June 6, 2023
By Evan Lepler
- Minnesota responds versus Chicago
Following a 16-12 loss in Chicago last Sunday, the Minnesota Wind Chill turned around and tasted victory against the same opponent just six days later. On Saturday, it was a relatively rare non-windy evening at Sea Foam Stadium, yet the Wind Chill patiently worked through Chicago’s zone and completed 96.3 percent of their throws in a wire-to-wire 20-18 victory.
“Chicago brings a lot of energy, physicality, and chatter, and we wanted to make sure we matched their intensity the instant that opening pull went off,” said Minnesota’s Brandon Matis. “Obviously, we went in an early hole the week before and couldn’t afford a repeat, and that was at the forefront of our minds.” The Wind Chill, following their pregame plan, led 2-1 one after three consecutive holds and 4-1 following back-to-back first quarter breaks. Chicago tied the game at 9-apiece early in the third, but the Wind Chill answered with a 3-0 burst and led by four as the game progressed into the final period. Another supremely patient offensive sequence, with Minnesota completing 32 consecutive error-free throws, extended the Wind Chill lead to five, their largest advantage of the game, just a couple minutes into the fourth. “Sea Foam Stadium is notoriously gusty and windy, but Saturday’s game was quite the opposite,” said Chicago’s Sam Kaminsky. “It was easily the least windy game I've played at Sea Foam. This allowed their pulls to be dangerous when pulling to either end zone, and they didn’t have difficulty swinging it against our zone.” Playing without key disc movers like Abe Coffin and Josh Klane, the Wind Chill still had one of their finest passing games ever, as Tristan Van de Moortele went 76-for-76. No one on the Wind Chill produced more than Van de Moortele’s 286 total yards, but 13 different Minnesota players totaled at least 100 yards, compared to just nine for Chicago. Dylan DeClerck produced three blocks, while Marty Adams and Bret Bergmeier each added two apiece. “The message was clear from the beginning,” said Matis. “If we want our season arc to stay the way we want it—namely hosting the Central Championship Game and proving this can be our division—we could not lose this game at home. Sea Foam is our [expletive] house, and we protect our house.”
Madison ends three-game losing streak
With three losses by a combined four goals to start the season, the 0-3 Madison Radicals knew they were not that far away. Easy to characterize as a “must-win,” Sunday’s Breese Stevens battle against 2-2 Pittsburgh showcased many of the positive dynamics that Madison has possessed all season long, as the Radicals soared to a 19-11 three-quarter lead before ultimately prevailing 22-17.
“Defensive intensity was one of our big goals going into the game and something I think we executed well on,” said Madison’s Dan Garlock. “We’ve been talking all preseason and even now about making our defense scarier, and I think on Sunday our defense looked properly scary for the first time all season [...] Our offensive unit has been really clicking this year, and adding Pat [Shriwise] back into the lineup gave them an extra boost of confidence and depth that helped them execute on Sunday. I think I speak for a lot of guys on the team when I say it’s been great to learn from him as a coach and player this year.” Shriwise returned to the Radicals as an assistant coach and coordinated the offense through the team’s first three games, but the former AUDL champion tossed three assists and completed 18-of-19 throws in his victorious return, his first game played for Madison since 2019. Garlock and Sam Stark each recorded multiple blocks, while the Radicals D-line produced a season-best nine breaks. “We’ve been putting in a lot of work outside of team practices to improve our one-on-one D, and I think that’s paying off,” added Garlock. “I think we’re on the upswing, and I’m excited to see Minnesota this weekend.” Starting in St. Paul this Saturday, the Radicals have their next five games against the Wind Chill and the AlleyCats, two teams they will absolutely need to beat in order to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
LA outlasts SD in another SoCal classic
For the seventh time in their 30 all-time matchups since both franchises joined the AUDL in 2015, the Aviators and Growlers played a down-to-the-wire thriller that was decided by a single goal. It was the 13th time in those 30 contests that it was settled by two or fewer. On Saturday night in San Diego, the Growlers actually held a two-goal lead with eight minutes left, but the Aviators 4-1 run to close out the night lifted LA to a heart-stopping 22-21 triumph. “I would characterize it as an extremely intense rivalry with both sides trying to bring and keep the energy throughout the game,” said LA’s Sean McDougall, who returned to the Aviators in 2023 after playing for the Growlers in 2022. “Like usual, it was a game of runs…As for us snagging the win, I would say it had a lot to do with the belief that we could win and that we never doubted it during the whole game.
