AUDL Week 5 Preview: Big Midwest Battle, Empire Hit The Road

The Madison Radicals v. the Minnesota Wind Chill
Photo by Alex Fraser — UltiPhotos.com

Seven games of action this week in the AUDL, as the top Midwestern teams — the Windy City Wildfire and Madison Radicals — get set for their second matchup of the season.

In the East, the New York Empire hit the road for the first time this season, and the back-to-back games could be more challenging than ever since they’re missing three of their best players for the weekend.

Here’s a preview of all the games.

EASTERN DIVISION

New Jersey Hammerheads @ Philadelphia Phoenix

This will be the first regular season meeting between New Jersey (1-3) and Philadelphia (2-1), but the two teams have already had a heated matchup. In a preseason warmup, the Hammerheads got a narrow 21-19 victory over the Phoenix. But the Phoenix have had the better start to the season, with wins over Rochester and DC and a one point loss to Toronto, the closest game the Rush (5-0) have had all season.

The Hammerheads have lost three straight — two to Toronto and then, in the second game of a back-to-back, to Rochester (1-4). New Jersey had a whopping 37 turnovers against the Dragons last week in the 15-20 loss. They will be without Kenny Calello this week; he was one of the few who played well last week against Rochester with five assists, two blocks, and a goal on just two turnovers.

Philadelphia currently sits at second in the Eastern Division and have won two in a row. Matt Esser continues to lead the Phoenix on both sides of the disc, and he’ll need a strong game for Philly to take down the Hammerheads.

This is the first of the more interesting Eastern Division matchups: the games between New Jersey, Philly, and New York will likely decide who takes the second seed into the playoffs.

New York Empire @ Rochester Dragons

The Empire hit the road for the first time this season, heading north to Rochester and Toronto. They will be feeling the impact of a lot of missing players — starters Jack Marsh (moving to St. Louis for most of the remainder of the season), Izzy Bryant, and Seth Canetti will all be out for the weekend. That compounds an already difficult back to back.

Coach Aaron Bell talked with Ultiworld last week about the need to get up early against Rochester — a game they should win — in order to preserve legs for the tough game against Toronto on Sunday.

But Rochester has showed that, with the addition of their college players, they aren’t to be taken lightly. They got a win over New Jersey last weekend.

For New York, coming out of the trip 1-1 would be a good result — beating Toronto at home will prove very difficult, given the home field advantage, an already depleted roster, and a day two game.

Rochester will be looking to get an upset at home to start a win streak. The Empire should not take the game lightly.

New Jersey Hammerheads @ DC Breeze

After their Phoenix game on Saturday, the Hammerheads will head down the coast to face the Breeze for the first time this season. The Breeze had an ugly road trip last weekend, going 0-2 with a blowout loss to New York (VIDEO) and a five point loss to the Phoenix (VIDEO).

The Hammerheads will be without their top Rutgers talent in Albert Alarcon and Scott Xu for the game.

The Breeze will have an opportunity to move into fourth place in the division with a win this weekend. Currently, both New Jersey and DC sit with a 1-3 record. Each team’s win has come against Rochester.

On paper, this is New Jersey’s game to lose. But they will be coming off of a tough Saturday game and will be without some of their stronger players. That could spell trouble, especially against a DC team that has been focused on making adjustments this week.

New York Empire @ Toronto Rush

Last week, the Rush set an attendance record for a professional ultimate game, drawing a crowd of nearly 2200 people. If they can get even half that for the game against the Empire this weekend, that home crowd advantage should make it easy for them to notch a second win against New York this season.

The Rush have just four challenging games in front of them: two against New York and two against Philadelphia. Three of those are at home. With a win this weekend, the Rush will strengthen their odds of finishing the regular season undefeated.

The Empire are hoping to spoil the party. Husayn Carnegie, the Empire’s biggest playmaker, will likely sit out the entire Rochester game to be as fresh as possible for the Rush matchup on Sunday. But can the offense click without Jack Marsh and Seth Canetti?

In their last meeting, the Empire hung with the Rush in the first half before the offense crumbled in the second, letting Toronto run away with the victory. It will be important to manage lineups, and potentially tighten the rotation.

A wildcard: Isaiah Masek-Kelly, who killed the Empire in their Week 3 meeting, will not play for the Rush this weekend.

MIDWESTERN DIVISION

Windy City Wildfire @ Minnesota Wind Chill

The Wildfire (4-1), winners of three straight, travel to Minneapolis this weekend to take on the Wind Chill (1-4). Minnesota has lost four straight, somewhat surprising given their talent base. Practicing together has proven difficult for them, as their players come together from around the Midwest.

It will be tough to get back on track this week against one of the league’s hottest teams. The Wind Chill will need to find a way to slow down Brodie Smith (just as Madison did in their win against the Wildfire) in order to contend in the game. Smith had 15 assists last week against the Alleycats.

Minnesota has been very inconsistent, playing tight with the Radicals, the Midwest’s top team, but losing to Cincinnati and Detroit, both times on day two of a back-to-back. A home game could be just what they need.

They will be without Grant Lindsley, Rob Johnson, and a host of others.

Detroit Mechanix @ Cincinnati Revolution

In a rematch from last week, Detroit (3-2) travels to Cincinnati (2-3) as the teams battle for third place in the Division.

Cincinnati shut down the Mechanix’s winning streak last week in Detroit with a 23-22 win, evening the season series at 1-1. Chris Powers was a beast for the Revolution, notching seven assists on 49/50 throwing. Isaac Jeffries added seven goals and two assists.

Despite a -20 goal differential, Cincinnati has two wins, each by one point. A win this week would get them back to .500 for the first time since week two.

Detroit will be looking to continue their hot play over the past few weeks. They’ve notched wins over Madison and Minnesota and have shot up the Ultiworld Power Rankings. Another win would put them comfortably in third place in the Division. But Detroit is missing their offensive powerhouse Dave Hochhalter this week, which could make smooth flow much more difficult.

Windy City Wildfire @ Madison Radicals

In one of the biggest games this weekend, the Wildfire stop into Madison for the second game of their first road back-to-back. The Radicals, in their first meeting, handed the Wildfire their only loss of the season. Brodie Smith was held to just seven assists along with four turnovers.

However, AJ Nelson still had nine goals and an assist — Madison will likely look to frustrate him as well.

At home and running on fresh legs, Madison has to have the edge in this game. They’ll look to Dave Wiseman to step up again after his five assists, three block performance in their first game.

Their depth could come into play deeper into the game — and into the season. In game one, Madison had twelve different players score. Chicago had just seven.

The Indianapolis Alleycats have a bye this week.

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