The opening game of the 2017 series between New York and D.C. looked much like the 2016 series, with New York once again falling to D.C. by a one goal margin. The game was a tight back and forth affair, with twelve different ties and no lead bigger than three over the course of the game. New York battled back from a three-goal deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 19 with 6:53 to go. Following three holds, New York had a crucial drop in the end zone with less than three minutes left which set up a break for D.C. to extend its lead to two. New York had one last chance to tie the game with less than a minute left, but a high throw allowed D.C. to retake possession and run out the clock.
In the absence of several offensive starters, including primary handler and assists leader Harper Garvey, New York had to mix some pieces up with a different offensive line. Taylor Brooks had an Empire season high seven assists as one of the primary handlers, while Matt Auletta also contributed five assists and Mike Drost had a team high four goals. Ryan Holmes led the defense with four blocks, while Jeff Babbitt contributed his usual three, despite the Breeze’s clear game plan to avoid throwing in his direction.
The game opened up with nine straight holds before D.C. registered a break late in the first quarter. New York eventually answered back in the second quarter and took its first lead at 7-6, but D.C. tacked on two later breaks to take an 11-9 lead into half.
After the first half saw only four total breaks, the third quarter opened with six breaks in the first six minutes. New York stormed out of half with three straight breaks to take what ended up being its last lead of the game at 12-11. Ryan Holmes notched blocks on the first two points, followed by a point block from Matt Wiener, and New York converted all three into goals on the first attempt. After finally notching a hold, D.C. rattled off three straight breaks of its own and took a three-goal lead.
Heading into the fourth quarter down 19-16, New York opened with a hold on an almost two-minute long point that featured two turnovers by each team. The defense then came out firing with two straight breaks and once again got the Empire into a tie game when Brooks hit Markian Kuzmowycz with 6:53 to go. After a hold by each team, New York’s offense patiently worked it up versus a zone defense from the Breeze for about 90 seconds, until Brooks spotted Sam Little open in the end zone, but the throw bounced off the receiver’s hand for a turnover. D.C. then quickly converted the break on a deep goal to Delrico Johnson that was just past Kevin Norton’s full-extension bid, and took a two-goal lead with 2:21 to go.
After cutting the lead back to one, New York got one final chance when Jeff Wodatch’s high throw resulted in his fifth throwaway of the game and an easy interception for Holmes with about 35 seconds left. One pass later though, a strong double team resulted in a high swing pass from Josh Alorro that was blocked at mid-field, and D.C. was able to run out the clock with three completions.
DIVISION UPDATE: New York fell to 2-2, which moved them behind Toronto into a tie for third place in the East by the end of the weekend, after the Rush won both games of its road trip.
DEBUT: Matt Wiener made his season debut for New York, playing nine points for the Empire on Saturday after missing all but two points of the 2016 season due to an ankle injury.
NEXT UP: New York Empire vs. Montreal Royal on 5/21 at 4 PM (Randall’s Island Field 10)