Photo by Bob Hume – UltiPhotos.com
The D.C. Current scored three-straight break points at the start of fourth quarter to come from behind and win the Eastern Conference Championship, 18-17, over the Boston Whitecaps on Saturday night. D.C. will now advance to the MLU Championship game on July 19th where they will take on the Vancouver Nighthawks.
D.C. hasn’t spent much time trailing their opponents this season, but inside of Cardinal Stadium Saturday night the team found themselves trying to play catch-up for most of the contest. The Current jumped out to an early 4-2 lead but saw it evaporate as the Whitecaps ran off four-straight scores over four minutes of game time spanning the end of the first and start of the second quarter to claim a 6-4 advantage.
The Whitecaps held on to that lead for the rest of the first half and into the fourth quarter. Up by one and receiving the disc to start the final frame, Boston looked to be in a comfortable position, but D.C.’s defense would provide the timely plays needed to pull out the win.
“Our D-line always goes on a run, and it was just a matter of waiting for that to occur,” said Current Head Coach Keven Moldenhauer. “The D-line got the breaks to start the fourth quarter, our crowd was crazy and we came up big to get the win in the end.”
Following a great layout D by David Cranston, D.C would work the disc up the field and punch it in on a throw from Eddie Peters to Lloyd Blake to knot the game at 14. On the following point the Current’s defense was able to create another turnover and immediately took a deep shot to Eric Miner who caught the disc just outside of the end zone before putting a pass to Chip Cobb to give D.C. a 15-14 lead. Boston tried to break the string by putting a deep pass to Danny Clark, but before the disc could reach him Rico Johnson beat him to the front corner and skied high in the air to knock the throw away. D.C. produced another great D on that possession when Brian Marshall alertly knocked down an arrant pass five yards from the goal line. The Current converted the turn into their seventh break point of the game and third-straight when Eddie Peters fed Dominique Gibson for the score to make it a 16-14 game in favor of D.C.
“All season long it has been a faceless army of guys that are willing to go out there and hustle,” said Current Assistant Coach Will Smolinski. “Do the things that we say we are going to do and execute the game plan each week. Everybody erupted when we got that first break in the second half and it seemed like everyone was behind us after that.”
Boston never gave up though and made things interesting down the stretch. With just 65 seconds left to play in regulation, the Whitecaps took advantage of a short field turnover to knot the game at 17.
D.C. could have been shaken by that blunder, but instead they were composed and worked the disc up near midfield and into the hands of Markham Shofner. Shofner, one of the best deep throwers in the MLU, saw Peter Prial running free and into the end zone and put up a pass. Prial was able to box out his defender and then raised up high in the air to score what proved to be the game-winning goal with 31 seconds left.
“I didn’t think I was going to get it,” Prial said of the game winner. “I didn’t take a good line to it. Markham made a really great throw, put it out into the space where it needed to be. I had to come back at it and I was really happy I was able to make that catch especially after throwing that short field turn the point before.”
The Whitecaps had one final shot at tying the game up and forcing overtime, but D.C.’s defense forced everything under and didn’t even allow Boston to get a shot off into the end zone.
Alan Kolick led all players with seven points off of one goal and six assists, while Shofner finished with six points on three goals and three assists. Brandon Malecek led Boston with six points on three goals and three assists.
“That was intense,” said Shofner. “I’m glad that we played Boston, I’m glad the game was against them, because that is the team we’ve been measuring ourselves against for awhile.”
“We came out a little flat and they looked better than they had this season so far, but we were able to come back. Any comeback win feels good, but a comeback win in the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston is just perfect.”
The come from behind win advances D.C. to the MLU Championship game at PPL Park on July 19th.
“This is what we’ve been working towards all season,” said Kolick. “I’m excited to play a West Coast team. It will be fun to play a different team and I’m pretty confident that we should be able to win.”