February 7, 2019
By Adam Ruffner
The 2019 AUDL regular season schedule is now live! With 21 teams competing in 126 games spread out over 15 weeks of play, there's a lot of ultimate to digest. Here's a weekly example of some of the juiciest matchups to watch for in the coming year.
The 2019 season kicks off with a rematch of the past two South Division championships. The Raleigh Flyers are looking for revenge after giving up a six-goal halftime lead to end their year last season, falling to the Dallas Roughnecks by a final score of 20-19. The Roughnecks have reinvented themselves over the past year as a gritty defensive team built around youth, playmaking, the MVP runner-up from 2018 Jay Froude. The Flyers are losing some marquee names this season, but still feature the AUDL single-season goals record holder Mischa Freystaetter and a top five offense and defense.
The 2018 MVP Rowan McDonnell leads a young and hungry DC Breeze team against new superteam the New York Empire. The Breeze have held the historic edge in this hard fought East Division rivalry, but the Empire are coming off arguably their best season in franchise history and with multiple possible MVP candidates on their roster including Ben Jagt, Jeff Babbitt, and the newly added Jack Williams. These two teams have gone to overtime at least once per season since their inceptions in 2013.
Both the San Diego Growlers and San Jose Spiders are up-and-coming teams with something to prove in 2019, having added major pieces during the offseason. The Growlers are coming off their first playoff appearance in franchise history, and have added two-time AUDL MVP and highlight machine Jonathan "Goose" Helton. The Spiders—the only team ever to repeat as league champions in 2014 and 2015—are looking to return their franchise to the top, and have added Antoine Davis and Marcelo Sanchez to bolster an already solid lineup.
The Flyers have been a perennial playoff team in the South Division, but their rivals the Atlanta Hustle have always had an edge against their North Carolina rivals. Atlanta gave Raleigh its worst defeat of the season in 2018 by a score of 30-20, and with the division looking even tougher and the scheduled shortened to just 12 games, every win counts. This matchup features some of the best pure receivers and offensive systems in the league, as Atlanta's Matt Smith—currently third all-time in AUDL history with 232 goals—and Raleigh's Jacob Fairfax take center stage.
After three straight seasons with a sub-.500 record and no postseason appearances, the Chicago Wildfire, led by All-AUDL handler Pawel Janas, have recruited heavily since the end of 2018 and are looking to add some major pieces for a serious playoff push in 2019. The Minnesota Wind Chill have made the playoffs in three straight seasons, ostensibly taking Chicago's spot in the Midwest Division standings, but have zero playoff wins to show for it. They, too, are upgrading their roster, importing Cam Burden and Tate Halberg from Montreal and Detroit, respectively, while rumored to have more signings in the future.
An intriguing interdivisional matchup between two playoff hopefuls, Atlanta and Indianapolis are two very similarly structured franchises. Both have focused on developing their local youth talent into not just role players, but starters that can hang with anyone in their divisions. Rick Gross is coming off perhaps the two most impressive overall statistical seasons in league history and is a legit MVP candidate, while the Hustle have been getting results by committee, led by the ever-improving defensive talents of Kelvin Williams. An out-of-division loss for either team would be dire for eithers playoff chances.
Since the start of the 2013 season, the Toronto Rush are 17-1 all-time against the New York Empire. But that one Empire victory came in their last matchup, a stunning 18-17 victory in the 2018 East Division championship game in Toronto, a result that sent New York to its first Championship Weekend since 2014 and denied the Rush the same trip for the first time in its six-year franchise history. Toronto is deep as ever and is playing with a chip on its shoulder in the East, but is it enough to return last year's favor and deny Beau Kittredge from the final four for the first time in his AUDL career?
It's been nearly six years, but its the first rematch of the two winningest teams in the league since the Toronto Rush and Madison Radicals met in the 2013 AUDL Championship Game. Toronto won the game and the title in the first round, but Madison is coming off their own championship win in 2018, and is not content to give up their spot atop the league. Peter Graffy was likely the MVP of the second half of the 2018 season after his shift over to offense, but the Rush have a stable of young defenders like Bretton Tan, Mike Mackenzie, and others looking to keep him and suddenly fast-paced Radicals offense in check.
The Indianapolis AlleyCats finally got the proverbial monkey off their backs last year, winning for the first time ever against the Madison Radicals in Week 12 of the regular season. But Radicals would have the last laugh in the Midwest Division championship game, besting Indy 27-18 in Madison and improving to 18-1 all-time against the AlleyCats. Indianapolis desperately wants to prove that last year's win was no fluke, and there would be no bigger statement than to beat the Radicals on their nearly impervious home field.
The first-ever AUDL All-Star Game will be held in Madison, WI on Saturday, June 8. 32 of the best players from around the league will be split up into two captain-chosen squads.
The Los Angeles Aviators were the clear frontrunners for the entire 2018 season in the West Division, but their rivals downstate the San Diego Growlers are ready to being their own reign. Sean McDougall led the league with 58 goals last year, and typified a run-and-gun Los Angeles team was opportunistic on offense and defense. And though he's not the same headline getter or highlight reel regular as his Aviators counterpart, San Diego's Sean Ham has quietly risen to ninth all-time with 197 goals in 52 career games.
The Battle For Jack! It's hard to remember a more significant in-their-prime roster transition in league history than Jack Williams' migration from Raleigh to New York, so this first-ever game between these two teams already has a lot of baked in drama. But more than that, the Flyers defense led by David Richardson has the size and athleticism to matchup well with the Empire's all-star roster.
With a 4-2 record against New York over the past two seasons, the Montreal Royal are determined to continue their solid play against the Empire even with their shiny new pieces. New York has historically struggled in their Canadian road trips; the Royal and their big home crowd are looking to return to the playoffs for the first time in two years. This is a late season matchup ripe with playoff implications.
Another late season game with a lot on the line, Minnesota has never beaten the Radicals in Madison, and they might have to in order to keep their playoff streak alive. Led by Ryan Osgar and 2018 All-AUDL Second Team member Josh Klane, the Wind Chill offense was the best in the league last year, averaging nearly 26 goals per game. But in three games against the league's leading defense in 2018, Minnesota mustered just 60 goals total. If Kevin Pettit-Scantling, Sterling Knoche, and Madison's defense prevails again, Minnesota might find themselves on the outside of the Midwest playoff picture.
This matchup may be viewed as a bit of an undercard type, but don't undersell either Montreal nor the Philadelphia Phoenix in 2019. This game has a lot of "win-and-in" playoff potential, and both teams are young, uptempo, and feature exciting offenses. Sean Mott is coming off back-to-back 50-assist, 40-goal campaigns, while Quentin Bonnaud is the best player you've never heard of when he's healthy. Philadelphia has not made it back to the playoffs since 2013, and with most of their core set to return and a slew of narrow losses last season, they're on a verge of a breakthrough.