May 10, 2022
By Evan Lepler
There were a bunch of very good games in Week 2, but the ultimate gods saved the best for last. Amidst a punishing downpour that intensified in overtime, the Colorado Summit and Portland Nitro alternated between jaw-dropping highlights and soul-crushing mistakes, creating a dramatic finish that culminated with a wild multi-turnover double OT universe point.
Around the league, much of the weekend was about surviving the elements. The New York Empire and their world class offense led 2-1 after one quarter against Philly. In windy St. Paul, the Chicago-Minnesota game quickly devolved into a single-minded pursuit of upwind offense, which was far easier said than done. Elsewhere, San Diego and Oakland combined for 60 turnovers, but the outcome remained in doubt until the closing minutes.
Generally, the elements did not lead to blowouts; to the contrary, surviving the less-than-tranquil conditions became a battle of attrition. Overall, eight of the nine outdoor matchups in Week 2 were decided by four or less, with five of them settled by one or two. (We’ll get to the AlleyCats erupting for 33 goals in their cozy indoor wonderland in a little bit.)
Madison made history, Boston struggled shorthanded, and Chicago completely reset the narrative in the Central Division. But first and foremost, another expansion team looked like a true contender by sweeping a two-game trip in their first weekend ever.
The Full Field Recap
One week after the Salt Lake Shred delivered a formidable first impression in their opening weekend as a franchise, the Colorado Summit made their own powerful introductory statement into the AUDL’s unpredictable West Division. There’s still a long season ahead, and the Summit nearly stumbled down the stretch on Sunday, but their pair of victories puts Colorado squarely in the mix among the other top teams in the league.
“The ultimate community in Colorado is much different than any other team I’ve played for,” said Jay Froude, who went to five consecutive Championship Weekends as a member of the Madison Radicals (2015-16) and Dallas Roughnecks (2017-19). “Embracing the culture on this team and taking the field with these players was pretty incredible. Every individual is invested in bringing up our understanding of community and culture and working through the ideals of what we stand for.”
On Saturday in Seattle, Colorado transformed an early 4-2 deficit into an 8-6 halftime lead. The Summit O-line was broken just once in each half, and Colorado delivered a bunch of incredible highlight-reel moments in their 19-16 victory. Most notably, Mathieu Agee’s full-extension layout landed at number eight in that evening’s SportsCenter Top 10.
“In a perfect world, a team is so polished that you never need to make outstanding plays, but we don’t live in a perfect world, and the ability to turn those potential misses into outstanding plays is essential if you want to be a great team,” said Jonathan Nethercutt, who led Colorado with 13 assists and 1,034 throwing yards in the Summit’s first two games. “Plays like that can be real tipping points in some ways and reminders to everyone on your roster that you have the ability to make big plays as a team when you need to, even if you don’t take the field with the intention of needing big plays to win. Between that grab from [Agee] and the handblock-to-sky by [Alex] Atkins over [Noah] Coolman, I think that set a great tone for the rest of the weekend."
Riding the adrenaline from their first win, the Summit drove 175 miles southward to Providence Park, hopeful of spoiling the ultimate Mother’s Day party hosted by the Nitro. And while Colorado never trailed for a single second, it sure was mighty nervy in the turbulent late-game moments.
Up 7-6 after one and 13-12 at halftime, the Summit D-line began the third quarter with a break before the two teams traded 16 consecutive O-line holds late into the fourth. Colorado seemingly had countless chances to break Portland throughout the second half, but the Nitro kept earning the disc back and punching in scores to keep the game close.
Most notably, at 20-18 early in the fourth, Portland’s Daniel Lee recorded three remarkable blocks during one crazy point, preventing the Summit from seizing a three-goal lead and inching the Nitro again within one.
“Daniel Lee, that guy just blew up and made a ton of amazing plays,” said Colorado Co-Head Coach Mike Lun. “I felt like we could have put that game away a couple different moments, and we just didn’t execute in certain situations and they just kept hanging around.”
In that one sequence, Lee denied two separate deep shots and blocked a pass underneath, stunning members of both teams with his relentlessly clutch abilities.
