June 24, 2019
By Brendan Ringwood
If your Saturday felt like it could have been more exciting, than you were clearly not tuned into the AUDL action in week 12. In another week full of exciting finishes, including two overtime games, one of the most thrilling games took place in a midwest matchup between the Minnesota Wind Chill and the Indianapolis AlleyCats. Hopefully by the time you are reading this your heart has stopped racing, your breathing has returned to normal, and you still have some fingernails left. The AlleyCats took home a 24-23 victory over Minnesota and maintained first place in the division, sitting at 6-3, but the game was far from decided until the final seconds.
The AlleyCats opened the game receiving and after a quick turnover led to a Wind Chill break, it was fair to wonder if the ‘knock the rust off’ cliche was going to be a factor. Those doubts were silenced fairly quick as the Cats would hold on the second point and proceed to rattle off three breaks to go up 4-1. Those early break points would become crucial in a game in which both offenses turned it on to hold serve until the 8:07 mark in the third quarter. The display of scoring through the middle quarters was seriously impressive and something that fans had not been treated to as much in this year’s lower scoring environment.
In the second quarter of the game there was the first sign of controversy that could have soured the taste of this game. The AlleyCats came away with a turnover on a Nick Hutton block, and with the defense on the field and the stall count rising, Indianapolis called a timeout. Only it was not properly relayed between officials and the resulting Brett Matzuka turnover did not count. The AlleyCats were awarded the timeout, and Minnesota’s sideline was assessed a penalty for the ensuing reaction. The situation certainly caused some confusion, and frustration, for everyone involved including the players and even the broadcast team. In the end however, it did not seem to change the outcome of the game after Keegan North commited a drop and Minnesota regained possession and scored to prevent the break.
There were a few other points in the game that truly were unique to the sport of ultimate and highlighted some of the class acts that take place even in the highest pressure situations. With just over two minutes remaining in the game and the scored tied, Rick Gross was caught deep between three defenders all chasing down a massive shot. Before even getting a chance to make a play on the disc, Gross was instead on the ground and no foul was called on the field by the officials. In the moments while Gross was being helped up and checked out by trainers, a Minnesota defender, James Kittlesen, called an integrity foul on himself giving Indy the disc back on the goal line, making it easy for them to punch it in for the score and the lead. It served to remind us all that even while the sport is officiated by referees, integrity is still at the heart of every player, even in the most significant moments.
Indianapolis would still need to score once more after this to seal the win and they waited as long as possible to do it. The offense knew that scoring to quickly on the final possession would give Josh Klane (six assists) another chance to launch a game tying huck, which had been more successful than not all game. In working the disc towards the goal line, each player took their time, worked through progressions, and found the smart throw. Finally, Keegan North found himself on the sideline about 15 yards away and was able to let go a perfect hammer to Travis Carpenter for the go-ahead point with only four seconds remaining on the clock. It was great execution of a great plan, and it left Minnesota with the slightest of hopes to force overtime.
The excitement of the game rivaled that of the previous win in Madison. The team has set themselves up in a great position for the rest of the season and will need to use the excitement of each win to fuel the next. Though the Cats still sit in first, nothing gets easier going forward as both teams they have left to face are the ones tied for second place.
"Pittsburgh and Chicago are both playing great ultimate and we are going to have to play with the same effort we displayed Saturday to close the season out," stated Coach Eric Leonard when asked about the rest of the season. The games across the division, and the league as a whole, continue to be decided by the closest of margins and anything can still happen as the Midwest will likely not be settled until the final weekend.
Cameron Brock led the team in goals scored with six, while Carpenter and North both dished out seven assists a piece. Nick Hutton finished with two blocks, raising his season total to 10 and is now leading the team. Next up for the AlleyCats is the final road game of the year as they travel to Pittsburgh in an attempt to halt the Thunderbirds win streak at five.
Make sure to look for the next episode of The AlleyChat later this week, only available on AUDL.TV.