Pittsburgh, Pa. – For the fans of the American Ultimate Disc League in the City of Bridges, the off-season break is over as the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds host the Detroit Mechanix Saturday, April 7 in their season opener. The match-up gets underway at 6:00 p.m. at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field on the campus of Duquesne University.
Andrew Gardner, general manager of the T-birds, talked about the move from George R. Cupples Stadium to Duquesne, “The move to Rooney Field is an immediate upgrade to the fan experience. First and foremost, it will be the first time ever we will be located in the heart of Pittsburgh with the ability to serve beer to our fans. Fans will be able to purchase alcohol at the concession stand directly beneath the stands on the 50 yard line and take it with them anywhere in the stands. Without a track surrounding the field, fans will also be much closer to the action which should create for a more exciting experience. While we’ve always loved our past food vendors, it will be a nice change of pace to get the ball-park regulars (nachos, hot dogs, pretzels, etc. for cheap). The view is also spectacular overlooking the Southside up on the bluff. With an upgraded press box and sound system, our music should also be much improved over years past. All in all, the stadium should offer a fun, exciting new venue for the Thunderbirds in 2018.”
Pittsburgh wrapped up last season in third place in the AUDL Midwest Division with a record of 9-5. They posted 322 goals while permitting 310 goals against.
Among the players returning for first-year head coach Pat Hammonds is Mark Federenko who tallied 33 goals and 20 assists in 11 regular-season contests. Sam VanDusen came through with 25 assists in just seven games, and Max Sheppard added 13 goals, five assists, and four blocks in six bouts.
Another familiar face back on the field for the fans is Ethan “Birdman” Beardsley. He missed zero games in three straight seasons and averaged over 30 goals per year.
Joining Federenko, VanDusen, Beardsley, and Sheppard in the starting 20 are Jonathan Mast, James Towle, Owen Watt, Patrick McMullen, Jordan Robarge., Scott Trimble, Jack Hefferon, Mohamadou Diatta, Alex Thomas, Jon DeAmicis, John Buss, Adnan Raslan, David Angeletti, Anthony Kahn, Steve May, Ryan Cicioni. Felipe Delgado is the lone reserve.
Detroit lost 24-12 at home in their season opener Saturday, March 31, against Midwest Division rival, the Indianapolis AlleyCats. The Men of the Motor City own the distinction of being 0-10 all-time during the regular season against the Thunderbirds.
Team captain Ryan Mariouw and Channing Watson each delivered three goals to the box score for the Mechanix at Bishop Foley Stadium. Noah Fisher contributed four assists and a total of 43 completions in his AUDL debut. Brendan McCann was the leader in plus/minus with +5. Detroit put up 26 total blocks but committed 57 turnovers during the match.
Mariouw spoke with Evan Lepler on the league’s web page, “The game was not what we hoped for, but we are not going to let one game dictate the season. I think our inexperience played a role in the outcome. At times, the game seemed really fast paced to a point it was almost rushed. All three of our O-line handlers were playing in their first ever AUDL game. In the end, though, the game came down to who could convert upwind breaks, and I think the total was nine or 10 for the AlleyCats and one for us.”
Gardner shared his thoughts with me on the AUDL’s highly-competitive Midwest Division, “If you ask the pundits, Chicago is actually the odds on favorites to knock off Madison this year after adding the likes of Kurt Gibson and Ross Barker. Though Madison gets the benefit of the doubt having won the Midwest the past 5 years, Chicago does look great on paper for whatever that’s worth. Minnesota is also strong to compete. The Thunderbirds will be extremely competitive and have high hopes for winning the division.”
Other Voices: Adam Ruffner on the league website sees a Pittsburgh squad that is going to be making a lot of adjustments during the early contests of the season. He likes T-birds commitment to developing roster depth and could return to playoff contention for the fourth consecutive season.
Charlie Eisenhood of ultiworld.com dropped the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds to #17 from #16 on Thursday, April 5 on the website’s AUDL Overall Power Rankings.
Weather: Per the sunrise and sunset watchers at weather.com, the prospects for Saturday are partly cloudy skies with 39 being the high and 34 the low by 9:00 p.m. Winds out of the northwest at seven mph and zero percent chance of rain or snow at the start of the contest.
Prediction: As the tea leaves come together at the bottom of my cup, I am forecasting a 22-14 victory for Pittsburgh. You can pick out your seats here online.
Next Up: Followers of the T-birds return to the bluff, Saturday, April 14, for the second match-up of the season as the Thunderbirds welcome the Chicago Wildfire at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field. The meeting gets underway at 6:00 p.m.
Top Video From TheAUDLChannel On YouTube.com – 2017 Game Highlights: Detroit Mechanix At Pittsburgh Thunderbirds — Week 16…