[Watch the Highlights] – [Full Boxscore]
SATURDAY APRIL 9th, RANDALL’S ISLAND – It was a dreary day for a home opener. The rain was coming down steadily, and the wind on Randall’s Island created just enough of a chill that it still felt like winter could creep back into our lives. Add on train troubles on most of Manhattan, and Saturday just didn’t feel like a good day to be a New Yorker. Luckily, the Empire were ready to bring it against the visiting Ottawa Outlaws – and bring it they did.
While it was week 2 of the 2016 AUDL season, it was the first game of the season for each of the two teams. From warmups through the first pull, it was obvious that nerves were high. But as the disc started moving, and players got their first taste of action this season, it all washed away. The rain might’ve helped.
In the first quarter, the Empire’s defense could be seen making small adjustments on the sideline to adapt to the style of play the Outlaws brought down with them. It wasn’t that the Empire were working ineffectively, but instead that Ottawa presented a different challenge than practice. While the defense was busy with strategy, the offense was finding their legs. From the get-go, the Outlaws weren’t able to create much of a disruption with the Empire’s offensive line – it was instead the Empire’s own miscues that gave the Outlaws any glimpse of hope. The quarter would end with a slight lead for the Empire, 5 to 3.
The second started much as the same as the first, but a big defensive play by Tim Kominos helped establish the Empire’s lead – a lead they would not relinquish. Empire veterans Ryan Drost and Matt Lemar came up big in the quarter as well with big plays on both sides of the disc. As soon as the horn blew for the end of the quarter, players from both sides could be seen running to the restrooms for a place to warm up a bit while they had a chance to step away from the field – the Empire led 13-9 at half.
As the rain stopped during the third quarter, the Outlaws made a bit of a resurgence coming out of the half, and actually outscored the Empire during the quarter 6-5. The Outlaws seemed to figure out what the Empire were doing, but Head Coach Tom Gibbons hadn’t felt the need to make any adjustments during half-time. “Everything was going as planned,” he said, “we executed a decent amount of the game plan.”
That call paid off, with the Empire responding in a huge way come the fourth, and final, quarter. They put the proverbial nail in the coffin of the Outlaws, outscoring them 6-4. But the score line gives the impression that it was closer than it was – the Empire’s offense had one point where they did not look in control during the fourth quarter, while the rest of the time they cruised. And luckily for the offensive line, the Empire’s defense stepped it up. They made each and every dying minute of the game count for the Outlaws offense, running out the clock on any chance of a comeback. Final score: New York Empire 24 – Ottawa Outlaws 19.
It was noticeable from the start, but the Empire are certainly looking forward to the additions of Sean Keegan, Chris Kocher, Chris Mazur, and Markian Kuzmowycz to the team. Keegan, Kocher, and Kuzmowycz primarily found themselves utilized on the offensive side of the disc, and their ability to open up space for the other cutters was hugely important. Mazur was a key player for the defensive line, with some of the best pulls all game, and was key in making defensive adjustments on the sidelines.
With the victory, the Empire move to 1-0 on the season, while the Outlaws sit at 0-1. This first game gave the Empire a lot to build upon for game number two against the Montreal Royal this upcoming Sunday, April 17th, at MCU Park in Brooklyn.
Player of the Game
If you’ve been following the Empire for the past few seasons, you’ve probably heard his name before. The player I have in mind is a rookie with the Empire, but not to the league. Tim Kominos is my player of the game. For the past few seasons, he was a bright spot on the Rochester Dragons. Now it looks like he’ll be filling that same role with the New York Empire.
In the first game of the season, Kominos was sent to the defensive line and given the hardest matchup the Outlaws could offer – Derek Alexander. Alexander was a large part of the Outlaws success last season, and was recently named to the 2016 Canada WUGC Open roster. He’s known for his throwing ability, and quickness from the handler position. While Alexander still proved his worth for Team Canada and the Outlaws, Kominos did an extremely effective job limiting his options.
His stat line at the end of the game: 2 defensive blocks, 2 goals, and 1 assist. Both blocks were almost immediately followed by a goal as well which made them stick out even more. Kominos wasn’t just a workhorse on defense, but his cutting was unrelenting even during a few extremely long points.
Kominos had a pretty memorable handblock of an Alexander look towards the breakside of the field for Outlaws, and followed that up with a block on a swing pass towards Alexander not too long after. On the sideline soon after, teammates were approaching Kominos with tips on how to get a third, saying they wanted the defensive-hat-trick of blocks against Alexander.
Stat of the Game
[See the full stats for the Empire here]
Five. That’s the number of goals scored by Empire-rookie Markian Kuzmowycz, who lit it up in his first game. Using his speed to create separation, Kuzmowycz scored with ease against the Outlaws. Said Head Coach Tom Gibb after the game, “I knew [Kuzmowycz] was fast and a great cutter, but man, he’s really really fast.” Those five goals led the team, and helped propel the Empire to victory.
For the Empire, they’re right back at it. This Sunday, April 17th, at 1pm at MCU Park in Brooklyn, NY they play the Montreal Royal.
Around the Division
After the Outlaws played in New York, they hit the road and drove down to the nation’s capital to take on the D.C. Breeze. It was the first game of the Breeze’s season, but they certainly didn’t play like it.
Playing against the weary Outlaws, the Breeze cruised to a big 28-17 victory with the help of their new roster additions. That brings both the Empire and Breeze to 1-0 on the season, and the Outlaws to 0-2. The Phoenix, Royal, and Rush have yet to play this season.