The Eighth Man

Age-Old Rivalry Heats Up With Division On the Line

Credit: Ben Holland

Credit: Ben Holland

It’s the matchup we’ve all been waiting for. The only undefeated team left in the league, the Boston Night Riders, host the only team many people think has a chance to take them out, the New York Titans.

New York’s trip to Boston this weekend also serves as the conclusion of the regular season, and, honestly, there’s no better way for it to end. With a 5-1 record, if the Titans win the majority of the three-game set, the New York team takes the divisional crown, and a likely matchup with the Detroit Innovators in the first round of the MLQ Championship. The loser of the series, meanwhile, could be looking at an ominous first-round faceoff with Rochester Whiteout, a team that totes one of the most complete quaffle games in the league.  It might only be the regular season, but the results of this series, and their implications, could be the difference between going all the way or falling short in Toledo.

Key Matchup: The Beater Game
These two teams have contrasting offensive styles, in that when each team has control, they go about creating points completely differently. With Max Havlin and Andrew Miller holding down the fort for Boston, the Night Riders have frequently been able to bring bludgers up when they have control to create bludger-less situations for the strong finishers the team has at chaser. On the other end of the spectrum, the Titans typically opt to conservatively hold onto control unless their match teeters on the edge of snitch range.

That makes the battle for bludger control in this series that much more crucial. If Boston can manage to hold onto control for extended periods of time, there’s a solid chance they’ll go on 40-50 point runs that could result in a blowout. If New York can find a way to limit Boston’s offensive beating by quickly regaining control whenever Boston brings a bludger up on offense, they’ll be able to prevent or mitigate potentially devastating momentum swings.

Key Player: Augustine Monroe
Typically when looking for a key player, you try to look for an X-factor — someone whose performance, whether good or bad, could win or lose the series. It’s not all too frequently that that player happens to also be arguably the best player on the team, and maybe in the league. With the absence of coach Michael Parada, Monroe will bear the onus of coordinating the team for this series. While Monroe’s resume does precede him, this is easily the toughest competition he’s faced all summer from a playing and coaching standpoint. Parada and Monroe have both been cited as saying that the only thing that matters to them is MLQ Championship Weekend. If Monroe takes that attitude coming into this matchup and plays his full roster, there’s a reasonable chance the Night Rider’s depth will outlast the Titans’ depth. If, however, Monroe uses this series as a chance to prepare for a potential Championship finals series, and plays with a more shallow roster, the Titans have a good chance to take home the division title.

Monroe’s performance on the field will likely be just as top-notch and highly efficient as it always is — we’ve come to expect nothing less from him. But if he’s spending too much time on the sideline and not enough contributing to an offense often heavily reliant on him, expect the Night Riders to win this series.

2-1 Boston
This series will be close, but in a close series, you have to go with the team that has the better seeker beating. Both New York and Boston have talented seekers. This match will be won by the players who are opening up opportunities for those seekers to make a game-winning grab.

In the quaffle game, Boston also has the most potential for scoring in bunches if they manage to keep control. While the Night Riders certainly shouldn’t bank on that happening, the simple possibility is enough to give them the narrow edge in this matchup.

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