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PLL Denver Recap

Overtime in the PLL without time outs looks and feels like anarchy. The players appear as if they are drowning on the field, desperately searching for the play that ends the game. The harder they try the more frustrated and exasperated they get. It was Redwood Charlie Bertrand who punctuated the madness late on Saturday night. His left to right split down the middle capped off a win for the Redwoods. It was a game they needed to stay in the peloton with two weeks remaining (Seattle/Tacoma & Salt Lake City).

The standings offer clarity in two regards right now. The top team receives a quarterfinal bye, and the last team goes home without an invite. The Archers are in the driver’s seat for earning the bye, although I’m not 100% convinced that a bye and week off is beneficial for momentum.

Meanwhile the Atlas are trying to stay north of the Chrome in the cellar. The Atlas have become an interesting study this summer. They win boatloads of face-offs with Trevor Baptiste and have a capable attack of Jeff Teat, Chris Gray and Eric Law. Their Achilles heel has been turnovers and poor shot selection which opponents have turned into transition. The Atlas gives up three transition goals per game and too often have been burnt by two pointers. Three of their losses are by a goal. An injury this week to rookie defender Gavin Adler is a major roadblock. There is a close distinction between being 2-6 vs 6-2 and with a -14 goal differential I still feel as if this group can be dangerous in September.

The Chrome offense is broken. They lack flow. They can’t pass. They too often turn the ball over. They are last in shots per game and shooting percentage. They need a major makeover and don’t have the time for a spa weekend.

Five teams comprise the middle pack. All capable of making a run to the title and all capable of bowing out in the quarters. The Waterdogs wear the crown and have a speedy roster that causes a boatload of turnovers. Coach Andy Copelan watches more film than Johnny Manziel but will need midfielders Connor Kelly, Jack Hannah and Ryan Conrad to produce with more consistency. Hamstring injuries to Jake Carraway and Thomas McConvey cloud that position group.

The Cannons five game win streak was snapped on Saturday night. This offense is cooking with fish grease – Asher Nolting and Marcus Holman spearhead a unit that’s moving and passing with clarity and purpose. The Cannons, wearing throwback uniforms with Boston emblazoned on their chests couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. They dress six poles, an extra one for their lack of a FOGO, and when lefty attack-man Matt Kavanagh got shouldered to the chin, Coach Brian Holman had to make some personnel adjustments late in the contest. 19 man dress day rosters can be a precarious position.

The Redwoods throwback uniforms reminded me of Ward Melville in the mid 1980’s under the tutelage of legend Joe Cuzzo. Melville’s zone defense and Rec league program solidified their status in the NYS playoffs yearly.

The Woods win late on Saturday May be the turning point. They got goals from unusual sources like Eddy Glazener, Arden Cohen and Brian Tevlin in a 16-15 OT win over the Cannons. Rob Pannell played a huge third quarter and they hit on 4 of 8 power play chances.

The Whipsnakes are trending in the right direction after dealing with major injuries in June and July. Brad Smith is back at midfield and roll dodging his way to paydirt. The Matt Rambo and Zed Williams duo packs a mighty wallop. Just ask Chaos defender Jack Rowlett, who ate a Williams righty crank leaving a stick tattoo imprinted on his midsection. A couple of timely two pointers by Roman Puglise and Tucker Dordevic led to the Whips 12-10 victory over the Chaos.

The Chaos looked terrific through the second quarter, up 6-3 but they went 14:00 minutes without a goal late in the contest and couldn’t find dodging traction. They need Josh Byrne back in the lineup. With the lefty scorer in uniform there is no reason to believe the Chaos can’t make their patented September run to the PLL final.

Also worth mentioning is that the top four teams qualify of the next winters “Championship Series” sixes tournament.

The fans in Denver packed Peter Barton Stadium. Seemed like every young player wore a PLL jersey, the variety of names on the back became dizzying. The city of Denver has grown dramatically since the Outlaws planted a stake in this town nearly twenty years ago. Condos have gone up all over downtown. LODO is hopping. Lacrosse programs have sprouted all over the metro area. The Pioneers had added to the renaissance with their prominence. I can see Salt Lake and Denver co-owning a franchise next summer, perhaps under the name “Peaks”. Just my gut.

Every game and every weekend mean progress. If you watch the PLL closely you see innovation. You witness the game evolving. Whether it’s a Trevor Baptiste face-off exit, or a Tom Schreiber no-look feed on the run, or a Ryan Drenner twister. These players continue to push what we thought possible on the lacrosse field, and that in itself is golden.

To be able to call four games in Denver alongside Coach Bill Tierney, Chris Cotter and Dana Boyle, let’s just say I’m grateful. Coach T has been a pillar figure in my life, having first met him in the summer of 1985 at the Paumanok Lacrosse Camp in Connecticut. He speaks pearls of wisdom, and his expertise, poise, keen eyes and insights made us better.

My college football schedule starts on August 26 in Atlanta with the HBCU Classic MEAC-SWAC Challenge, so I turn the page with my head on a swivel.