Not long after Dan MacRae fired home the overtime goal that lifted the Riptide to the first win in franchise history on Saturday night, the veteran defenseman and team captain was concluding his post-game television interview. As he ran towards the runway to the Riptide locker room, MacRae was serenaded by chants of “Captain Clutch” from some people in the stands.
As it turned out, MacRae did have a personal cheering session on hand at the Nassau Coliseum to see the Riptide’s 13-12 win over the Georgia Swarm. That group of supporters included Dan’s father and his wife, his father’s friend and his son, and a former college coach.
He suspects it was someone in that group who may have started the “Captain Clutch” chant.
“That’s the first time that I may have ever been called that name,” said MacRae of his new nickname. “It might have been my family or might have been someone that had a couple of beers during the game. I don’t know if that one will be sticking but I don’t mind it.”
MacRae’s game-winning shot beat Georgia goalie Mike Poulin 2:10 into overtime as the Riptide finally tasted victory after starting the season with five losses. As you can imagine, there were a lot of emotions that MacRae was feeling after the ball hit the back of the net including relief, elation, and the fact that he could take a deep breath.
“Maybe happy that I didn’t have to run back on defense and play another shift,” said MacRae with a laugh. “We were down a couple of D guys when we lost Tyson Bomberry early in the game and John Wagner hurt his shoulder and was out for some point but was able to come back.”
The game winning goal came after Alex Buque made his 37th and final save of the evening, a point-blank stop on Randy Staats that also rang off the crossbar. Buque made great save after great save all night long to keep the Riptide in the game and his final stop set the scene for MacRae’s heroics.
“If (Buque) doesn’t make probably fifteen doorstep saves in that game, we’re not even in the position that we were,” said MacRae. “I think it was definitely Alex Buque’s best performance of the season so far. He was absolutely phenomenal.”
After Buque got just enough of that Staats shot to keep the game going, the ball took a funny bounce up into the air and then it landed in the stick of Riptide defenseman Andrew Suitor who then was on the receiving end of a few checks. The ball then somehow squirted loose but right to Riptide transition player Ryan Fournier.
“It was a broken play,” said Riptide General Manager and Head Coach Regy Thorpe. “I think Fournier got the ball up there and we were subbing.”
Once MacRae saw Fournier secure the ball and possession for the Riptide, he started to break out, took a pass from Fournier and raced into the Georgia zone.
“I just saw one defender ahead of me so I wanted to see if I could get some separation,” said MacRae. “I put my shoulder down and looked back because I was expecting that there would hopefully be a couple of offensive guys to help in the transition. I looked and saw nobody was there so I just said screw it we’re throwing it on net and it went in.”
And just like that the Riptide had won for the first time and the celebration was on.
“He just caught everyone by surprise,” said Thorpe. “It was a great veteran move. He used his instincts and as it turned out the ball was in the back of the net.”
All of the hard work in launching the franchise, hiring a coaching staff, putting together the roster, going through training camp and then going through the growing pains of being an expansion team had finally paid off with a dramatic victory.
Not to sound to corny, but it was kind of like a script out of Hollywood.
“I just couldn’t be happier for him,” said Thorpe. “Obviously coming to an expansion team…he certainly took a leap of faith. He knew it was going to be a process. It couldn’t be more storybook as far as him scoring the winning goal.”
MacRae was thrilled for the players, coaches, and fans, but in the midst of the celebration, he also wanted to share his excitement with one of the Riptide owners Erik Baker who was sitting by the glass. Prior to the game, Baker and his family visited the Riptide locker room and shared a personal story that served as motivation.
“That kind of touched some hearts,” said MacRae. “So right after (the goal), I remember looking for him and wanted to go over there and slap the glass and just give a fist pump sort of thing.”
Going through a rough start to the season is not something new to MacRae although in recent years he was involved in a lot of wins in Calgary and he captained the Roughnecks to last year’s NLL championship. After being left unprotected by Calgary, he was selected by the Riptide in the Expansion Draft and would be looked upon for some critical leadership on what would be a young team.
MacRae went from being on a championship team to an expansion club that suffered through some early season struggles.
“I’m not accustomed to it but I’ve been there before,” said MacRae. “I think one of the years when I was on Calgary, we started 0-6 at one point but we made the playoffs that year. This league is such a week to week sort of league. Personally speaking, we were certainly not freaking out by any means thinking that the season is over and it’s a right-off after five games.”
And now with their first win under their belts, MacRae and the Riptide have a good feeling about themselves heading into Friday night’s game in Philadelphia (7pm Bleacher Report Live and MSG) and then Saturday night’s home contest against San Diego (730pm Bleacher Report Live and MSG). On Friday night, the Riptide will visit the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for the first time and they’ll have revenge on their minds.
On January 4th, the Riptide were deadlocked with the Wings at 12-12 late in the fourth quarter at Nassau Coliseum, but Philadelphia prevailed 15-12.
“We were in a position to win that game in the last five minutes so we felt like we really battled,” said MacRae. “We were right there in the game so it’s motivating when you’re walking into what some people describe as an intimidating barn like Philly has. We have some good film to watch on them and they played a couple of games this past weekend so hopefully they’re a little bit more tired than we are and we can capitalize on something like that on Friday.”
And after his heroics this past Saturday with the game-winning goal in overtime, has MacRae turned into an offensive threat?
“I might ask coach (Thorpe) for some power play time after that one,” chuckled MacRae.
“We might put him on the scout team power play,” said Thorpe with a laugh. “That’s about as far as he’s getting.”
The smart bet is on Dan “Captain Clutch” MacRae preparing to do what he can to keep Kevin Crowley, Trevor Baptiste, Matt Rambo and the rest of the 4-1 Philadelphia Wings off of the scoreboard as much as possible on Friday night.