Taking Down the Lions & Keeping Playoff Hopes Alive
Flowerbowl Saturday was a perfect summer ultimate kind of day- hot, sunny, and not too windy. The Riptide came out to UBC to play a game in the midst of the tournament, at Thunderbird stadium instead of their home stadium at Swangard. This was the fourth matchup between Vancouver and Salt Lake City, and with three previous victories, expectations were high. Both teams maintained high spirits throughout the game, and I think even SLC had a good time!
Vancouver was coming off two hard fought losses in California the previous weekend, and was hoping to translate that intensity to a decisive victory against the Lions. Though the Riptide’s playoff hopes are slim, and depend on the failure of their rivals as much as on their own successes, creating a strong point differential is important in order to keep the possibility alive. In order to catch up to the point differential held by their two rivals in California, Vancouver needed to win the game by over 20 points.
The Riptide’s confidence was immediately evident as the game began. The Riptide established a strong lead quickly, reaching 10-1 in the first quarter alone. Riptide’s offense looked smooth and fast. Often teams struggle to not ‘play down to the level’ of teams that are not competing with the same caliber of play, but the Riptide could not afford to coast through this game. Additionally, despite the large gap in on the scoreboard, the Lions did not give up, bringing down Ds throughout the course of the game.
On paper, this was Vancouver’s best game yet. Despite a few throwaways, offensive productivity was 100%, and though the O-line only played 10 points, it is good for the team to be able to depend on the O-line to score every one of those points. Defensively, the team collectively got more Ds than in any other game so far, as one would expect in such a high scoring game. However, this shows that the D-line was not content to sit back and wait for SLC to make unforced errors.
Intensity was maintained until the very end, with players such as Brian Baker and Captain Graham Landon fighting to earn big layout Ds. Will Vu led the team in Ds, with many earned through smart positioning alone. Max Hunter and Francisco ‘Pacho’ Mogollon also deserve mention with two Ds each and unmeasurable contributions to the efficiency and productivity of the D line. Additionally, as can be expected in a game dominated by the D-line, these five players had the lion’s share of playing time, and certainly lived up to the challenge.
It is good to see the growing depth of the Riptide’s roster, as they were able to rely on players other than stat leaders Fenton, Wu, and Guo to get the job done. Darren Wu in fact did not dress for the game, and though I expect his fan club missed him, it was good to see players like Ryan ‘Tonka’ Sun and Graham Landon lead the scoring with 6 points each. The usual suspects had good games also, with handler Ryan Lee completing a 100% game, having no recorded drops or throwaways. Another interesting stat showcasing the depth of the roster in this game is the number of players involved in the goals. If we include second assists (‘hockey’ assists), every single player who dressed for the game was involved in one or more goals. This is the first time this has happened all season.
This high level of intensity paid off, as the final score for the game was 37-9, well within the necessary range to keep playoff hopes alive. The Riptide are now on pace with both the Spiders and Flamethrowers for point differential. Therefore, it is only the W-L record that is keeping them out of the playoff spot. After San Jose’s victory over San Francisco that same weekend, assuming no major upsets by SLC or Seattle, Vancouver has no chance of catching San Jose in the standings. However, the Flamethrowers are within torching distance. If Vancouver can have an undefeated finish to their season (and all those games are winnable!), and the Flamethrowers loose again to the Spiders, and the point differential remains in favour of the Riptide, the coveted second playoff spot for the Western Division will belong to Vancouver.
While that may seem like a long shot, if we assume no upsets by SLC or Seattle, it really comes down to the results of three games. One we have no control over; San Francisco must lose their final home game against San Jose on July 12th. The second is also a home game for San Fran- our final regular season matchup against the Flamethrowers will be a must-win on June 28th. The most current, and perhaps most exciting, of these three games will be right here in Vancouver next weekend.
On June 21st, at Swangard Stadium at 5pm, the Riptide will face off against San Jose after a weekend off. This will be their final regular season match-up, and it is do-or-die for Vancouver. Chances are this will be a very close and fast-paced game, as these two teams currently hold the league record for most combined points scored in a single game. Though Vancouver is 0-2 against San Jose, their last matchup was decided with a buzzer beater, in a 25-26 game which has been called ‘the most exciting of the year’.
If you only go to one Riptide game all season, this is the one to watch. Not only will you get to see some Ultimate all-stars like Beau Kittredge and Ashlin Joye in action, I can promise you the fight and heart Vancouver will be bringing to the field will be nothing short of inspiring. This is a team of guys who are playing for each other as much as they are playing for the titles and the fans, and it shows. Perhaps they are a new generation of all-stars on the rise, and next Saturday is a chance to prove it.