We trusted our D-line to get blocks, be tenacious, and stay composed when it mattered, while our O-line just had to figure out how to score to get them back on the field.” McDougall produced six assists, two goals, and three blocks for Los Angeles, while Travis Dunn anchored the Growlers with six assists, five goals, and 645 total yards. Pawel Janas had his biggest game as an Aviator, throwing for 510 and producing 818 total yards while completing 68-of-70 throws. Lukas Ambrose tallied four more blocks, giving him nine in his past two games, while Andrew Padula and Rhys Gretsch also made pivotal plays for the Aviators’ D-line. “Late in the game, it mostly came down to them capitalizing well on our mistakes,” said Growlers Captain Paul Lally. “We stayed pretty aggressive all throughout the fourth, and if our receivers were too deep when we took shots or we spend time on the sideline, they’d end up back with the disc and were efficient late [...] Their whole team played with a lot of energy. You could tell they’re tired of getting beaten by us as much as they have; credit to them for getting a good one in.” Both SoCal squads finish the weekend 2-3, a half-game behind 3-3 Oakland in race for third-place in the West. San Diego goes to the East Bay to face the Spiders this coming weekend, while Los Angeles travels further north for a doubleheader weekend against Portland and Seattle. “We kinda put ourselves into a position where we need to treat every game as a do-or-die game just to stay in the playoff race,” said McDougall. “With Colorado and Salt Lake playing so well, we need to keep focusing on the next game ahead of us and not worry about anything else since every team in this division can steal a game from any other.”
Tight games in Texas
Austin’s strong start gave the Sol the separation they needed on Friday night against Houston. The Havoc led 1-0 after 64 seconds, but just 20 seconds later, they trailed 2-1, and they never led again throughout the rest of the game. The hometown Sol were up 6-3 after one, 13-10 at half, and 17-13 through three, before trading their way to a 23-19 victory. “We have struggled in the second quarter all season, but it was the first half of the first quarter that got us this week,” said Houston’s Ben Lewis. “Take away the first quarter and it’s a [one-goal] game, but as we know we must play a full four quarters in this league.” Joey Wylie led Austin with three goals and three blocks, while Evan Swiatek and Duncan Fitzgerald produced nine and eight total scores, respectively. One night later, the Havoc were back home and again started slowly, falling behind the winless Dallas Legion 7-5 after one quarter. But a 13-7 run spanning the second and third periods gave the Havoc the cushion required to hang on for a 21-19 win. It was a very different game than the team’s first meeting, when Houston rolled 28-17 on May 13, but despite the added drama, the same result endured. “I think the Dallas game was our biggest mental challenge of the year,” said Lewis. “Leadership stressed that the Legion team we saw in the first meeting wasn’t going to be the same team we got this week. Legion has the pieces to compete with anyone, but like us, they have struggled to execute. Sure enough, the Legion brought it to us. Jason Hustad and Alex Wilson Holliday have to be one of the best handler-cutter duos in the league. For us, Mark Baldauf continues to impress, and I think he has been the MVP of our team. He has been asked to cut, handle, and guard the other teams’ best players.” Through six weeks, the Sol’s only divisional wins have come against Houston and Dallas, and the Havoc have only defeated the Legion. We’ll see if any of the Lone Star State teams can knock off Carolina or Atlanta on their Texas turf over the course of the next few weeks, as the Flyers travel to Dallas and Austin this weekend, while the Hustle go to Houston and Dallas on June 23 and 24.
Cascades crush Nitro in Portland
It was a clear opportunity for both teams, who entered a combined 0-9, to use Friday night as a turning point. The Seattle Cascades won all four quarters and earned their first road win since June 15, 2019.
The Portland Nitro tumbled further toward their second straight disappointing season, as Friday’s 27-18 result astonishingly marked the Nitro’s 14th consecutive loss. The Nitro have been frisky at times, but too often they’ve succumbed in key moments or failed to keep it close entirely. The Cascades, now at 1-5, have a long ways to go to feel relevant in the West race, but considering that all five of their losses have come against the current top three in the division, they are optimistic that they can make a strong second-half run. “We had a rough start to the year going 0-5, but to be honest it didn’t feel like we were playing horrible,” said Seattle’s Garrett Martin, who finished Friday’s game a career-best plus-10, with six assists, five goals, and only one turnover compared to 29 completions. Khalif El-Salaam also compiled a plus-10 against the Nitro, accounting for eight assists, three goals, one block, and 39 completions in 41 throws. “In terms of talent, I think this is the most talented Cascades team that we have seen in at least the last four or five years,” added Martin. “We have a lot of great pieces and the challenge has been getting them in the right places. I think those pieces are starting to fall into place, and I’m excited to see where we end up.”
