AUDL 2021 Week 3 Preview – Pittsburgh Thunderbirds Confront The NY Empire And Philadelphia Phoenix

By Larry Snyder

Allison Park, Pa. – For the first time this season, the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (0-2) face the challenge of back-to-back Atlantic Division opponents this weekend in the American Ultimate Disc League.

It begins for the Black and Gold at JC Stone Field Friday, June 18, with a match opposite the 2019 AUDL champions, the New York Empire (1-0), at 5:30 p.m. EDT (See Update). When they come together for the opening pull, it will mark the first time the two combatants have met during the regular season or playoffs. The last time the Empire lost a game was Saturday, August 11, 2018, to the Dallas Roughnecks, 32-30.

There will be no time to rest as Pittsburgh then heads across the Keystone State to battle the Philadelphia Phoenix at the South Philadelphia Supersite. The bout at 10th and Bigler Streets gets underway Saturday, June 19 at 6:30 p.m. EDT. The only time these turnpike rivals met was during the regular season Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Philly. The Phoenix claimed a 30-21 victory.

Major Update…

Thunderbird Players To Watch: Thomas Edmonds missed the meeting with Tampa, and his return this week should help restore the balance to head coach Pat Hammonds’ offense. Anson Reppermund continues to lead the defense with five blocks, while CJ Colicchio brings fire to the game plan with seven goals. Looking back at the match against Philly in 2018, Max Sheppard connected on seven assists, three goals, and a block. This week could be when first-year player Connor Newell breaks open the box score.

Empire Players To Watch: It was an impressive debut for 28-year-old cutter John Lithio. He kept the scoreboard operator busy with six goals in New York’s 19-18 win against the DC Breeze. Ryan Osgar had the offense running smoothly with his eight assists. The focus is on the Big Apple duo of Ben Jagt, who came up with 403 receiving yards, and Elliott Chartock amassing 431 throwing yards.

Phoenix Players To Watch: First-year cutter Nate Little provided four goals while veteran Greg Martin had three in Philadelphia’s opening victory over the Tampa Bay Cannons. Sean Mott and Mike Arcata helped to distribute the disc and collected four assists apiece. Alex Thorne is familiar to T-bird fans as he played for the Black and Gold in 2015 and 2016. He completed all 34 of his passes against Tampa.

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Other Voices: Per his Power Rankings for Week 2 on the AUDL website, Adam Ruffner has the T-Birds at 18, Philadelphia at 12, and New York at three.

For the Thunderbirds, Ruffner believes the absence of Jon Mast due to injury hurts the offense’s efficiency. He is approaching 2,300 career completions for a fantastic 96.10 percentage mark – no word at the time of publication on Mast’s return.

Concern for the Empire centers around playing their second contest in three weeks. Ruffner sees the issue as New York being ready when their opponent owns more game reps.

Philly received an unexpected bye last week when their meeting against New York got postponed. Will they also bounce back from the inactivity?

Friday Home Cooking: Matty Frances brings the fun as he takes care of the Game Host duties. In addition, Dennis Haley’s Hot Diggity Doggs and Mobile Catering of Pittsburgh will be available for your in-game culinary cravings. You can find the best seats here for your family.

My Game Prediction: I see the T-birds yielding 20-17 to the Boys from NYC while picking up their first triumph of the season on Saturday 21-20 against the City of Brotherly Love. The tea leaves have been difficult to discern this season.

Stay Tuned: You can see every Black and Gold swing pass across the field online at AUDL.TV (subscription service). Matt Weiss delivers the play-by-play call for all home matchups.

Next Up: Pittsburgh enjoys the comfort of the Nest at JC Stone Field Saturday, July 3, in their rematch with the Philadelphia Phoenix. The encounter begins at 6:00 p.m. EDT.

Looking Back At 2019 AUDL: Top 10 Plays — Week 15: Pittsburgh’s Max Sheppard At No. 3…

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