PLL: Redwoods win, set championship rematch for semi-finals

Redwoods Ryder Garnsey scores on Waterdogs Matt DeLuca while Brodie Merrill tries to defend. August 4, 2020. (Photo credit: PLL)

The Redwoods drive to return to the Premier Lacrosse League Championship game went through the Waterdogs on Tuesday night as the ‘Woods extended their winning streak to three games, downing the newest club 11-8, and spelling an end to the ‘Dogs inaugural season.

Midfielder Brent Adams led the way by scoring a hat trick. Ryder Garnsey stretched his personal games streak with two or more goals to three as he netted two more, and Myles Jones continued to lead the offense tallying four points.

Connor Kelly led the Waterdogs in points with three, while Chris Cuccinello, Zach Currier and Wes Berg all had two. Matt DeLuca started in net for the Dogs allowing 10 goals (one of them for two points) off 25 shots. He was countered by Tim Troutner who allowed six goals (two from beyond the arc) from 17 shots.

A flurry of wide shots from both sides and shot clock violations forced by both defences started the contest. Cuccinello opened the scoring going one-on-one after a Currier pick opened space. The Waterdogs’ lead would be short lived as off the ensuing faceoff Jones drew defenders away from Joe Walters who ripped a shot past DeLuca from just inside the two-point line. The first quarter ended 1-1.

Myles Jones of Redwoods heads for the goal while Waterdogs Zach Currier tries to stop him. August 4, 2020. (Photo credit: PLL)

If the first quarter was a defensive battle, the second started with offence. A Clarke Petterson power play goal was sandwiched between a pair of Adams goals, all three coming in just over three and a half minutes. The Waterdogs’ attack connected on a passing play behind the net, ending when Drew Snider cut the lead in half. Not to be outdone, the midfielders put together a play of their own when Berg found Kelly who found the back of the net. Garnsey capped the half on a one-on-one play near the crease as the Redwoods took a 5-3 lead into halftime.

Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan commented on his team’s play at the half saying, “[the Redwoods] played with playoff intensity. We did at times, but we need it the entire half.” Nat St Laurent was quick to caution his Redwoods as well when he said “they’ve got a dangerous team. This team was down eight goals the other night and nearly came back to win. We don’t want to go home.”

Mirroring the first quarter, the third took some time to settle in. Despite a 20% power play percentage coming into the game, the Waterdogs opened the second half scoring their second man-up marker of the game, a Currier shot off a restart. With Garnsey serving a slashing penalty, the Waterdogs looked to make it three, but back-to-back saves on the crease from Troutner kept the lead at one. Nearing the final minute, following a Redwoods’ challenge and a Ryland Rees slashing call, Jones found room outside the two-point line and answered the Dogs power play. It was the Redwoods’ 10th two-point goal of the Series, compared to just 12 from the remainder of the league. The Redwoods would lead 7-4 heading into the final quarter.

Two goals 42 seconds apart from Adams and Jones energized the Redwoods’ sideline. St Laurent was quick to quell any celebrations and try to refocus his team. Andy Copelan’s team appeared more focused, however, as Rees jumped into the transition rush and converted a Currier pass to a two-point goal. The Waterdogs’ sideline did some cheering of their own when one player was heard saying, “we’re right back in this.” The defences tightened over the next five minutes until Redwoods defensive leader Ryan Glazener took a holding penalty. Six seconds later, Kelly scored the second straight Waterdog two-pointer, and third power play goal of the night, pulling his team within one.

The Redwoods are building a reputation in this tournament for odd finishes to their games. On the ensuing faceoff after a Garnsey goal, Greg Puskuldjian took off untouched toward the cage. His shot went in, but not before St Laurent called for a time out. In the end, it wouldn’t matter as the Redwoods defence broke up a timeout play call from Copelan, ending in a rare Sergio Perkovic single-point goal (he now has eight in the Series, six of them two-pointers).

The Redwoods hand the Waterdogs their fourth loss of the tournament, extending their own win streak to three games. They will now face the Whipsnakes on Thursday in a rematch of last year’s Championship Final, a 12-11 Whipsnakes overtime victory.