PIT @ MIN 5/18 Recap

Photo by Rich Moll

Written By: Ryan Baker, Journalist

There’s no time to dwell on the loss. That was the theme of head coach Ben Feldman’s mentality after the Minnesota Wind Chill dropped their home opener to the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds on May 18.

It was another close game for Minnesota as they lost 16-15 in a rematch with the Thunderbirds. In the opening week of the 2024 season, the Wind Chill spoiled Pittsburgh home opener, and in turn, they came right back and gave Minnesota a taste of their own medicine.

It wasn’t all bad as Sea Foam Stadium saw their biggest crowd for the home opener in franchise history with over 1000 people in attendance, but everyone repping Minnesota left with a sour taste in their mouths.

“I think the guys are probably frustrated, including the coaching staff with the outcome. I feel like a lot of it was self-inflicted with missed executions, and a lot things we wish we could get back and do differently. We don’t have a lot of time to dwell on that. We have a hungry team in Madison in a really difficult venue ahead of us, so we got mentally shift our focus for that and be ready,” said Feldman.

It’s tough to win a game when the play isn’t as crisp as it has been. In the home opener, the Wind Chill had 28 turnovers, meanwhile they only had 29 in their first two games combined. Additionally, they went 3-12 on hucks and had a break percentage of just 24% in the loss.

“I think Pittsburgh did a really good job of their pull effectiveness. They put us in difficult positions to start each point. In windy conditions, we had a lot of short-field turnovers, which led to very easy goals and conversions for them. In a game like that, that’s going to end up being the difference,” said Feldman

The game was never out of reach for either team as Minnesota started out the game up 2-0, and ended the first quarter up by one. However, the second quarter gave them some struggles when they gave up three straight breaks to open it up. Even with that, they bounced back and were able to tie the game heading into the half.

The third quarter was a long one with the first point lasting nearly three minutes, then the next nearly four minutes. Only playing a total of five total points to open up the second half, the Wind Chill saw themselves down one heading into the final quarter.

They were able to tie up the game after the first point in the fourth, but throughout the last quarter, the Wind Chill had three opportunities to break Pittsburgh’s O-line in three different points, but failed to do so in each of them.

“I think everyone is pretty frustrated by our performance. It does add some extra fire for games ahead. All of our focus was on winning the game. Weird stuff happens, and we hadn’t played consistent or crisp until that point. I thought we lacked an edge for the most part of this game. Overall, this was one of our worst performances in recent memory. It’s tough to overcome with so many self-inflicted errors,” said Bryan Vohnoutka.

One of those opportunities came after Minnesota broke the Thunderbirds to tie the game with two minutes left to go. A throwaway from Cameron Lacy after a turnover from Pittsburgh, allowed the Thunderbirds to take the lead with just 18 seconds left in the game.

“They were definitely more comfortable and willing to take their chances on some of their less certain deep shots, but their players were effective in bringing them down. They got enough full field conversions that put us in a tough spot. It was just a too little, too late at the end of the game to try and pull ourselves out of a hole that we dug ourselves in the second half,” said Feldman.

It was a tough loss for one of the top teams in the league, but they are going to have to key in on the bright spots and shift their focus for a giant matchup with the Madison Radicals next weekend. One of those bright spots on the season has been returning player Greg Cousins. Cousins mustered up 272 total yards in the loss with three goals and two assists, continuing his first successful season since his hiatus in 2018.

“The Wind Chill are a dedicated, talented group of players. Our season is just starting and our ceiling is high. I'm excited to keep growing with the team and see where we can go this year. Coming back to the team, one of the things I most enjoy is the atmosphere of positive competitiveness. We push each other hard so that we can be our best. It's refreshing and bodes well for the future of the program,” said Cousins.

The other additions of the team also have been playing at a high level as Matthew Rehder accrued three blocks in the game, bringing his total on the year to a team-leading six. Rookie Thomas Shope has also inserted himself as a crucial player down the stretch of these tight games as he walked away with two blocks in his Sea Foam debut.

Short-term memory will be key for a team that sits behind their next matchup in the division standings. The Central Division lead will be up for grabs next weekend when Feldman and company travel to Breese Stevens Field for a highly anticipated matchup with the Radicals.

“It’s a 12-game season, and things are still in our control, but it is really unfortunate to drop our first game like that in front of our home crowd. I’m hoping that fires up the team, and I know the guys are going to be ready to go on Friday in Madison,” said Feldman.