Wins adding up for Chill
The math is simple. Win half of their remaining games and the Thunder Bay Chill will be conference champions, earning the right to host the four-team first round playoff tournament.
The math is simple.
Win half of their remaining games and the Thunder Bay Chill will be conference champions, earning the right to host the four-team first round playoff tournament.
Pick up a win or a tie this weekend and they’ll clinch a fourth-straight playoff berth.
It’s easier said than done, though, given the competition.
First up are the Real Colorado Foxes on Friday and Saturday at Chapples Field, a team that is fighting for its playoff life and can’t afford a loss in the tightly contested Heartland Division.
Brandon Swartzendruber, who leads the 10-1-1 Chill with 10 goals, said the team is using the weekend set to gauge where they stand heading into the postseason.
“I think if we win both games it’s going to do a lot for our confidence. At the same time we have to be prepared. We’ve had two weeks off and it’s been kind of easy and laid back. I think how we do (Friday) night will tell us a lot,” Swartzendruber said Thursday night, as he and a half-dozen or so teammates took in the baseball Border Cats 3-1 loss to Brainerd at Port Arthur Stadium.
Though the team hasn’t played in almost a fortnight, after sweeping through a gruelling five-game road trip with a perfect 5-0 record, but Swartzendruber said they’ve spent that time focusing on fitness. The brief vacation couldn’t have come at a better time, he added, noting it’s never hard to get up for games against a team like Colorado, who ousted the Chill in last year’s playoffs.
It’s all about momentum, he said.
“It’s actually fitting that we’re playing the two top teams in our division this weekend (and next), because it helps us get ready for playoffs. I’d rather have four tough games before playoffs than play some easy teams just to get some wins,” Swartzendruber said.
They’ll have to do it without one of their go-to guys, high-scoring midfielder Nolan Intermoia, whose nine goals have him among the PDL leaders and who the Chill have counted on to put the ball in the net when striker Swartzendruber draws too much attention from the opposition.
Intermoia has to sit out Friday’s game because of a red card drawn against Des Moines during a 3-1 Chill triumph that completed the lengthy road trip.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an opinion on what they need to do to get the job done against Colorado, a third-place team that enters weekend play with a 7-2-5 record.
Intermoia knows exactly what a weekend sweep would mean.
“We really need to get these two victories to get us some momentum going into the playoffs. Colorado’s a good team and they’re definitely chasing us and looking to play, but with (coach) Tony (Colistro) and his instructions and the good week of practice we feel really confident that we can go in and get two wins,” Intermoia said.
Their play has some thinking this edition of the Chill might be better than the 2008 championship squad, though when confronted with the idea, Intermoia said it’s something they will leave for others to decide while they focus on the task at hand.
“We really don’t think like that,” he said. “The 2008 team is the best team, if you think about it, because we won the championship this year. We have good qualities like that. We’ve got a good attack. We’ve got a solid defence and have actually allowed less goals this year than the 2008 season ... But you can’t really compare the two teams, just because we went all the way in 2008. Hopefully this year we can do and then when everything is said and done we can go back and compare.”
Pitch marks: Forward Gustavo Oliveira tops the PDL with10 assists. Julius Abegar has a league-high 28 fouls ... The Portland Timbers U23 are the PDL’s last remaining undefeated team, checking in at a perfect 13-0-0.