The Wind Chill controlled the game until Chicago bounced back in the final minutes.
September 1, 2021 by Alex Rubin in Recap with 0 comments
Our coverage of the 2021 AUDL season is presented by VII Apparel Co., who provides premium performance apparel for the active world, featuring their proprietary GreenLine fabric made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
In a battle of full strength 10-2 teams, the Minnesota Wind Chill traveled to Chicago to play the Union. Chicago led the season series with two wins to Minnesota’s one, but the road team had won each game, giving Minnesota hope of pulling off the upset. While it looked like the Wind Chill might do just that, a fourth quarter to forget ended with Chicago advancing in the AUDL playoffs.
The Union started the game looking confident; the offense was able to swing the disc across the wide field and Pawel Janas’ hammer to Jack Shanahan opened the scoring. Minnesota looked equally effective, able to find the open player around Chicago’s poaching and switching. Bryan Vohnoutka caught a bendy flick at the front cone to tie the game at 1-1. After another hold each, a low Paul Arters flick was caught by a defending Brett Matzuka. Rocco Linehan’s half field shot to Dylan DeClerck gave Minnesota an early 3-2 lead.
Neither defense could get another turn as former Wisconsin Hodag cutters – Ross Barker for Chicago and Nick Vogt for Minnesota – looked really comfortable carving up the middle of the field. With just under three minutes left in the first quarter, he Wind Chill’s Jimmy Kittlesen went horizontal to block Pat Shriwise’s throw, and Minnesota called a time out looking for another break. Josh Klane’s huck to a wide open Vohnoutka fell just a bit long and the Chicago D-line offense took over. Peter Graffy dropped an easy swing pass, but just a throw later ran through and in cut and got the disc back. Nate Goff’s huck to Kurt Gibson secured the tenuous hold for Chicago to tie the game at 6-6. The Minnesota D-line came on to play offense, moving the disc quickly with under a minute left in the quarter. Linehan’s flick to Isaac Leonard gave the Wind Chill a 7-6 lead at the end of the first as Chicago’s rushed last ditch huck fell out of Shriwise’s hand.
Chicago was ready for the Wind Chill’s best efforts. “We’ve lost before to this team so I would not say overconfidence had a lot to do with our poor start,” Janas wrote to Ultiworld after the game. “We had a good plan going into the game but there is only so much you can do when the opponent was playing as crisp as the Wind Chill were.”
Minnesota received to start the second quarter and patiently worked the disc around the tricky Chicago defense. On the ensuing pull, Vohnoutka hid by walking along the Wind Chill sideline in a snake-in-the-grass play and he blocked Janas’ huck to what looked to be a wide open Keegan North.
Minnesota worked it into the red zone, but Vohnoutka’s bending flick was blocked by Nico Lake. Going the other way, Arters caught a Janas flick under heavy pressure. With momentum on their side, Goff rose up to block a Tony Poletto huck and Gibson found Drew Swanson on the break side to get a break back and tie the game at 8-8. A few minutes later, DeClerck poached off of his matchup and blocked a Janas reset. The Wind Chill called a time out to sub on the offense and earn another break. Klane’s around backhand to Will Brandt gave the Wind Chill an 11-9 lead. As time was running out in the first half, Brett Hidaka read an Arters huck perfectly and Minnesota just had to run out the clock to preserve a two-goal lead. However, his break side toss sailed over his intended receiver and Chicago worked quickly to punch in the hold. Minnesota went into halftime up 12-11.
Charles McCutcheon blocked an early Barker huck on the first point of the second half. The Wind Chill’s previous breaks came after time outs, but Scott Hearne’s huck to DeClerck gave the Minnesota D-line its first score of the game. After a picture perfect Shanahan huck held for Chicago, Kurt Gibson snatched away a floaty reset and Chicago called time out with their first chance to break in the second half. Instead, Nico Lake’s backhand found a Minnesota defender and the Wind Chill defense ran a fast break to secure the hold and maintain their two-goal edge. A few minutes later, Matzuka poached from downfield to block a long reset throw. With the stall getting high, his blade to Collin Berry put the Wind Chill up 16-13 with five minutes left in the third quarter. Janas’ flick to space for Lake brought the Union within two at 17-15, and neither team could score in the final two minutes of the quarter, with Matzuka coming up with a clutch block on a red zone reset with 15 seconds left. Kittlesen got his hand on the last second heave to the end zone, but couldn’t reel in the contested pass. Despite entering the game as a favorite, Chicago entered the fourth quarter down by two.
Minnesota needed three possessions to hold to open the fourth quarter and retake their three -goal lead as the Union defense ramped up its pressure. Chicago patiently held its next point and Jurek found an unmarked Vogt to give Minnesota a 19-16 lead with 7:10 left in the game. Janas’ slicing cross-field blade found Barker brought the score back within two. With the disc on the goal line facing a double team, Vogt turfed a pass to Poletto and no foul was called despite his protests. Jeff Robinson went every other to quickly move the disc down the field and Gibson hopped into the end zone to bring the score within one. The Wind Chill called a time out, up by one with 3:33 left in the game, hoping to regroup. “The message was ‘now or never,’” Janas said about the Chicago huddle. “The offense was playing OK but had Nick [Vogt] scored at the goal line we certainly would’ve had to initiate a chuck-and-pray approach for the last couple of minutes.”
Goff got in the lane and stuffed Klane’s first-throw huck and Arters found Von Alanguilan to tie the game at 19-19 with three minutes left. The same Chicago line went out for the next point while Minnesota crossed over some of its D-line players. With the stall count rising, Arters blocked Bret Bergmeier’s wobbly flick huck and found Keegan North to retake the lead for the first time since the first quarter. The break train kept rolling when Andrew Roy was called for a stall with just under two minutes left; Gibson found a streaking Tim Schoch to give the Union the insurance goal and a 21-19 lead.
Suddenly needing to move quickly, Minnesota worked the disc up the field, but Schoch’s layout block with one minute left in the game gave the Union possession as the crowd went wild. Chicago was able to run out the clock as Schoch raised his arms in celebration. “I think the combination of the abbreviated warm-up and not playing together for over a month (or even practicing much due to weather cancellations) was the reason we couldn’t bring the heat until the very last moment,” Janas wrote.
Regarding the feeling after the win: “Pure euphoria and joy. I can’t explain it. It’s a big deal,” he said.
Arters was the go-to player down the stretch for Chicago. He finished leading the team in throwing and receiving yards with five assists, three goals, and two blocks. Janas added five assists on 47/49 throwing and Goff led the way with three blocks.
For Minnesota, Jurek (one assist, four goals) and Vogt (one assist, three goals, and a block) were instrumental in building such a big lead. Roy was 50/50 throwing in his first playoff game. The team tallied eleven blocks, an impressive total against a Chicago lineup filled with all-star caliber players. But those accomplishments will do little to sweeten the sour taste of the game’s final minutes.