“That point was pure insanity for him to just keep coming up with D after D,” said Nitro Co-Captain Jon Lee (the two are not related). “Watching it, I feel like I knew he was going to make the play each time, but still in disbelief of how incredible he is. Between that and the ridiculous catch he had at the end of the quarter, he was just unstoppable.”
The Nitro tied the game at 22-all with 20 seconds remaining, and overtime beckoned when Colorado’s last second shot did not reach the end zone. Simultaneously, the rain, which had been spitting lightly for much of the fourth, transformed into a monsoon.
“As fate would have it, when the game was the closest and the pressure was on, the weather worsened,” said Nethercutt. “The wind picked up, the rain started falling, and with the game situation, the defenses really started to dial up the pressure."
Each team actually scored their only overtime goal in the first 97 seconds of the period, and both squads endured painful missed opportunities in the red zone over the final three minute 23 second point of the overtime.
“Most of OT is a bit of a blur with how fast everything felt like it was moving,” said Nethercutt.
In double OT, Colorado’s Alex Tatum threw away a break chance following a Portland’s first turn, but he quickly made amends by blocking the next high-stall pass that floated near the Nitro goal-line.
Nethercutt, who totaled a game-best 976 yards and nine assists, proceeded to quickly toss the game-clinching score to Agee, a short forehand that lifted the Summit to the 24-23 win and ignited a joyous celebration.
“The end of the game was exhilarating!” said Froude, who recorded three goals, three assists, and two blocks in Colorado’s 2-0 weekend. “After packing in the final score, it was nothing but smiles, laughs, and reminiscence of good and bad points. We gave our game disc to Cody Spicer, who locked down resets, even with a tweaked hamstring.
“Overall, our defensive efforts won us the game. Nethercutt was the backbone to our offensive moment. [Quinn] Finer opened up the spacing very nicely downfield throughout the game, and [Thomas] Brewster played a phenomenal role filling in filling when needed.”
The Summit are idle each of the next weeks before returning to the field for their franchise’s home opener, a Memorial Day Weekend showdown against the Shred in what could very well be a West Division title game preview.
“I felt this weekend was a huge stepping stone for our confidence, as well as an eye-opener to finding what worked, what needs work, and how we adjust in specific situations with each teams’ dynamic sets,” said Froude. “We were by no means perfect, but for the first two games in franchise history, we did pretty darn well!”
Meanwhile, the Growlers and Spiders were also mighty imperfect in their Saturday night battle in Oakland.
“It was a fun and windy game throughout, which certainly made the offense a lot less consistent,” said Oakland handler Justin Norden, who led all participants in assists (5), total yards (650), and throwaways (8). “We went down 6-4 in the first quarter, and that pretty much held all the way through. We had chances throughout as well as approximately three end zone drops, and one just out the back, that really would have changed the outcome.”
The Spiders did inch within one when their third break of the game made it 17-16 with 4:26 remaining in the fourth, but the Growlers converted a turnover-free O-point to close the deal, 18-16.
“The focus going into the Oakland game was to get back to four quarters of defense, something we failed to do in the home opener [against Salt Lake,]” said San Diego Co-Head Coach Kevin Stuart. “Our defensive energy was much better to start this game, although we didn’t get to four quarters of consistent pressure.”
Interestingly, each team had exactly 16 break opportunities. San Diego’s D-line converted four times to Oakland’s three, which basically was the narrow difference in the game.
“I think the whole team stepped up,” said Stuart. “On offense, Goose [Helton], [Chris] Mazur, and Paul [Lally] made some great throws in that wind. Downfield, Travis [Dunn], Sean [McDougall], and Hunter [Corbett] were winning their matchups and creating good scoring opportunities. We were able to get Tyler Bacon back into the starting lineup, and it really helped to have his presence and energy on the field. It’s difficult to single out an individual on defense because we played very good team defense for most of the game.”
At 1-1, the Growlers return home to battle rival Los Angeles in Week 3. The Spiders are off until their Week 4 home date with Portland.
When the Minnesota Wind Chill earned the first upwind break against Chicago late in the opening quarter, it was easy to wonder if that single victory over the elements would be enough to secure the win. But the Union quickly responded with a 3-0 spurt early in the second quarter to tie the game, commencing a wild roller coaster ride toward the finish.
