Editor’s Note: The Day 8 insight and recaps for the PLL Championship Series were co-authored by Ryder Cochrane and Mark Donahue.
The group play stage has come to a close for all but two teams in the 2020 PLL Championship Series. While the pair of games on today’s schedule weren’t the most highbrow affairs to grace our televisions, a pair of one goal finishes gave the national audience on NBC a thriller to start and closed with the Waterdogs first win of the season.
Pretty solid finish to what could have been a couple snoozers.
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It’s going to feel lonely after tomorrow’s big showdown between the two undefeated teams in the league. With no lacrosse on Monday, take advantage of what we have left.
PLL Championship Series Standings
Big Stats Guys
- Joe Walters (Redwoods) 1 2G, 2A
- Sergio Perkovic (Redwoods) 2 2G
- Ryder Garnsey (Redwoods) 2G, 1A
- Trevor Baptiste (Atlas) 15/20
- Zach Currier (Waterdogs) 3G
- Ryland Rees (Waterdogs) 1 2G, 2CT, 5GB
- Chris Sabia (Waterdogs) 1CT, 6GB
- Drew Simoneau (Waterdogs) 11/10, 5GB
- Jarrod Neumann (Chaos) 3CT, 4GB
- Blaze Riorden (Chaos) 21 Saves, 70%
- No. 1 Seed – Whipsnakes* – Round one bye. Face winner of Redwoods vs. Waterdogs on Thursday.
- No. 2 Seed – Archers* – Face No. 7 seed Chaos on Tuesday
- No. 3 Seed – Chrome – Face No. 6 seed Atlas on Tuesday
- No. 4 Seed Redwoods – Face No. 5 seed Waterdogs on Tuesday
- No. 5 Seed Waterdogs – Face No. 4 seed Redwoods on Tuesday
- No. 6 Seed Atlas – Face No. 3 seed Chrome on Tuesday
- No. 7 Seed Chaos – Face No. 2 seed Archers on Tuesday
*No. 1 and No. 2 seeds will be decided by the outcome of the Archers versus Whipsnakes game on Sunday. Right now, Whipsnakes lead by goal-differential.
Redwoods 11, Atlas 10
Viva la two-bomb revolution!
Redwoods were outshot by Atlas, and they were out-GB’d by Atlas, and they won the game off the power of their two-point shooting. Sergio Perkovic continues his campaign to steal the title of best outside shooter from Mike Chanenchuk, adding another two 2-point shots to his tally today, bringing his season total to six. For reference, only fourteen players in the PLL have six or more one-point goals so far this season. Sitting pretty at thirteen points in the group stage, Perk is second in the PLL in points (behind a three-way tie in first), and all but one of those have come from downtown.
— Premier Lacrosse League (@PremierLacrosse) August 1, 2020
Today, however, Perk wasn’t alone out on the two-point line. In fact, Redwoods scored the majority of their goals from deep, as both Joe Walters, on an errant feed, though it still counts, and Myles Jones, in what would end up being the game-winner, also hit a two-bomb for the Redwoods today, meaning that six of their eleven total goals came from beyond the arc.
Atlas actually found the back of the net more often in this one, as six different Atlas guys chipped in goals from inside the arc, Bryan Costabile and attackman Ryan Brown both with two each. Romar Dennis added a two of his own on an absolute missile that rocketed in just below the crossbar.
It was another strong showing from the rookie Costabile, who added to some stellar short-stick defense with two goals, bringing him back into the top ten in total points during the series with nine (six goals, one two-point goal, one assist). Amongst the Atlas midfielders bouncing back today was Cornell head coach Connor Buczek, who got his second goal of the series to go with a pair of assists, and face-off specialist Trevor Baptiste who, after a rough game against Whipsnakes, came out strong today with a 75 percent win rate.
— Premier Lacrosse League (@PremierLacrosse) August 1, 2020
Really, on paper, this seems like a game Atlas should have won. They dominated the face-off X. Goalie Jack Concannon’s 65 percent save rate was a full 10 percent higher than his Redwoods counterpart, Tim Troutner. Atlas also had the higher power-play and penalty kill numbers. What turned the tide were three factors. The first was Redwoods’ aforementioned shooting from deep. The second was a strong showing by the Redwoods’ defense, who caused thirteen turnovers, while Atlas would commit 21 turnovers over the course of the game.
Atlas’s biggest problem remains its offensive stagnation.
Each possession, their offense seems to just stand around, waiting to see whose turn it is to take the 1-on-1 iso dodge. While they do have good dodgers, they often leave their dodgers on islands, and Redwoods used that as an opportunity to force those turnovers and keep Atlas out of good shot opportunities. This was no clearer than on the final possession of the game. With less than twenty seconds remaining in the game, Atlas moved the ball up field to Paul Rabil, who charged headfirst into the teeth of the defense, seemingly intent on winning things all by himself. Finding no space to be found, and having already wasted a good amount of time clearing, Rabil sputtered out on the wings, turning to find zero cutting from his off-ball helpers. In the end, he forced a bad pass towards the crease, which was batted away by the Redwoods, who would go on to win the game, 11-10.
This ended group play for both teams, and neither will have to face a long wait to run this back. With their win today, Redwoods locked up the No. 4 seed in the knockout stage. With their head-to-head win over fellow 1-3 member Waterdogs, the Atlas are now sitting in the No. 5 seed, meaning that these two will play their next game against one another, in a game that will decide who gets to continue onward towards the Crown.
For Redwoods to win again, the key will be to fix their issues at the face-off X, and to continue to find ways to get those two-bombs to fall. For Atlas, the pieces were there today to have won, but they’ll need to start gelling better as a team if they want to survive and advance. We’ll see how it plays out when they meet again soon.
