Photo by Brandon Wu – UltiPhotos.com
In the latest edition of their thrilling rivalry, the Boston Whitecaps defeated the D.C. Current, 18-17, on Saturday evening to gain control of their playoff destiny in the Eastern Conference.
With the win inside of Catholic University of America’s Cardinal Stadium, Boston improved to 5-3 in 2015 and captured the season series over the Current, two games to one. D.C. fell back to .500 at 4-4 on the year and suffered a major blow to their playoff aspirations.
“I think we, overall, had a well-played game with the exception of some bad decisions here and there,” said cutter Jeff Wodatch. “And those decisions caught up with us throughout the game a few times.
“They made plays. They got forced into some situations. We got forced into some situations. I think they won the game, rather than us losing.”
The Current and Whitecaps played to an 8-8 tie in the first half. There were five lead changes as neither team could build more than a one-point lead at any point during the first 20 minutes of play.
“Boston did a good job of controlling the clock,” Defensive Head Coach Will Smolinski said. “We, on defense, had a chance to come out in the first quarter. We had two break opportunities we didn’t get in the first quarter. Instead of being tied going into the second quarter, we would’ve been up three points, so that’s pretty significant.”
The momentum in the game appeared to shift in Boston’s favor midway through the third quarter when defensive cutter Christian Foster got a break on a hard-fought two-minute-long point to give the Whitecaps a 10-8 advantage.
Not to be outdone, the Current quickly responded with scores from Markham Shofner and Brent Bellinger to tie the game at 10.
D.C.’s Alan Kolick and Boston’s Josh Markette each had a goal and an assist to cap off the third quarter and knot the score yet again at 12-12.
“When we look at this Boston-D.C. thing, it’s pretty exciting,” said Smolinski. “We know that every time they come into town, it’s not going to be easy.”
With four minutes left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 14, the Whitecaps seemed to put the game out of reach when defensive handler Alex Simmons caught a Callahan to put them his team up 15-14.
“That was unfortunate timing,” said handler Calvin Oung. “It’s a tough moment in the game. It’s a moment where you define yourself as a team.”
However, just as Boston had seized momentum at a crucial moment, the D.C. defense came roaring back with two straight break points to even the count at 16 all, setting up a thrilling finish to the most important game of the season for both teams.
“Every game we play against Boston here in D.C. is always probably settled within two points one way or the other,” said Oung. “It’s an even playing field. It’s just a matter of execution. And, [on Saturday], they just played one point better.”
Boston went up 18-17 with 53 seconds remaining in regulation when Ben Katz scored on an assist from the game’s leading scorer Josh Markette (9 points). The Whitecaps appeared to seal the victory when Simmons had a layout block at midfield with less than 30 seconds to play.
But D.C. got one last chance to send the game into overtime: With two seconds remaining, Kolick launched a huck that was just out of the reach of Wodatch in the front right corner of the end zone.
“We were that close,” Oung said. “That would’ve been an amazing play. That probably would’ve been the play of the year if that had worked. And who knows what would’ve happened in overtime.”
Though the Current no longer control their playoff destiny, they can still reach the playoffs with some help. D.C. needs to win their final two games of the season and have the Philadelphia Spinners lose out.
“It’s do-or die,” said Offensive Head Coach Keven Moldenhauer. “All we can do is worry about us winning the next two games and see how everything else shakes out with the rest of the league.”
On Saturday, June 20, the Current will face off against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Spinners in Philadelphia, while Boston will be home against the New York Rumble.