“This was a classic midwest game,” said Pawel Janas, emphasizing how the wind forced teams to throw their normal strategies away in favor of embracing the chaos that accompanies these particular conditions.
Both teams were more successful going into the wind in the second half, with the two teams combining for eight breaks after halftime, but Chicago’s D-line offense, anchored by Dalton Smith in his Union debut, proved to be the difference in Chicago’s 24-21 road triumph. Nate Goff and Jason Vallee were also clutch disc-movers for the Union working alongside Smith, who completed all 31 of his throws.
“Hats off to Chicago,” said Wind Chill Coach Ben Feldman. "I thought they adapted well and showed a lot of poise with the disc throughout the duration of the game.”
Sam Kaminsky’s plus-nine led the Union statistically, with the University of Minnesota alum recording five goals, four assists, and one block in his homecoming to the Twin Cities. The Wind Chill’s Canadian cutter Quinn Snider, competing in his first AUDL game in over 1,000 days, caught seven goals and dished one assist, but Minnesota still fell short and heads into their interdivisional game at Dallas with an added sense of urgency.
Elsewhere, the Madison Radicals became the first franchise in AUDL history to reach 100 wins by hanging on for the 18-16 victory over Pittsburgh. Now 100-26 all-time including the playoffs, Madison sits at 1-0 on the new season as they look to get back to the postseason for the first time since winning the AUDL title back in 2018.
“It was great to be back at Breese Stevens Field in front of our rabid, raucous Radicals fans, said Andrew Meshnick, who recorded two assists, one goal, and two blocks for Madison in Saturday’s season opener. “One of the best parts of being on the Radicals is the privilege to play our home games at Breese with our amazing fan base, and Saturday night was a great reminder of that atmosphere. It’s something we don’t take for granted and we try to appreciate every time we step on the field.”
In a cool nod to history, Radicals Head Coach Tim DeByl surprised the team by announcing a starting lineup over the PA that featured the seven original Radicals that competed in the team’s inaugural season back in 2013. Behind the experience and leadership of Tom Annen, Kelsen Alexander, Kevin Brown, Thomas Coolidge, Meshnick, Kevin Pettit-Scantling, and Josh Wilson, Madison immediately pounced on Pittsburgh, bolting to a 4-1 lead that never shrunk to less than two scores for the rest of the game.
“We’re working through some rust and green, but overall I’m happy with our squad answering the call,” said Radicals’ veteran Pettit-Scantling. “The general consensus on the team is that we are excited to play better this weekend.”
Up next for the Radicals is a road trip to Indianapolis, where Madison’s defense will try and contain an AlleyCats offense that erupted for 33 scores in their 11-goal rout of Detroit. Playing indoors at Grand Park, Indy completed 18 of 20 hucks, finished a perfect 15-for-15 in the red zone, and recorded 11 breaks in 16 chances against the Mechanix, who endured their 52nd straight loss in the double-digit beatdown.
“Defensively, we were really locked in,” said Cameron Brock, who caught seven goals to up his all-time scoring record to 523 in his decade-plus career. “Offensively, it felt like 2019 all over again. Keegan [North] fit perfectly back in, which shouldn’t be a surprise since our four cutters are all the same as 2019. And our new pieces, Trey [Dynes], Lucas [Coniaris], and Carter [Rae] all played incredibly smart and beautiful ultimate.”
North finished +13 with nine assists, five goals, and 931 total yards, as the AlleyCats offense did not look too worse for wear despite missing Travis Carpenter, the experienced star who suffered a torn ACL late in the preseason and will miss the year.
“You can’t replace a Travis Carpenter, so we haven’t tried,” said Brock. “Instead of trying to find someone that can do the same things Travis can, we just adjusted to our new pieces and asked them to do what they excel at. Everyone really played their roles perfectly on Saturday, and outside of a hiccup to start the third, we played some nearly perfect ultimate, taking good deep shots when they were there and working the open unders when they weren’t.”
Either Indy or Madison will improve to 2-0 when the Cats and Rads collide this Saturday in the Hoosier State.