65 and rising
The Detroit Mechanix again fell behind quickly, surrendering scores on five of the first six points on Saturday afternoon against Indianapolis. It was just a four-goal game through three quarters at 15-11, but the AlleyCats opened the fourth 3-0 and the Mechanix never seriously threatened or offered much hope of victory over the final 12 minutes, eventually falling 21-15. “The heat and wind played big factors in the game,” said Detroit’s Jake Kenniv, who led all competitors at plus-five. “They came out with some D-looks that made it really challenging with the wind, and we didn’t adapt fast enough. Ultimately, they executed more consistently than us, and they won because of it.” Xavier Payne tallied two goals, two assists, and completed all 36 of his throws, while William Wettengel and Nick Hutton each chipped in with a pair of blocks, as the AlleyCats won their third straight to improve to 3-2. The Mechanix dropped to 0-3, suffering their 65th consecutive loss dating back to 2017. “We are definitely encouraged by closer margins the last two weeks,” said Kenniv. “That’s evidence that we are moving in the right direction towards winning games, and we want to keep trending up…The length of the streak is irrelevant to me. I don’t care how many games we have to lose until we build the right team and the right culture to start winning games. Because it’s not about winning just one game, it’s about building a winning team. I guarantee you there are some of us on this team who want to win more than anyone in the league and we will continue giving it everything we have until we get it right. I don’t know when we will break the streak, but when we do it will be a day nobody is going to forget.”
- Callahan count
After we witnessed 15 Callahans through the first five weeks of the season, Week 6 was completely Callahan-free, a somewhat surprising development considering there was more action this past weekend than in any of the previous slates. Alas, do not despair, our Callahan pace remains robust. With 15 Callahans in 62 total games, we’re currently on pace for almost 35 Callahans for the entirety of the regular season. For comparison’s sake, there were only 27 Callahans in the past two seasons combined. “Pulls matter,” said Chicago’s Sam Kaminsky. “A lot.” Indeed, the new pull rules have made a significant impact, which is exactly what the AUDL intended when it implemented the change. The increase in Callahans is far from the primary consequence, but it’s certainly one of the noteworthy quantifiable corollaries.
Considering that Oakland just experienced Salt Lake and Colorado in a single 24-hour span, I wondered who the Spiders thought had the edge going in Friday night’s battle of unbeatens. No one was eager to offer an outright prediction, but there were some interesting insights.
“I have a suspicion home field advantage will play a role in Colorado and Salt Lake’s first matchup next weekend,” said Spiders Captain Keenan Laurence. “The key for both of them will be energy. With a rowdy Summit crowd in attendance ready to rally off any highlight play, Salt Lake will need to generate their own energy while maintaining it for all four quarters of what will surely be a barn burner.”
Oakland’s Mac Hecht believes that Salt Lake’s O-line defense gives them a legit shot.
“I was impressed by their ability to get the disc back, sometimes even in the first throw or two, and that helped them maintain control of the game,” said Hecht.
Meanwhile, the Shred understand they are underdogs, having endured at least one pivotal lull in all three of their previous matchups against the Summit, all of which have been won by Colorado.
“They’re the top in the West, for good reason,” said Salt Lake Head Coach Bryce Merrill. “Quinn Finer is on another planet right now. He’s unreal. They’ve got a lot of depth that they haven’t needed to tap into yet [...] I’m hoping our practice intensity this season has prepared us for the speed and exactness that Colorado demands of us. I’ve seen our guys do it a quarter or a half at a time. But we’ve got to string together four quarters. We saw that last year—letting a three-goal fourth quarter lead slip away in meeting one, or digging a 5-1 whole in the playoffs is just too much to overcome against a team as talented and consistent as Colorado. Proud of the guys for what we’ve been able to accomplish thus far this season, but our toughest contests lie ahead of us the next six games.”
Quite frankly, regardless who wins, the next two Friday nights with these two powerhouse teams squaring off should both be incredible.
“Salt Lake will be the most athletic team we’ve played this year,” said Colorado Co-Coach Mike Lun. “Even when we’re full strength, they might be more athletic than us. We’ll do our best to slow their pace down.”