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NXL Windy City Major brings Impact one step closer to season title after a wild finish in Chicago

Article written in partnership with Iconic Paintball by Quinn Nadu

Photo courtesy of Gary Baum,

If you thought the season title race in the NXL Pro Division was tightly contested heading into the third major event of the year, the leagues top franchises have inched even closer after a wild event full of surprises. Going into the event, Dynasty, Heat, and Impact were locked into a season long slugfest to claim the title as the best team in paintball; now the race is even closer after Impact took the top spot in Chicago with Dynasty and Heat settling for a Semi-Finals round elimination. The year will truly be decided at the World Cup in just eight short weeks, and the team with the highest score total from the four major events and one minor event will take home the title. Although Impact is carrying a higher scoring average for the year, Dynasty’s dominance at major events has helped keep them in the lead due to only one minor event being counted towards year long rank.

Unfortunately, heavy rains on Sunday forced the NXL to postpone the highly anticipated All-Star game, but who are we kidding? An All-Star game at the World Cup is the absolute best case scenario for paintball fans everywhere; the best players in the world competing in a 20 minute X-Ball match on the World's biggest stage will truly make the World Cup a can’t miss event.

The Venue

Photo courtesy of Gary Baum,

As expected, the venue at Gaellic Park in Chicago was wonderful; thick, lush grass combined with great weather for most of the weekend created a perfect stage for paintball’s biggest event series. The vendor area was absolutely packed with the game's top companies like HK Army, GI Sportz, DLX, and dozens of other major brands. Chicago is always a great event for the attentive fan or player to spot new gear that is being tested. As companies ramp up for their yearly World Cup releases, multiple secret test products were spotted throughout the weekend.

Although heavy rains came early Sunday morning, the venue playing surface remained very stout and absorbed the rain well throughout the day; one of the reasons players love the continual use of the Gaellic park venue by the NXL year after year.

A Pro Division Full of Surprises

In the professional division, it was perhaps the most unpredictable prelims round in recent memory, with top franchises dropping games unexpectedly and young franchises dominating the early round. Events favorites like Heat and Dynasty looked mortal in the preliminaries and the surging Seattle Thunder program fell flat.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

In Group A, ac: Diesel once again checked in with a break out performance in the preliminary round, posting a 3-1 record and notching an impressive victory over Dynasty on day one. However, they had an early playoff exit after drawing Red Legion in the opening round on Sunday. Dynasty looked impressive in their prelims round outside of the surprising Diesel loss, and they utilized the depth of their roster to the fullest, rolling out highly variable lineups throughout the first two days. A rumored injury to Dalton Vanderbyl sidelined him early on in the weekend but Mike Urena filled in admirably for Dynasty. Revo and the MLKings posted 2-2 records and missed the Sunday playoffs after both playing well at the last event and had to be disappointed with the outcome. The Ironmen went 0-4 and didn’t look competitive throughout the prelims, which was quite surprising after their second place finish at the last event.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

The New Orleans Hurricanes dominated Group B, as they were the only team to go undefeated throughout the weekend with a perfect 4-0 match record, sporting impressive wins over Heat and Red Legion. The Hurricanes are having one of the best seasons of any rookie team in NXL history, and much of that is due to the elite level of coaching by Mike Bianca. His highly reactionary style has kept the Hurricanes hard to scout, and incredibly flexible during their matches. For the first time in a very long time, Houston Heat went 0-2 on day one of the prelims dropping games to both Red Legion and the Hurricanes, however a more focused team was present on day two and put up two high margin wins to squeeze into the Sunday playoff. Uprising and Thunder both posted 1-3 records and played no more than a spoiler to the other teams in the bracket as inconsistency continues to plague the Northwest's top pro teams.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

Group C was tense throughout prelims with both X-Factor and Edmonton Impact fighting for the top spot and a first round playoff bye; both went 3-1. XFactor dropped a rare game to NRG Elite in a close 2-3 loss while holding off Impact to beat them in their head to head matchup to take the top spot in the bracket. Both Aftermath and NRG Elite went 2-2 and had moments where they looked really good and not so good during the weekend. Ethan Castro of Aftermath is really starting to emerge as a solid young offensive player and was a source of eliminations all Prelims for San Diego. DMG posted a 0-4 record and has inched closer to a potential relegation; they will need to place at least four spots higher than the Saints to avoid that fate.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

The final Prelims bracket (Group D) was the only one in which three teams went 3-1 on the weekend. It became a slugfest between programs all fighting to prove they belong in the conversation of top teams in the NXL, or fighting to keep that status. New York Xtreme was able to break the 2-2 record curse that seemed to follow them for two seasons with their only loss coming to Infamous. Columbus LVL nearly posted a perfect record had they not lost their matchup against NYX, but they never kept the game close and lost 2-5 to post a 3-1 record on the prelims. Tampa Bay Damage regressed and has been regressing since winning the Lone Star Open, and the Latin Saints posted an 0-4 record to get last place. The Saints are on pace to potentially become the first pro team ever to be relegated in the same season they had a finals appearance.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

Sunday games full of wild results

Sunday brought the first day of rough weather on an otherwise perfect weekend; heavy rains early in the morning provided an extra challenge for the sports best teams and experience was king. In the wild card round, Houston easily handled NYX in a 6-1 victory behind stellar play from Tyler Harmon. Red Legion and Los Angeles Infamous squared off on the other side of the wild card round and the game was electric; a tense back and forth battle with a late match surge from Infamous to almost hold off Red Legion ended in a 6-5 win for the Red Legion. Sergei Solnishkov of Red Legion really showed his dominance during this match; he trusted his back line to do their jobs and spent the entire match hunting in the center of the field to great effect.