Seven On The Line
- Who’s the third best team in the East Division? Well, if we grant the premise that New York and DC are the top two, it feels wide open for that last playoff slot. Interestingly, Toronto was that third team back in 2019, but presently the Rush are perhaps the only team among the rest of the East that does not appear to have much of a chance to cash in on a trip to the postseason. In no particular order, let’s look at the candidates.
- It could very well be Philly, who is 0-2 but has mostly impressed in narrow road losses to Boston and New York. After dropping a 25-24 result to the Glory in Week 1—playing without a couple of standouts in Alex Thorne and Greg Martin—the Phoenix battled the Empire down to the wire on Saturday night in New Rochelle, ultimately falling 17-15 in a game where the weather was not as bad as everyone expected it to be.
“We prepped for horrible conditions with lots of rain and hurricane winds basically, but it really ended up being mostly pleasant other than some light rain at times,” said New York’s Ryan Drost, who recorded four blocks to move into second-place all-time in AUDL history in that category, trailing only his twin-brother Mike. The weather may have been ok, but the offenses were not, especially early in them game. “We had a defensive game plan to slow down their offense, and we executed that pretty well,” said Philly’s James Pollard, who recorded four assists, two goals, and two blocks for the Phoenix. Pollard also skied a crowd in the end zone with four seconds left to bring Philly within one, but the Empire tossed a buzzer-beater on the final throw of the game to prevail by two. “Philly played an athletic and physical style of game, and the Empire weren’t doing ourselves any favors,” said New York’s Jeff Babbitt. “We found ourselves in tough spots a few too many times…We played incredible in Week 1 [against DC,] all things considered. Week 2 [against Philly], I think we had a little too much focus on who we were playing against versus focusing on what we ourselves needed to be doing.”
- Is there a chance Ottawa might be the third-best team in the East? Well, the Outlaws won their season opener for the second straight year (and just the second time ever) by outlasting Boston 21-19 on Friday night.
“We got two buzzer beaters at the end of the second and third quarters, which turned out to be pretty important given how close the score ended,” said Ottawa’s Alec Arsenault, who recorded his 200th career goal early in the fourth quarter to give the Outlaws a 20-15 lead. “Unfortunately, our offense wasn’t clicking as well as it could in the fourth so we couldn’t finish the game with the foot on the gas as we would have liked, but we kept it together and took home the W.” Nick Boucher threw for 484 yards and six assists, while Geoff Bevan completed 39-of-40 passes for 380 throwing yards. Willie Stewart, Ben Sadok, and Cole Davis-Brand all made their share of plays for Boston, but each also endured multiple turnovers as the Glory struggled after winning the first quarter. “Boston may have been a little short-staffed, but us getting the win will no doubt make it easy to keep our eyes on the prize and start to prove that we deserve to be a part of the conversation when it comes to who can earn a playoff spot,” said Bevan. “There were two noteworthy performances from a couple of rookies. Firstly, Will Dickson showed a lot of confidence, and the fact that he got three assists during his first ever AUDL game as a D-line player is a pretty impressive stat. Second, Martin Gallant stood out largely in terms of his athleticism. He’s a young guy with an extreme amount of potential.” The Outlaws will look to improve to 2-0 this weekend at Toronto. While Ottawa did start 2-0 in last year’s Canada Cup competition, the Outlaws have never before been 2-0 as members of the full AUDL East Division.
- Coming into the season, of course, the narrative following last year indicated that Montreal was the strongest of the three Canadian franchises. Their performance on Saturday against a fatigued Boston squad certainly didn’t rocket the Royal to the top of the league-wide Power Rankings, but they ultimately won—and covered, as Lepler’s Locks told you they would!—by outscoring the Glory 17-11 after the first in their 21-17 win.
