Photo by Trent Erickson
By: Jeph Novak
Smooth pass after smooth pass pushed the machine that is the Wind Chill down the field and to the franchise's first-ever playoff win on Saturday night. Putting on a throwing clinic, Minnesota’s handlers worked the disc around Indianapolis AlleyCats’ defenders and patiently executed one of the cleanest games of the season to advance to the Central Division Championship Game in Chicago.
In what was an impressive offensive display on both sides, the Wind Chill traded blows with an impressive AlleyCat showing. Indy stayed consistent with big hucks and key cuts in momentum-shifting moments. This was a stark difference compared to the last home matchup against the AlleyCats, where Minnesota ran away with the game by taking advantage of miscued throws and an overall sloppy offense.
But, despite the AlleyCat’s O-line firing on all cylinders, the Wind Chill executed quickly and consistently, opening the game in typical break-first-ask-questions-later fashion. Starting quickly with two breaks on the first three defensive points, the Chill were able to complete 70% of their break opportunities throughout the game. This cut a clear path to victory for the home team, something that was “absolutely essential” for success, according to head coach Ben Feldman.
From the opening point, Minnesota never allowed Indy to get ahead, though they did have to battle to stay afloat, especially late in the game. The AlleyCats clawed back through the third and fourth quarters, taking consecutive points multiple times in each quarter. With this late-game pressure, Feldman noted how it mirrored the 2021 Division Championship game in Chicago:
“I think that's a net benefit for us. The more experience we have in that position, the more effective we will be when it happens again. All of our games against Chicago have come down to the final quarter the last couple of seasons. The team with the lead on Sunday, whether ourselves or Chicago, is going to be feeling that defensive pressure.”
And that experience is crucial, because despite how it felt entering the season, the 2022 Wind Chill roster looks a bit different than the 2021 team. With the return of key players into the fold after time away, free agent signings, and young rookie and sophomore players, the team needed to be hitting its stride and cohesion for this stretch of games. And, even in the atmosphere of a playoff game, the entire team did just that — shining as individuals and impressing as dedicated lines, as well.
Particularly, Feldman was pleased with how the offense started to show more confidence in big plays and hucks, as well as cutter continuation. Andrew Roy was a key factor in the Chill’s smooth-running offense on Saturday, completing 97% of his passes and contributing 287 throwing yards. Helping him out downfield were cutters Quinn Snider, Cole Jurek, and Marty Adams.
In his first year with the Wind Chill, Adams has been an important addition with 14 goals in the regular season and already three in the postseason. More importantly, his impeccable cut timing leaves him open as a release valve whenever his throwers need him—something that was very noticeable against the AlleyCats Saturday.
Cole Jurek also played a vital role in Saturday’s game, with two assists, three hockey assists, and the second most receiving yards on the team. In arguably his best season as a pro, Jurek has been pivotal with his continuation cutting—both as a downfield playmaker and thrower.
Finally, despite playing a quieter role Saturday, Quinn Snider also showed up big. Snider took just two goals and one assist against the AlleyCats, though they came at big moments in the game—notably scoring one goal to stop consecutive break points from Indy. Snider has been a momentum-shifting force in his return to the Wind Chill this season, and looks to keep that going next week against Chicago.
“We’ve been building every game and been trying to get stronger and stronger as a collective unit as the season has gone on,” Snider said. “[Now,] we can head into Chicago next week loose and ready to make plays.”
The Canadian cutter further solidified the idea of playing clean offense to take on what has been a staunch Chicago defense:
“We’ll want to play our cleanest game yet and not look to give them any opportunities on D. Chicago is a very good team, and I think we matchup really well against each other. Whichever team makes less unforced errors will win the game. We have to be clean, disciplined, and make the most of every break chance we get.”
As the final seconds ran out on Saturday, the stands at Sea Foam Stadium rumbled. The Wind Chill took home their first-ever playoff win, giving them much-needed relief and confidence as they look ahead to face Chicago in a postseason rematch. Minnesota will likely need to play an equally clean game as they did against Indianapolis, where they committed their fewest turnovers of the season (11). If the Chill can take away Chicago’s deep game and execute throws like they did this Saturday against Indy, then they have a good chance of punching their ticket to Championship Weekend for the first time in franchise history.
This has certainly been a matchup that has been looming in the minds of the Wind Chill ever since the last season’s Central Division Championship, and the team will travel to Chicago this weekend with vengeance in their eyes.
With their only victories against Chicago coming on the road in the last two seasons, Minnesota just might have what it takes.