Blaine, Minn. (Aug. 4, 2019) – This year’s ESPN2 live broadcast at the U.S. Open Club Championships was the men’s division final, and it was a good one. The defending National and U.S. Open Champions, New York PoNY, took on Seattle Sockeye, one of the more prolific teams in the division.
It’s not a huge surprise, given how both teams played through the earlier rounds on the weekend, but the game was very clean. Each team ended up with three break chances, but Sockeye was the only team to actually successfully convert on any of those chances. Most of the points came pretty easily for both sides, with each team riding their offensive line through hold after hold. They took their time, going with what the defense, no matter what variety, allowed. As usual, Grant Lindsley was a shining example of this patient strategy. He spent the first two days of the tournament lighting people up with deep cuts, racking up a bunch of goals. So Sockeye largely pushed him under, which was fine with Grant. That just gave him a chance to show off some of his throws. He ended up with three assists and a couple more hockey assists to go along with them.
Sockeye started crossing over some of their stars pretty early in the game, with Trent Dillon moving to the O line as early as 4-3, with PoNY in front but on serve. But Dillon did play a role in the game’s first break. Tied at 5-5, a PoNY throwing miscue gave Sockeye the disc about 15 yards out. Dylan Freechild picked up and broke low and around Jimmy Mickle on the mark to the backhand side. The throw floated right out in front of Trent Dillon who was streaking up the line and into the end zone. Traded holds closed out the first half, with just four turns in all, at least until the point for half. Apparently a lot of people wanted to get in on the turn action at that point. A miscommunication from Sockeye led to a huck to no one, followed by a pair of traded uncharacteristic and unforced turns by some of the best players in the game. Sockeye finally got the goal for half, Phil Murray to Matt Rehder, and went into the half up one break.
Simon Montague was usually the go-to guy for Sockeye, taking ownership of the O line and acting as the center handler throughout. Matt Rehder was the main target in the deep space, while Dylan Freechild, Jacob Janin and Matty Russell did a lot of work in the shorter space. Later in the game, PoNY gave Chris Kocher the job of corralling Freechild, which was probably the best matchup of the game. Kocher did a great job of making Freechild a way less viable option in the downfield space. For Sockeye’s part, they stuck mostly with Ben Snell and Julian Hausmann on Jimmy Mickle, but neither defender was able to completely shut down one of the best players in the division. Where during the semifinal Mickle was taking advantage of the open space under, in today’s final, he had more room to work in the deep space – essentially switching roles with Lindsley. Mickle finished the game with four goals and two assists. Basically, giving him a second to make a move while the disc was in the hands of Harper Garvey or Grant Lindsley was the quintessential “cheat code” button. But even on the occasions he stayed on the field for defensive points, which happened with more regularity down the stretch, Mickle couldn’t get the break PoNY needed. Sockeye managed to get one more though. They came down in a junky set that had Hausmann watching the deep space and guys like Nathan Kwon and John Randolph poaching underneath in the cutting lanes. PoNY missed on their reset throw, and Eli Friedman found Ben Snell for 11-8 after several swing and reset passes for Sockeye. The teams traded holds all the way to game point. Sockeye took their time and a Montague to Murray to Freechild string closed out Sockeye’s second-ever U.S. Open Championships title.