The Quarter-Finals round brought perhaps the most diverse group of pro franchises we have seen this season; division stalwarts like Dynasty, Impact, and Heat were all present, while newly competitive teams like LVL, Xtreme and the Hurricanes all joined the mix. Each game felt incredibly close to the end and it was an exciting preview for the rest of the Sunday playoff weekend.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

The Hurricanes drew Heat after posting a perfect 4-0 prelims record, but Heat was surging by this point of the weekend and the game became a slower paced back and forth battle of zone control and the experience of Heat shined. Chad George began to really tighten up during this match after having an uncharacteristically slow start to the event for Heat, and Konstantin Fedorov was generating tons of offense to help Heat overcome the rookie franchise 4-3.

In a matchup of Red Legion versus ac: Diesel, the difference in playoff experience showed. While the match did result in a close and low scoring 3-2 win for Red Legion, Diesel was really able to show the maturity they have gained this season. They have been on the verge of a breakthrough all throughout 2022, and this event will go a long way in terms of experience heading into the World Cup against top teams.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

The San Diego Dynasty vs. Columbus LVL Quarter-Finals matchup was perhaps the most chaotic and exciting game of the quarter finals round. Columbus LVL made the curious decision to try to play a slower, pocketed game against Dynasty early in the match and quickly went down to Dynasty 0-2. However, they showed a lot of maturity in moving towards a more aggressive approach as the game went on and were able to push Dynasty to a 5-5 score to go to overtime through a vicious downpour of rain. There was a bit of controversy during the final point, as Marcello Margott drew a penalty after being run down by Josh Lehman with just 3 seconds left. Rather than assess the 2 body start penalty in overtime, Dynasty was able to burn off the penalty with the remaining 3 seconds of regulation time to be able to play 5v5 in the overtime point, where they beat LVL to move on.

X-Factor was able to rapidly set the tone taking a 2-0 lead against Edmonton Impact in their quarter finals matchup; however Impact is not to be taken lightly. Edmonton proceeded to get aggressive behind Axel Gaudin in the snake and Alex Goldman in the doritos and in just a few minutes the score was 4-2 after Impact posted four straight points. Although Raney Stanczak attempted to lead a comeback for San Antonio, there was just too little time left and Impact moved on with a score of 5-3.

A Semi-Finals of 'What-If' moments

The Semi-Finals matchups of Red Legion vs. Dynasty and Impact vs. Heat was arguably the most wild penultimate round of a tournament this season. Both matches came down to singular defining moments to decide who would move on to the finals of the Windy City Major.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

In a matchup with nearly 20 years of back and forth battles between them, Dynasty faced off against Red Legion in the most anticipated matchup of the weekend. The match started with both teams taking a more reserved stance, but after Sergei Solnishkov began to find penetration in the center of the field for Red Legion, Dynasty began to increase their tempo and answer blow for blow to bring the score to 4-3 with little time left. As San Diego made their final valiant attempt to tie the score, they were able to chip away at the Red Legion defense; Ryan Greenspan then made a huge would-be game tying move for Dynasty when he cut through the defense to bunker Sergei. Greenspan made the move in brilliant fashion and avoided elimination, the only problem was his loader jammed when he went to bunker Sergei and no paintballs were fired. Sergei took advantage of the chaos and confusion to eliminate both Greenspan and a streaking Archie Montemayor to close out the match and earn Red Legion their first finals trip in nearly three seasons.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

Houston Heat suffered an equally close call during their battle against Impact with a finals spot on the line. The match played substantially slower than many throughout the weekend with both teams holding tight zone control with very few mistakes. As the game went on in back and forth fashion, Heat was able to secure a 2-1 lead with around 7 minutes left to play. Edmonton coach Dave Bains then made the very risky, but astute call to trust his lineup to tie the game in the remaining 7 minutes of play and win in overtime. During a period of the NXL where many coaches are quick to concede points and conserve time, it was a surprising call, but it paid off. Stuck in a down body situation, Alex Goldman pushed down the dorito side of the field and appeared to get shot by Tyler Harmon, but the ref called him clean. As the clock ticked away Tyler Harmon was able to trade-out with Matt Darula, leaving Heat with a one player advantage and less than 20 seconds left. Alex Goldman then showed why he is one of the best players in the world and ran through the dorito side to eliminate Sam Monville and Chad George to tie the game with mere seconds left. Impact would then defeat Heat in overtime to go to finals versus the Red Legion.


