoring Title with 63 points on the year.
After another Nighthawks turnover and yet another Burton goal, the Rainmakers looked destined to take the game with a two-goal lead and just 2:29 left in the game. However, Hibbert and the Nighthawks were not done yet.
After a Seattle penalty resulted in excellent starting field position for Vancouver, Hibbert quickly found fellow veteran Nighthawk Charles “Bobo” Eyrich (5G, 3A) in the end zone to cut the Rainmaker’s lead to a single goal. Following the example of the veterans, Vancouver’s rookies stepped up on the next point as they were able to force a quick turn, with Dave Hochhalter (1G, 4A) finding Ted Chu (2G) in the end zone to tie it up at 26-26 with just about 2 minutes to go.
Vancouver was able to score quickly again, only to have the Rainmakers strike back when Andrew Lynch (1G, 3A) went horizontal in the end zone to tie the game at 27-27. Vancouver dug deep to drum up a little more comeback magic, but was unable to keep the disc as Seattle forced a turn and scored with just 17.6 seconds remaining to go up 28-27. With Vancouver’s only chance a deep try downfield, Seattle was able to use a rolling pull and double team Nighthawks cutters to run out the clock.
Despite the loss at home, Nighthawks’ Head Coach Andrew Lugsdin saw much to encourage him.
“I know the guys played really hard,” he said after the game. “They knew it was an important game. From an effort standpoint, I couldn’t really ask for much more. We just couldn’t get that last point. Yes, there were mistakes that we can improve on, but I think this game was a huge step in the right direction.”
With the 28-27 final score, the Nighthawks and Rainmakers produced the second ever 55-goal MLU game, tying the record with the Whitecaps/Rumble game from earlier. Hibbert, Eyrich and Burton’s big nights were shared by Seattle’s Khalif El-Salaam (3G, 5A) and Gavin McKibben (1G, 5A, 97.1 Comp%) and Vancouver’s Brendan Wong (3G, 2A) who left the game early with a hamstring injury and Sam Creed (3G, 2A, 96.1 Comp%).
New York and Vancouver would have disappointing 2015 seasons, winning 2 and 3 games respectively. The two victors in these record-setting games would go on to play each other in the MLU Championship in August, with Boston taking the title, their 2nd in three seasons.