PLL: Whipsnakes and Archers play a barn burner for first place

Whipsnakes’ Simon Mathias celebrates a goal. (Photo: PLL)

Is there anything better than a Sunday afternoon battle for first place on Premier Lacrosse League weekend? For fans, no. Especially when they were treated to the back-and-forth affair that was Whipsnakes/Archers for top spot in PLL. For Archers, yes. A win would’ve been better than just being part of the epic clash as Whipsnakes had three players with hat-tricks en route to a 15-14 victory over Archers.

Archers entered the game having already lost to Chrome earlier in the weekend setting up the first place matchup. Ironically, Whipsnakes had their 11 game win streak snapped the week before when they lost to Chrome.

The first quarter was not indicative of the shootout that was to come with only three goals – Grant Ament on the Archers’ first possession and Ryan Ambler working a beautiful two-man play with Connor Fields, and (who else) Zed Williams with a long shot for the first two-point goal of his PLL career.

Whipsnakes played without Matt Rambo, injured in the previous week. The beneficiary of some extra attack time was Simon Mathias who converted a quick faceoff violation – 13 seconds into the quarter. A miscue defensively off the ensuing faceoff turned the ball over to Ament who found Will Manny to re-tie the game. Jay Carlson would answer for Whipsnakes before Ambler’s second of the game deflected off Kyle Bernlohr and Ryan McNamara found open space when Tom Schreiber was double teamed. All told, five goals were scored in the opening three minutes. Buckle up.

Those goals kickstarted a four-goal run for Archers featuring the social media highlight of the weekend with Ament putting a huge stutter step on his defender who tripped leaving Ament to score. The run was capped by Manny’s second of the game on the powerplay. However, Brad Smith got a step on his man 44 seconds later and ignited a four-goal streak for the Whipsnakes which included the second of the game for Carlson and Williams. Off the faceoff from Carlson’s goal, Tre Leclaire gained possession and ran through the Whipsnakes defenders, switched hands and scored the first goal of his professional career (PLL or otherwise) tying the game at eight going to halftime.

The third quarter was the Brad Smith show. The fill-in for Rambo scored twice in two minutes thanks to a beautiful jump shot and a two-man advantage. Schreiber found himself defended by a short stick (always a bad idea …) to get one back four minutes into the quarter – the first Archers’ shot attempt of the quarter. Another Schreiber double-team, however, opened space for Marcus Holman’s first of the game to tie it at 10 – the sixth tie of the afternoon. Williams completed his hat trick before Fields scored possibly the goal of the game. With a flag down, he beat his man one-on-one behind the net, drove to the crease and dove towards the crease, changing his shot angle mid-flight to tie the game at 11. Smith would cap the quarter with his fourth of the game (third of the frame) taking advantage of a lot of defensive attention paid to Zed Williams (and rightfully so). Fields thought he scored near the end of the quarter, but it was ruled to have come after the shot clock. The call was upheld after a challenge giving the Whipsnakes a 4-3 lead in the quarter and 12-11 advantage after three.

They call it ‘field’ lacrosse, but many goals in this game seemed to come from mid-air. Carlson, Williams, Fields. And Manny, who not only caught the ball while leaping, but shot and scored before landing. Impressive any time, let alone 35 seconds into the quarter. He’d score again on a no-look shot with two Whipsnakes on the penalty bench, giving Archers their first lead (13-12) since it was 7-6 in the second. Adam Ghitelman made a number of key saves in this game (part of 15 total, off 30 shots). One of those came directly before transition pushed to attack, ending with Schreiber beating his man and firing sidearm past Bernlohr pushing the lead to two midway through the fourth. Joe Nardella was lethal at the faceoff dot eventually winning a career-high 23 draws, one off the PLL record. One of those sprung Matt Abbott for his first career PLL goal. Mike Chanenchuk’s second tied the game at 14 – the ninth tie – causing both coaches to use time outs down the stretch. In the final minute, with Zed Williams drawing triple coverage, including a short stick, he quickly flipped to Carlson who fired a jump shot for not only his third of the game, but also the winner for Whipsnakes.

This game marked the halfway point of the season for the entire league with every team now having played five games. With the win Whipsnakes sit alone atop the PLL standings at four wins, one loss. Archers drop to three and two, tied for second with both Redwoods and Atlas. Whipsnakes will face Redwoods on Saturday night in Minnesota whilst Archers will cap the weekend with a clash with Cannons Sunday night.

InLacrosseWeTrust will have extensive coverage of the Premier Lacrosse League all season long.