Editor’s Note: The Day 7 insight and recaps for the PLL Championship Series were co-authored by Ryder Cochrane and Mark Donahue.
The 2020 PLL Championship Series is starting top separate like oil and water. The top teams are astoundingly good and have been since day one. The middle of the pack is skating by, at best, and the bottom is sinking into a dark pit of despair.
We aren’t going to have any games worth writing home over until Sunday afternoon when the Whipsnakes and Archers showdown in what could likely be a Championship Game preview. That said, tomorrow could breathe new life into any of the four teams on the docket.
PLL Championship Series Standings
Big Stats Guys
- Matt Rambo (Whipsnakes) 4G, 2A
- Zed Williams (Whipsnakes) 4G
- Joe Nardella (Whipsnakes) 21/24, 15GB
- Blaze Riorden (Chaos) 21 saves, 66%
- Jordan Wolf (Chrome) 4A
- Jesse King (Chrome) 2G, 1A
- Justin Guterding (Chrome) 2G, 1A
- Kieran McArdle (Waterdogs) 5G
- Zach Currier (Waterdogs) 2CT, 6GB
Whipsnakes 12, Chaos 7
It’s starting to feel like there’s a broken record around here, but, damn, the Whipsnakes are deep. Every man has his place and everyone fits so perfectly. Matt Rambo has so much room to do what he does best because rookie Zed Williams is providing a flurry of looks, Mike Chanenchuk keeps stretching the defense with the long ball and other cogs like Jay Carlson, John Haus and Brad Smith keep the machine moving, little play after little play, point by point.
The Whipsnakes are the bizzaro-Atlas. With a few exceptions, the entire Whipsnakes team is underrated and under-talked about. They are also over-performing. Even the guys that big names, like Rambo, show up for work everyday with their sleeves rolled up and come out at closing time with stat lines proving they did what they could for a team win.
— Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club (@PLLWhipsnakes) July 31, 2020
This defensive unit is perfect and Kyle Bernlohr is rewarding the security from Timmy Muller, Matt Dunn and Bryce Young with 15 saves on the 22 looks he faced. Hands are locked, slides are instant and every check thrown is a calculated strike for a perfect kill. They are caused turnover machines because they don’t let their guys get open or feel tough enough to in the first place.
At this point, can we just watch the Whipsnakes play six-on-six against themselves? It’s been amazing to see Joe Nardella destroy the PLL face-off units, but it’s almost getting routine. 21-of-24 is just unfair. He’s got the possession game on lock at the midline and was a single ground ball behind the entire Chaos roster. The offense isn’t being challenged either and the long sticks are absolutely devouring every look they see. A skip ahead to an Archers-Whipsnakes final seems inevitable, but let’s not take things for granted.
Chaos let the Whipsnakes hop out to an early 3-0 lead and this time couldn’t claw back into contention. Way too many errant passes, still feet off-ball, and cold hands on the face-off team kept them from having a chance against an aggressive team across the board.
We started to see more flashes of the two-man game from the NLL-heavy Chaos squad, but too many times would a player get caught in a trap with no cutters or off-ball work to create any bail-out options. They can keep defensive heads on a swivel with what they can do from the back side in just a flash, but they keep waiting for opportunities instead of creating them. Blaze Riorden made another astronomical amount of saves, but even 21 stops aren’t good enough for the Chaos to buy a win.
— Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club (@PLLWhipsnakes) August 1, 2020
Chrome 13, Waterdogs 12
“We’ve had good halves,” Chrome’s Ned Crotty said, while being interviewed on the sideline. “But we haven’t put two together yet.”
Well, bad news about that: Chrome still hasn’t. The good news is that, thanks to a short clock and a last-minute offsides, Chrome eked out a one-goal victory over Waterdogs tonight, which brings their record to 3-1. Last year, in ten regular season games, they managed two wins, so this is a big day for Chrome nonetheless.