Waterdogs 10, Chaos 9 – OT
There’s something oddly poetic about going to overtime with the two teams at the bottom of the league duking it out for who wont go completely defeated. The biggest relief of the afternoon was finding out no team in the PLL is glaringly the worst team. If this was a blowout, the team at the receiving end would have been best suited to pack up and leave Utah after the final horn. Yet, the battle of the beatens turned out to be a fairly competitive matchup, back and forth the entire contest.
After all this time, Andy Towers started to put the puzzle together in the Chaos camp. We finally saw some transition excitement, a team built to capitalize in these scenarios. The ball was getting up field quickly and pinging from pocket to pocket. The head-spinning push started putting all kinds of shooters in position to alter the stat sheets. Curtis Dickson was working in his world famous hitch that made even the viewers at home bite and is thrashed his way to the crease. Pat Resch was the recipient of the who-scores-this-one lottery, Chaos moving the ball up so quickly that any shooter could have been the lucky winner. While Resch’s goal was big for Chaos to open the final frame, it should have been a repeat of dozens of scores we expected to see this summer.
Things finally started to slow down a little bit for Chaos. Not in the way it was earlier in the season where they were physically lagging, but they’re getting set up with more purpose and running an offense with a cohesiveness they’ve been lacking. It’s crazy to think they have guys with NLL MVP on their resume that didn’t absolutely dismantle defenders this season. Dhane Smith does have that title and waited until the last possible moment to make the league respect his game. Poking his head out at the perfect time to get the ball in transition with just 6.7 seconds left, Smith got the ball on the offensive half, looked over at his options and when no one came, walked right down Main Street for a mono e mono bury on the doorstep. It was Smith’s first of the entire season and probably the biggest goal of the year for Chaos, but it still wasn’t enough.
— Waterdogs Lacrosse Club (@PLLWaterdogs) August 1, 2020
The defense in front of Blaze Riorden is almost criminal for what he has done for them the past three games. Fans want to know why Dillon Ward was even a selection if he’s not getting minutes, but as Riorden keeps putting togehter world-class efforts, it’s hard to blame him. Everything is out of whack. Jarrod Neumann is off from last season and it’s carrying from defense to offense. In a perfect metaphor for the season, Neumann almost took Dickson’s head off with a bomb attempt, hitting his own attackman right in the dome. No goalie should have to make over 20 saves a game for a chance to win, yet Rioden is the only thing keeping Chaos in contention. Now down another pole, Jack Rowlett took a weird bump on a Zach Currier attack and moments after the goal scored fell to his knees. Taken with help to the medical tent, the Chaos played on without a defensive staple in a group that’s already dangerously thin. Out for the game, Rowlett was removed for “Brain Health Protocol” and there’s no word of his return.
The biggest question we’re left asking after last night: what happened to Kieran McArdle?
After carrying the Waterdogs in his back all the way from an embarrassing beat down to a one point loss the night before, McArdle followed up his five goal evening with a near silent afternoon. A penalty for horsing around with Jason Noble sent the pair to box for a full-time minute, the first major stat for McArdle. Even when he got the opening ground ball of the fourth quarter, he went one-on-one and just plugged Riorden in the chest. Just when it seemed like the Waterdogs had a face, it blended back into the crowd.
Seizing the opportunity, Ben McIntosh was electric, non-stop creating opportunities for himself. McIntosh is playing with and edge, still cutting hard to the crease and fighting for every inch. Protecting the ball on every possession, McIntosh’s pair of goals in the win came as the most opportune times to keep the Waterdogs afloat. The rest of the roster like Wes Berg and Drew Snider are just idle talent waiting to be set up and four games hasn’t been enough time to iron out the details.
Taking a massive blow on a dive at the cage in the Waterdogs first possession of the PLL Championship Series, Zach Currier has been quiet while timidly rebuilding confidence. A quick dip underneath and dive across the face off the goal from Zach Currier tied the game at eights, awakening the monster we knew lived inside. Two goals and an assist from Christian Cucinello were a major part of the effort and a late go-ahead by dipping underneath his man on a cut and finding the dish from McArdle kept the engine running. Yet, it would take extra minutes to decide a winner and appropriately “Who Let the Dogs Out” rang through Zions Bank Stadium as Currier sealed the deal with a hat trick. On the fly, in transition, Currier found space and the rock found him in open space with no one on his hands. Lights out, ball game.
The tandem of Jake Withers and Drew Simoneau were stellar at the midline, going 18-of-21 in regulation and giving the Waterdogs every last shot to win the game. These numbers are at the top of the PLL and another reason to wish the regular season was longer than four games. The Waterdogs are right on the verge of being a truly competitive club.
While it was unfair that the Chaos star power never reached potential, the Waterdogs have been on the cusp time after time. It’s unfortunate there’s not another 10 games on the horizon for the Waterdogs as they start to come together. Now, both teams have do-or-die hanging over their heads. If one team can survive a lousy record for a late run, it’s the boys in purple and they either carry this momentum over or the nerves come back and the tails go between their legs. There’s no time left for the latter.
— Premier Lacrosse League (@PremierLacrosse) August 1, 2020
- Archers vs Whipsnakes 12 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
The crown jewel of group play saved itself for last. What could only seem like a championship in its own right, the battle of the un-beatens gets Sunday all to its lonesome. While it would seem like an easy cop out to reserve the fuel and use Sunday as a walk-through, winning means the difference of two days off and a bye or having to turn around and play after a single day of recovery.
Whipsnakes look desperate for that time to recharge with three of their last games coming over a four day span. Archers haven’t taken the pedal off the metal yet and slowing down now won’t do them any favors heading into the knock-out rounds..