July 5th, 2018
By Louis Zatzman
The Rush now enter the phase of the season during which opponents care far more desperately than the Rush about the results of the games. Having clinched first place in the division, assuring them of a first-round bye and second-round home game in the playoffs, the Rush’s largest remaining incentive is simply to remain healthy. The Royal, on the other hand, need to win in Toronto to have a chance to make the playoffs. The game tips off at Monarch Park Stadium at 6:30 pm ET. Tickets are still available.
That context will provide the Rush with a stiff test. Furthermore, the Royal are one of the most talented teams in the AUDL, with so many imported stars and athletes. Quentin Bonnaud, in particular, has been a highlight factory. He was held to three goals when Toronto and Montreal played in early June, and he didn’t play when the teams clashed in early June. Toronto’s ability to contain Bonnaud – especially with the continued injuries to key defenders Bretton Tan, Mike MacKenzie, and Remi Ojo – will be a hinge upon which the game’s results will turn.
To help defend Montreal’s deep threats, Toronto will debut the athletic marvel Justin Foord. The defender best known for his exploits with the English club team Clapham played five games for Toronto in 2016, scoring 9 goals and collecting a ridiculous 14 blocks. That rate of 2.8 blocks per game would rank first in the AUDL this year among players who’ve appeared in three games or more.
Foord was recently a member of the World’s Dream Cup open roster, where he starred alongside the best international men in the world, including Beau Kittredge, Dylan Freechild, Jonathan Nethercutt, Jimmy Mickle, Kurt Gibson, and the Rush’s own Mark Lloyd. Foord offers the Rush yet another superstar on the D-Line.
The last time Toronto met Montreal, they were led by the defence. Iain MacKenzie caught 5 goals, and Jason Huynh threw 5 assists. They combined for 3 blocks. Ben Burelle led Toronto in the May game, as he caught 6 goals.
Both games were close affairs, as Toronto won 21-18 in May and 24-20 in June. Both followed similar scripts, as Toronto jumped out to early leads and lost focus. Unforced offensive miscues allowed Montreal to claw back into the game, but Toronto slammed the door in both fourth quarters.
This game will likely be different. Don’t expect a desperate Royal team to stumble early. Their execution should be crisp after a pair of letdowns from Montreal against Philadelphia and then New York in their previous two games. Both teams will be missing key contributors, including Kevin Quinlan for Montreal’s offence, and Mark Lloyd, Bretton Tan, and Jaret Meron for Toronto’s defence. Thomson McKnight is questionable for Toronto’s offence, but Hugh Knapp can capably add more handling responsibilities to his plate if McKnight is unable to play.
Montreal captain Kevin Quinlan generously spoke with me to help prepare for the game. The transcript below is lightly edited.
Louis Zatzman: That New York loss, similar to the game in New York, but without the emotional fourth quarter comeback. It puts you in a hole - you need to win in Toronto to keep any playoff chance alive.
Kevin Quinlan: We're not really focused on results right now. We're just focused on trying to execute the little things. That's what we were talking about in practice, and just realizing that we have this awesome opportunity to play in front of crowds, and just to play with each other. Having all this talent from all over the place. We really wouldn't get this opportunity anywhere else. Just execution, and playing together.
Louis: What are those little things, then?
Kevin: It's more of an attitude. It's not really strategy, but it's more trusting each other. Esteban had a good talk last night with the Columbians, he was telling about how they have this thing where you say, I trust you, and it's about having to say that. What we talked about yesterday at practice was we all internalize, and maybe don't talk about trust enough, and just going up to someone and saying I trust you, you got this, this is your game, I believe in you, goes a long way. We think that we all think that, but we don't vocalize it, don't say it to each other. So that's something we're trying to bring into the Rush game.
Louis: Toronto's a team you guys have historically done quite well against, compared to the rest of the division. You won in Toronto last year, you're the only team that hasn't been blown out by Toronto this year. Is that a good thing? Do you see your historical matchup as positive?
Kevin: I know sometimes, at least with New York, they get in their heads a little bit about who they're playing. Toronto, they've never beaten them, and it's a big deal to them. We kind of just look at Toronto as the next game. We've played against them so many times, and we know them, and they know us, so it's just a fun, competitive battle. We don't build it up to be anything aside from the next game.
Montreal (12 games played)
|Assist Leaders:||Goal Leaders:||Block Leaders:|
|Kevin Quinlan – 33
Stève Bonneau – 30
Antoine Genest – 26
Miguel Goderre - 24
|Quentin Bonnaud – 30
Francis Vallée – 30
|Andre Arsenault – 16
Christophe Tremblay-Joncas – 13
Toronto (12 games played)
|Assist Leaders:||Goal Leaders:||Block Leaders:|
|Andrew Carroll – 27
Cam Harris – 25
|Ben Oort – 24
Ben Burelle – 21
Andrew Carroll – 20
|Isaiah Masek-Kelly – 16
Cam Harris – 15
Iain MacKenzie – 15