— Chrome Lacrosse Club (@PLLChrome) August 1, 2020
It should’ve been a much bigger one. After a 5-3 first quarter, Chrome went on a massive run, bringing the score all the way up to 13-4 in the early fourth quarter. John Galloway was playing like a brick wall, Jordan Wolf had four assists by halftime, and Chrome looked unstoppable. Justin Guterding, Matt Gaudet, John Ranagan, Jesse King, and Jordan MacIntosh all had two goals. Brendan Kavanagh also had a two-pointer, courtesy of a pass inside to Gaudet that, rather than finding its target, found the back of the net.
Waterdogs, down 10, gave rookie goalie Matt DeLuca his first PLL minutes early in the second half, and it looked like Chrome was si
https://twitter.com/PremierLacrosse/status/1289398455962439680mply going to walk away from this one unscathed.
Enter Kieran McArdle. Questions continued into this game, discussed openly on the broadcast, about who the alpha for the Waterdogs would be, as their expansion status and limited training camp meant they wouldn’t necessarily have The Guy figured out yet. McArdle stepped perfectly into that role today, going off for five goals. A two-goal brace from face-off man Drew Simoneau, only the second FOS to score in the series so far (see game above), and two-bombs from Connor Kelly and Steven DeNapoli. Add a goal from Ben McIntosh, a big day for him in general, after being part of the NLL’s first blockbuster trade this offseason, brought the Waterdogs all the way back to within one goal.
Apparently not learning their lesson from yesterday’s Archers game, Chrome elected to once again run off the shot clock, giving Waterdogs the ball back with a hair over eleven seconds left in the game. The ‘Dogs drew up their play, aiming to work the ball from the defense up to Kelly, and then to McArdle. Unfortunately for both the Waterdogs and those of us hoping for a worthy ending to this game, the Waterdogs’ clear attempt was buried by an offsides call on the play. Chrome ran the final few seconds off the clock to escape from what was almost the worst collapse in PLL history.
WATERDOGS ARE STORMING BACK 🐶 pic.twitter.com/NLnR0T34B5
— Premier Lacrosse League (@PremierLacrosse) August 1, 2020
For Chrome, this ends their part in the group stage, and they advance to the playoffs as the likely 3-seed. A patient, unselfish offense has been the catalyst to the #Chromeback2020, but a much-improved Galloway and newly-acquired Jesse Bernhardt have also boosted them. They await their first knockout game on Tuesday, and will find out their opponent as group play wraps up Sunday.
The Waterdogs, meanwhile, fall to 0-3 despite some stellar performances, and despite having led for the majority of their first two games. Even with an 0-3 record, and the head-to-head result, I would say that Waterdogs are currently the 5th best team in Utah, ranking above fellow 0-fors Chaos and the Atlas. We’ll soon find out how true that is, as Waterdogs is back in action tomorrow to take on Chaos.
Of note, goalie Charlie Cipriano looked a bit shook up as he left the game in the third quarter. If he is, for any reason, unable to go tomorrow, expect the rookie DeLuca, who made one save on Chrome’s only on-goal shot during his play time, back in net.
Both of the Saturday afternoon PLL Championship Series match-ups are just kinda…meh. These games matter to the teams involved, but in reality they’re so far from the top it’s crazy. All four squads have a chance to go off against opponents that don’t have their acts completely together and if either team can put together a dominate performance in the first game, the season could be saved. Redwoods and Atlas are much, much worse than they should be and have been so far from finishing a complete game it’s painful.
There’s something really sad about the Chaos vs. Waterdogs game. Someone has to win, someone has to lose. Both teams kind of feel like their should finish winless for how bad things have gone and the very sad reality, someone probably will. If you can’t get through group play, how do you expect to muster up some positive morale come the postseason? Winning the top draft pick is one of the best parts of the PLL, yet there doesn’t seem to be much hope left for either of these teams. The worst part is all of the talent that remained latent this season, just waiting for big games that never came. Unless your name is Blaze Riorden, in which case, your team owes you an apology.
PickUp Props of the Day