In the process, Montreal improved to 2-0 to begin a season for the first time in franchise history. “Played in enough AUDL games to know that you learn a hell of a lot more about your team when you battle through adversity than blowing teams out,” said Royal vet Kevin Quinlan. “So I am happy for the W and happy it wasn’t pretty. Upwind was difficult for our D-line to convert breaks in the beginning, and Boston punched in a few early. We felt very confident that our time would come. Our depth is going to continue to show throughout this season.” Jakob Brissette piled up 608 total yards, most in the game, while Malik Auger-Semmar (four assists, two goals, one block) and Nabil Chaouch (three goals, three assists) also filled up the stat sheet for Montreal. The Royal also got three blocks from pesky handler defender Ywan Cohonner, who turns 22 years old tomorrow and mostly guarded Sadok this past Saturday. For the first time since 2019, the Montreal Royal will cross the border this coming weekend as they travel to face Philly and DC in a pair of early measuring-stick road tests. “Keys for both of these games is to focus on us,” said Quinlan. “We feel really confident in who we have and what we are.”
- Meanwhile, could the Boston Glory still be the third best team in the East, despite there stumbles in Canada this past weekend? Absolutely. Throughout their preseason buildup, the Glory knew they would be missing several key contributors for this road trip. That’s more of an explanation than an excuse, and Boston does expect to be much closer to full strength on Saturday against New York. There’s no question that a home win over the Empire—a team they played pretty tough last year—would immediately vault them right back into the thick of the conversation. Pairing Tannor Johnson and Orion Cable together as O-line weapons will put significant pressure on the New York defense, and if he plays, it sure will be fun to watch the legendary Jeff Graham battle against the Empire for the first time.
- As if the defending champs did not have already have enough depth, five Flyers made their AUDL debuts on Saturday night at Tampa Bay as Carolina soared past the Cannons 19-13 to improve to 2-0 and extend the AUDL’s longest active winning streak to five. Carolina wasn’t quite as crisp as they were in the season opener against Atlanta, but the Flyers O-line was still only broken once, and Carolina completed 10 hucks, four more than they had against the Hustle. “Our O took many deep shots—probably because we didn’t have the cautionary hand of Matt Gouchoe-Hanas in the backfield,” said Anders Juengst, who finished with four assists, two goals, one block, and no turns in 24 throws. “Felt like we controlled the pace from the get-go. We won the flip, got to play downwind defense, and broke on point one.” Among the seven Flyers that took the field for the first time this season, both Shane Sisco and Walker Matthews were playing in their first game since suffering ACL tears last year. Sisco registered a block in the fourth, while Matthews threw a goal to Justin Allen in the third. “It was a complete team win,” said Juengst.
- Shout-out to Minnesota’s Dylan DeClerck for recording his 100th career block early in Saturday’s game against Chicago, becoming the 21st player in AUDL history to reach that threshold. “Never would’ve imagined I would reach [100 blocks] in this league,” said DeClerck, prior to the achievement. The University of Iowa product has made a career of dynamic rejections, and his 100th was another athletic maneuver, denying Pawel Janas’s throw on an end zone shot in the first quarter this past Saturday. DeClerck joins a pretty impressive club; among the 21 with at least 100 blocks there are 11 past AUDL champions. Fifteen of the 21 are still active, including the Drost twins. Mike leads the all-time list with 182 blocks, while Ryan, with four blocks this past Saturday, inched past Madison’s Meshnick into second place all-time with 175. “I don’t know about passing Mike,” said Ryan, when asked if he was aggressively chasing his brother. “I want him to keep moving up too, plus the more blocks he gets the better it is for us as a team. I’m just happy that we are first and second, at least for a moment. It’s pretty cool.”
We’re just three days away from Week 3, and this next batch of games begins with a spectacular Friday night lineup!
Starting at 7:00 PM/ET, Montreal at Philly is a fascinating matchup that will teach us a ton about both squads and their status as potential playoff contenders.
At 8:00 PM/ET, Dallas at Austin may be a more familiar showdown, but certainly the stakes are high even this early in the season. Plus, the last five meetings between the two Texas rivals have been decided by a grand total of seven goals.
And at 9:00 PM/ET, the nightcap should be mighty intriguing too, with Salt Lake’s home opener against a desperate Seattle team that would love nothing more than to spoil the Shred’s splendid start in "The Friday Feature".
Great matchups, staggered start times, and significant ramifications should make Friday’s AUDL.tv triple-header an exhilarating evening of ultimate.
Like you, I can’t wait to watch!