Pittsburgh, Pa. – Coming off a one-point victory at home last week over the Detroit Mechanix (0-2), the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (1-0) stay at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field on the bluff Saturday, April 14 when they host the Chicago Wildfire. The battle between these Midwest Division rivals gets underway at 6:00 p.m. at Duquesne University and it is the season opener for the Boys from the Windy City.
Jimmy Towle delivered four goals in the 17-16 triumph against the Boys from the Motor City. Sam VanDusen provided the most assists with seven. Jonathan Mast came through with 31 completions, and Mark Fedorenko tallied four blocks. The Stifel Star Player of the Night for Pittsburgh was VanDusen.
Detroit lost the duel in total turnovers 22-19. Both squads put up 12 blocks apiece. You can see the replay of the match-up with Matt Weiss behind the play-by-play microphone here.
Thunderbirds general manager Andrew Gardner spoke with me about the importance of blocks and turnovers in the American Ulitmate Disc League, “Blocks don’t always tell the full defensive story. While every team would like to have a ton of block, a good mark on a handler can force a turnover, but it doesn’t officially go into the stat book as a ‘block’. It’s comparable to a runner who goes from 1st to 3rd on a single, a play that doesn’t show up in the stat book anywhere. Hustle plays that force a bad throw or make it difficult for the receiver to catch without actually making contact with the disc is a defensive team mind-set that we try and instill. Stats won’t tell the story quite yet in the AUDL, but if I’m focusing on one, it’s turnovers for Chicago and our conversion rate on those turnovers.”
This week, along with Federenko, VanDusen, Mast, and Towle, the starting 20 for head coach Pat Hammonds includes Maximilian Sheppard, Owen Watt, Patrick McMullen, Jordan Robarge., Scott Trimble, Mohamadou Diatta, Alex Thomas, Jon DeAmicis, John Buss, Ethan Beardsley, Steve May, Ryan Cicioni, Kenny Furdella, Adnan Raslan, Edward Peters, and David Vatz. Felipe Delgado and David Angeletti are second-week reserves.
Chicago wrapped up the 2017 campaign with a record of 3-11 and finished fifth in the Midwest Division. Per Adam Ruffner at the AUDL’s web site, the Blue and Orange “were a top 10 team last season in team completion rating, but were third worst in the AUDL with 77 drops in 2017.” The T-birds is 5-2 all-time against the Wildfire during the regular season.
Pawel Janas helped the offense with 85 assists last season, the second most in the history of the AUDL. Michael Pardo contributed 70 goals and 21 blocks while Jeff Weis added 20 goals and 17 blocks to the score sheet. The additions of Kurt Gibson and Ross Barker are being counted on to reverse the team’s fortunes in 2018.
I asked Gardner about the benefit of Pittsburgh having a contest behind them when facing Chicago, “Having a game under our belts in definitely an advantage. Every team each off-season goes through some roster turn-over, and it’s tough to replicate an AUDL simulation game at practices. It will probably still take time for our players to feel like Art Rooney is home (it’s only our second game there), but playing the Mechanix allows us to figure out each others tendencies and receive feedback on future games. On the other side of the coin, since Chicago hasn’t played yet, we haven’t had a chance to scout them whereas they can look at us from last week. We’re focused on an overall team strategy and I’m confident that Head Coach Pat Hammonds and Asst Coach David Lionetti can make the necessary adjustments in the 2nd half this Saturday.”
My Prediction: After looking through the coffee grounds in the kitchen, I am predicting another close clash and a 23-21 win for the Black and Gold. You can select your choice seats online.
Other Voices: Charlie Eisenhood from ultiworld.com has Pittsburgh down two notches to 19 this week, which is the lowest rating in the AUDL Overall Power Rankings in team history.
Weather: The cloud observers at weather.com are forecasting mostly cloudy skies Saturday evening with a 70 to 80 percent chance of showers. The high for the day is 78 degrees and a low of 68 by 9:00 p.m. Winds out of the west to south at six to nine mph.
Next Up: Pittsburgh loads up the bus for their first road contest, Saturday, April 21, against the Indianapolis AlleyCats (1-1). The meeting at Roncalli Stadium gets underway at 7:30 p.m.
From The Clipboard: Eddie Peters, a member of the T-birds roster, is the head coach for Hot Metal, Pittsburgh’s women’s club ultimate squad. You can find out about the team here.
Top Video From TheAudlChannel On YouTube.com – 04/11/2018 Game Highlights: Detroit Mechanix At Pittsburgh Thunderbirds…