New York Hosts Montreal in Coney Island
The Empire return from a week off with a Sunday afternoon showdown against the Montreal Royal at MCU Park in Coney Island. Following a loss in the season opener against Toronto, the Empire will look to even its record and avoid its first ever 0-2 start. Montreal is on the road to open its season with a back-to-back set, facing off against Philadelphia on Saturday evening before traveling to New York for Sunday’s matchup.
In the Empire’s first game, they battled to a tie with Toronto through three quarters before falling late with a mistake-filled fourth quarter. With last season’s primary handler Sean Keegan out with an injury, Chris Kocher and newcomer Harper Garvey took control of the offense in the Empire’s season opener, as they combined for almost half of the team’s completions on the day. Garvey especially made an immediate impression, with six assists of increasing creativity and difficulty. However, the offense faltered late with only two scores in the final quarter. Facing a tough defense and somewhat windy conditions in the season opener, New York completed only 86% of its passes, well under last season’s mark of 91.3%, a figure that will have to improve against the Royal. The defense was led by the Empire’s captain and second-year star, Jeff Babbitt, who recorded three goals and four blocks.
Last season, New York won both contests with Montreal, including a 21-19 victory at MCU Park last April. The Royal finished the 2016 season with a record of 6-8, just one game behind New York for the third and final playoff spot. Montreal has re-shaped their team for the 2017 season with several core veterans such as Yoland Cabot retiring, while they brought in Christian Foster and Ben Katz, two Boston-area veterans with extensive high-level club experience. Returning for the Royal is last season’s assists and goals leader, Kevin Quinlan, who should figure in as a central offensive player again this season as Montreal attempts to reach the playoffs for the second time.
Considering the two teams’ histories and the Royal’s quick turnaround from a game the night before, New York will likely be considered the favorite on paper. However, Montreal has always played the Empire tough, with the last two games in the Big Apple resulting in only two point victories for the home squad. This will be an important matchup for New York as they look to get their playoff aspirations on track; an 0-2 home start would put a significant dent in those chances. On the other hand, a victory would immediately tie New York with Toronto despite the disappointing opener, and have them moving in the right direction as the AUDL season gets into full swing.