By Larry Snyder
Allison Park, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (8-4-0 regular season) ascended to the American Ultimate Disc League Midwest Division Championship match with their sensational 21-20 victory Saturday, July 20, against the Chicago Wildfire (7-5-0) at JC Stone Field, on a sweltering and humid evening.
Coming off a Chicago throwaway at 1:07 in the fourth quarter, the Black and Gold worked the disc downfield as the clock continued to wind down. Kenny Furdella, on the 11th pass of the drive, fired the disc between a pair of Blue and Orange defenders and into the hands of sliding-on-his-knees Thomas Edmonds for the game-winning score. A total of 11 seconds remained in the contest.
After Sam VanDusen’s pull to the Wildfire, Mark Fedorenko claimed his third block of the meeting on Chicago’s closing long throw, trying to force overtime. The two squads brought the game even six times in the second half alone. Fedorenko tied with Owen Watt for the most stops at three apiece. The University of Dayton product recorded 25 completions, 25 catches, zero throwaways, and was named the Player of the Game by the Thunderbirds staff.
Both squads continued to show skill and fortitude over the 24 minutes of the third and fourth. Pawel Janas provided one goal and three assists while Nate Goff furnished three goals for the Wildfire. For the Birds of Thunder, Max Sheppard owned two scores and four helpers. Edmonds kept the fans on the feet with four goals and one assist.
Pittsburgh’s offense roared off the runway in the first, assembling a 7-5 lead with goals from Nick Gigliotti, Alex Thomas, Jimmy Towle, Patrick McMullen, Furdella, Edmonds, and Watt. VanDusen collected two of his five assists during this run. Sheppard and he both had five helpers to lead the T-birds.
Chicago countered in the second, retaliating with a 6-3 charge of their own, with two goals from Drew Sanson. Ross Barker and Jack Shanahan helped get the disc where it needed to be with a pair of assists each.
Box Score Bits: Chicago took aim and hit 169 of 184 throw attempts for a 92 percent completion rate, their third-lowest output of 2019. Offensive productivity registered at 50 percent, the same as when they lost to the T-birds at home last week. Pittsburgh’s completion gauge read 96 percent, connecting on 364 of 378 attempts. Their offensive productivity was one click higher at 51 percent.
Matt Rehder gave the Wildfire defense some bite as he put up four blocks. He teamed with Janas and Shanahan to round up three assists apiece. Another trio of Swanson, Goff, and Michael Pardo kept the attack going with three goals each.
When the statisticians wrapped up their figures, Edmonds recorded five goals with Towle only one behind with four. Edmonds also led with 100 completions while Jonathan Mast was next for the Black and Gold with 82.
Snyder Stat: I like to recognize the player who rendered the most “hockey assists” for both teams – the toss that leads to the Goal Throw (assist) for the point. For the T-birds, Thomas Edmonds tallied six, followed by McMullen with three. Janas chipped in four while Tommy Gallagher and James Sykora had three each for the Wildfire It is not an official AUDL stat.
Next Up: Pittsburgh travels to the Hoosier State to face-off with the Indianapolis AlleyCats (8-4-0) on Saturday, July 27, for the Midwest Division Championship. They toss the coin for the first pull at 7:00 p.m. EDT.
For all ultimate fans, the AUDL Final Four Championship Weekend is Saturday, Aug. 10, and Sunday, Aug. 11, in California at Foothill College Stadium, the home of the San Jose Spiders.