After an exciting weekend in Salt Lake City, the Premier Lacrosse League semi-finals are set.
On Saturday, September 5, when the PLL returns to Philadelphia, the first place Waterdogs will take on the defending champion Whipsnakes, while Chaos and Atlas battle in the day’s first game.
HOW THEY GOT THERE
Chaos 13 vs Archers 10
Chaos defeated Archers in a quarterfinal upset 13-10. Archers LC has consistently been one of the league’s strongest teams in regular season play, but Chaos has proven to be a team made for the playoffs.
Play was pretty even in the first, with Chaos leading 4-3 after the opening 12 minutes. They quickly opened a 6-3 lead with Tanner Cook tiptoeing the crease before scoring five-hole on Adam Ghitelman. Kyle Jackson followed that up with a sidearm shot. Mac O’Keefe scored a power play goal on a relatively similar shot from the same position to restore the three-goal lead after Ryan Ambler tried to get the Archers back in it. Dhane Smith thought he’d given Chaos an 8-4 lead scoring late in the half, but the Archers’ Marcus Holman beat the buzzer to again cut the gap to three.
Ryan Ambler and Tom Schreiber scored to close the gap to 8-7 but Dhane Smith then took advantage of a great pick by Tanner Cook to fire a two-ball from long range. Tre Leclaire scored before Archers scored a second buzzer beater, with Scott Ratliff scooping the loose ball in his own end with six seconds left and making the pass to Grant Ament. The ball hit the back of the net with .4 seconds left in the third.
Despite their penchant for dramatics, the Archers could only beat Blaze Riorden once in the fourth, though they kept him extremely busy making saves. Chaos scored three times for the victory.
Chaos was led by Kyle Jackson and Dhane Smith’s six points each, Blaze Riorden’s 13 saves, and Max Adler’s 70% at the X.
Atlas 13 vs Cannons 9
Eric Law broke open a 4-4 tie with 2:24 left to play in the first half, taking Mark Cockerton’s pass and gently directing the ball around Nick Marrocco. Romar Dennis put Atlas up 6-4 with 18 seconds left.
Atlas had doubled up on the Cannons less than two minutes into the third, but Lyle Thompson responded quickly and the Cannons kept pace. As the quarter looked to be coming to a close with Atlas up 10-7, that’s when things got interesting. The Cannons called for a review after a two-point attempt by Paul Rabil was ruled no-goal on the field. The review clearly showed the ball fell behind the goal line, and suddenly the Cannons had pulled within a single goal, with 15 seconds left.
But the Cannons, who struggled in their first PLL season, lost the ensuing faceoff to Trevor Baptiste who nimbly ran into the offensive zone and made a heads-up pass to Law who had positioned himself perfectly to the side of the net and scored with 5.5 seconds left.
It was one of the prettiest passes we’ve seen in the PLL season; Baptiste did everything right on the play. After winning the faceoff, he was able to control the ball enough to dodge one defender trying to strip him from behind, and pass around another defender to get the ball to the open man.
JD Colarusso and the Atlas defense shut out the Cannons in the fourth quarter.
Law and Jeff Teat led Atlas with hat tricks while Mark Cockerton, Jake Carraway and Bryan Costabile each scored twice. Colarusso made 14 saves in goal, and Atlas, like Chaos, was led by a strong performance at the faceoff X, in this case by Baptiste’s 71%.
The Cannons were led by Shayne Jackson’s four goals.
Whipsnakes 14, Redwoods 13
Zed Williams went off for nine points and that’s all you really need to know.
Nah, we’re just kidding. This was, as the PLL site is calling it, an instant classic and you should probably watch the highlights.
Rivalry games between these two clubs are always exciting but playoffs up the intensity even more. The Redwoods led early, significantly, but the Whipsnakes came storming back, trailing just 5-4 after the first. In the second, the Redwoods came out confident again, stretching out a three-goal run over 10 minutes and building an 8-4 lead before the Whipsnakes were able to find the back of the net.
It was 9-5 for Redwoods at the half and it wasn’t looking good for Whipsnakes, who were getting jammed up all over the place by Redwoods defenders.
Charlie Bertrand’s third of the game early in the third put Redwoods up 10-5. The Whipsnakes got a couple before the Redwoods scored again to lead 11-7.
But then Zed Williams scored a two-pointer and it was game over for Redwoods. The Whipsnakes found their killer instinct. Justin Guterding bounced a shot in to cut the deficit to a single goal, and Williams tied the game after Joe Nardella won the next faceoff.
The Whipsnakes took their first lead of the game at 13-12 with 7:34 left to play on a Matt Abbott goal, assisted by Williams. Of course, the Redwoods tied the game just over a minute later – the defense just couldn’t catch Rob Pannell.
Matt Rambo – also, of course – scored the game winner with 55 seconds left, coming from behind the net and fighting off a defender to make an odd-angle shot.
Down early, the defending champs found a way, and now face the upstart Waterdogs in the semi-finals. The Waterdogs have their work cut out for them – a first place finish is no guarantee against a team that boasts a hot Zed Williams or Matt Rambo. When their killer instinct is tuned they’re virtually impossible to beat.
Willliams’ stat line finished with four goals, one two-point goal, three assists and 10 shots, which led all shooters on the weekend. Brad Smith, Gutering and Rambo each scored twice.
Kyle Harrison of Redwoods scored once in his final pro lacrosse game.
There are just three PLL games remaining in the season, and four teams vying for the crown. Whipsnakes will have to get by Waterdogs if they want a shot at winning a third consecutive title, but last years’ runner ups in Chaos are still in the mix, too. Will we see a rematch of the 2020 title game, or will sneaky Atlas or hungry Waterdogs make their way to the final game?
Both finals are on Sunday, Sept. 5 with Atlas taking on Chaos at 11 a.m. and Waterdogs and Whipsnakes at 1:30. Both games can be seen on NBCSN and peacock.