Preview: Week 8 Big Matchups

June 14, 2024
By Sam Weiger

Colorado Summit at Minnesota Wind Chill | Super Series
Saturday, June 15  - 7:00 PM/ET - Watch link

Desperation clashes with vengeance this Saturday as Colorado takes on Minnesota in a highly-anticipated game.

Despite taking down the undefeated Shred, Colorado’s playoff path remains narrow. Winning both games of their upcoming doubleheader is critical.

This weekend, Minnesota is expected to be the bigger challenge for the Summit. Humiliated by Colorado last year, despite their own playoff success, they're back on familiar ground and hungry for payback.

In the biggest "desperation vs. revenge" UFA matchup of the year thus far, what are the key things to watch?

All eyes will be on which team craves victory more, and it’s expected to be the Summit, whose margin for error is razor thin. They enter this weekend needing a win much more than Minnesota. With a loss, their playoff hopes might rest on a challenging five-game winning streak to finish the season. Minnesota, who stands alone atop the Central Division, can absorb a loss on Saturday. 

While Colorado craves a victory, several noteworthy factors suggest a tighter contest this year compared to the Summit's dominant 25-15 win over the Wind Chill last season. With the game in Minnesota, factors like the home crowd advantage and the absence of Colorado’s high altitude, which previously affected the Wind Chill's throws, could make a big difference. Minnesota's desire for revenge adds another layer of difficulty for the Summit.

The addition of Matthew Rehder, in his debut season with the Wind Chill, adds another hurdle for Colorado. He's been one of the most valuable players for them this year, making big plays on both offense and defense. His impact on this matchup will be fascinating to watch.

Rehder will spend plenty of time dealing with Colorado’s D-line, which came alive in their win over the Shred. Summit head coaches Timothy Kefalas and Michael Lun implemented a unique strategy: splitting Alex Atkins' time equally between the O-line and D-line. Atkins made some significant offensive and defensive plays for the Summit D-line, so it will be interesting to see if they deploy the split-time approach once more.

Colorado made a few other successful O-line shifts against Salt Lake and Oakland last weekend, so we’ll be watching to see if these lineup changes remain intact against Minnesota. Rookies Nanda Min-Fink and Atkin Arnstein excelled in their first full-time O-line roles with the Summit, along with Zeke Thoreson (out for the upcoming doubleheader).

Despite a glimmer of hope in their win against Salt Lake, the Summit O-line has struggled against top teams throughout the season. Costly turnovers have been a recurring issue.

We’re all eager to see if the unpredictable Colorado offense will bring their A-game against the Wind Chill. 

The Wind Chill dominated the UFA last season in shutting down opposing O-lines. However, the Summit O-line exposed a weakness. They showcased their ability to overpower Minnesota's smaller defenders, winning jump balls and one-on-one battles. This year, Colorado's O-line, featuring bigger players like Atkins and Saeed Semrin, poses a similar threat to Minnesota's D-line.

The onus may fall on Minnesota's offense to pick up the slack. William Brandt's strong season debut last week and his playoff heroics last year bode well. Keep an eye on Brandt, Rehder, and Bryan Vohnoutka – the key players to watch on the Wind Chill O-line.

One Big Number:
- In victories this season, Colorado’s D-line converts 61.5 percent of their possessions. In losses, that conversion rate drops dramatically to 32 percent.
1 - Rehder is the only player in the UFA to lead or co-lead his team in goals, blocks, receiving yards, and hockey assists.

Colorado Summit at Madison Radicals | Game of the Week
Friday, June 14 - 8:00 PM/ET - Watch link

A trap awaits Colorado if they underestimate Madison. Their first game deserves their full attention before looking ahead to Minnesota.

Madison’s roster may not be as star-studded as Minnesota’s, but they have a knack for making things interesting against tough competition. Look no further than their two close defeats to Minnesota by two goals or less last year, and their one-goal loss to the improved Chicago Union this season.

Solid defense, particularly big blocks, were crucial against Chicago. This year, veteran Luke Marks is on track for a career-high in blocks in his fifth UFA season, and young standout Anthony Gutowsky has emerged as a dominant blocker in his second season.

Gutowsky, Madison’s biggest star, is arguably the league's best-kept secret. The versatile sophomore leads the Radicals in both goals and blocks. This season, only two other UFA players have 20 goals and 10 blocks, and one of those players is 2023 MVP Jeff Babbitt. Gutowsky did get three easy games against Detroit to rack up stats, but he has been stellar against the tougher opponents as well. He erupted against Minnesota with five goals and three blocks, and followed it up with a solid performance against Chicago, putting up four goals and a block. 

While Gutowsky poses a significant threat, the most captivating aspect of the game might be the clash between the Summit and Madison's passionate fanbase. This will be the first encounter between the two teams, and Breese Stevens Field is expected to be packed. The stadium's unique design, with fans positioned close to the action all around, could make the Summit feel swarmed. Will the Summit become flustered by Madison's home crowd?

The expectation is that they won’t bother the Summit too much, considering that Colorado just conquered the boisterous Zions Bank Stadium crowd. 

Additionally, a number of Summit players are familiar with Breese Stevens Field, having competed there at NCAA D-I Nationals last month and Championship Weekend in 2022.

Jay Froude has quite a history with Madison, having played for the Radicals for the first two years of his illustrious nine-year UFA career. Froude has only played Madison twice before, so this game holds extra significance for him.

While Colorado and Madison have many of their top talents active, both sides will deal with depleted rosters. The Summit will be missing important pieces such as Quinn Finer, Jonathan Nethercutt, Conor Tabor, Mathieu Agee, and Alex Tatum, along with Thoreson. Similarly, the Radicals will have notable absences in Brian Hart, Jack Kelly, and Sam Stark. Kai Marcus and Max Sample are uncertain for this matchup.

The Summit has a clearer path forward with promising players like Min-Fink, Arnstein, and Froude potentially stepping up. Identifying who will fill the gaps for the injury-riddled Radicals remains a bigger question mark.

Rookie speedster Gabe Vordick, who has added a new dimension to Madison’s offense, could be the answer. He’s the only other Radicals player besides Gutowsky with 20 total scores (goals + assists) this year. But don't count out Mitchell McCarthy, who had a breakout performance last week.

One Big Number:
10 - The Radicals have recorded at least 10 blocks in all six games this season. Last season, they only reached 10 blocks in five out of 12 games.
4 - Four players ranked within the top eight in total scores for the Summit will be out this weekend. (Nethercutt, Thoreson, Tabor, and Tatum)