Photos courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

Edmonton Impact came into the finals with a focus seen only in the best paintball teams in the World. While pro teams struggled all weekend to find an answer for the relentless pressure generated by the Red Legion, Impact was the first team of the weekend to create a game plan that stopped the Red Legion in their tracks. Impact recognized the high impact that both Sergei Solnishkov and Pavel Karsliev were having throughout the event and focused on isolating and reducing their roles during the finals.

Matt Darula and Nick Levial were able to match the presence of Solnishkov in the middle and were able to effectively silence him offensively for the first time all weekend. However, the story of the finals was Justin Rabackoff and Alex Goldman. For Rabackoff, he was tasked with playing against Leonid Smotrov and Alexander Berdnikov heads up on the snakeside, while Goldman went head to head vs. Karsliev on the dorito side. After quickly going up 1-0, the second crucial point came down to a one vs. one of Rabackoff for Impact and Kirill Prikhidni. Rabackoff made a great cross field shot to eliminate Kirill and go up 2-0.

Historically, going up 3-0 in any professional X-Ball match typically results in an insurmountable advantage and win for that team; once Impact won the third point handedly to take a 3-0 lead, chances were looking slim for the Red Legion. However, this is the greatest team in the history of the sport when it comes to winning points quickly and Red Legion would not go down without a fight.

Red Legion unfortunately took just a bit too much time off the clock in the fourth point, and although they were able to snag a point and make the score 3-1 they left less than two minutes on the clock to try and score two points. In classic Red Legion fashion they went out aggressively and scored another point in just 30 seconds to give them a chance to tie the game with a minute left. Impact however was able to make their spots off the break and control their zones to chop up the Red Legion and hold them off to take the pro division victory.

Alex Goldman won the event MVP and the Golden Barrel from Carbon Paintball / GoSports to signify his status as the event's best player. Playing as the lead dorito attacker for Impact was surprising to see from Goldman, one of the games best snake players ever, but he showed the high versatility and skill he truly has and was dominant.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

A View from the Divisional FiNALS

Photos courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

The Semi-Pro Division continues to impress throughout the 2022 season. In the highly competitive field of teams mixed with pros and the best amateur players in the world, Chicago brought a tight race for the season title down to just a few teams. With the reward of a promotion to the pro division on the line, it will all come down to Paintball Fit, Austin Notorious, and Blast Camp at the World Cup to see who will take the title and the coveted pro spot with it. Blast Camp retains a slight 14 point lead over PBFit; PBFit will need to place three spots higher than Blast Camp at the finale to steal away the season title and regain their pro status lost in 2021.

Blast Camp continues to add to their long, two-year list of accolades in the division after they faced off against Austin Notorious in the finals, posting their third first place finish on the season. They are building an undeniable resume as the most qualified Semi-Pro team in recent history and have truly earned a shot at winning a pro spot at the World Cup.

Photo courtesy of Michael Candelaria, NXL Media

In Division 2, season-long favorite New Jersey Leverage was a rare Quarter-fInals elimination, having to settle for fifth place. They still have a slight lead on the season title race over KC Missouri All Stars however and are favorites to take the division crown at the World Cup. The D2 finals matchup saw Struggle take on East Coast Effect in a back and forth, high scoring match that came down to the final point. This event would mark the second time this season Effect has made a finals appearance in their first year in D2 and although they nearly took the event crown, the experience of Struggle behind John Wayne, John Wayne, John Wayne, and of course, John Wayne was too much for Effect to overcome with Struggle winning 6-5.

Once again as expected, New York Wrecking Crew is just unmatched in Division 3 this year. We have not seen such dominance in a divisional team since PBFit during their D3 campaign back in 2019 when they won 4 events in a season. Wrecking Crew, affectionately known as HiVi, went on another 4-0 tear in the prelims followed by a dominant and controlled Sunday matchup against SUWT in the finals where they took the match 4-1. This team is ready to make the jump next year to semi-pro behind the talented young core of Ben Sloeffer, Colton Doll, and Tanner Tomassi.

Photo courtesy of Chris Shenton, NXL Media

The Divisional 4 X-Ball finals match saw Tribe take on Tropic Thunder in a battle of the best teams in Division 4. Tribe and Tropic Thunder have been back and forth all season in the title race and the division will truly come down to the final event of the year at World Cup to decide the season title points champion. Tied at 3-3 with just over a minute left, both teams came out aggressively, but a three-pack from Vince Crimmins of Tribe with just 25 seconds left closed out the game for Tribe to take the D4X crown.

World Cup will bring the best event of the season

With just one event left in the season, every single team, both professional and amateur, have a single goal on their minds; Win World Cup. The final event of the season will be one to remember with the Champions Cup and Season Championship at stake. The All-Star game will also make its return and tons of rumored new products will make their debut at the World Cup. Join in on the fun in Kissimmee, Florida from November 10th - 13th; registration for teams opening soon or come and watch the event in person and enjoy all the action. Tune into and the NXL Paintball Facebook to rewatch all the Windy City Major action from the Pro and Semi-Pro division.

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