The second NBC matchup of the weekend featured Paul Rabil’s Atlas LC taking on the newest team on the block in Waterdogs LC. Ben Rubeor’s Bulls were hoping to get 2020 started on the right note, while Andy Copelan’s cast of disregarded stars were out to prove that they deserved their spot in the league.
The game got off to a fast and furious start as Jake Withers won the opening draw and Zach Currier did what he does best, scooping up the ground ball, taking it to the cage and presumably scoring on a diving goal. However, he was met with a crosse check from behind courtesy of Trevor Baptiste and hit to the head from Austin Pifani. This led to a minor scrum between players that set the tone for the rest of the game. Currier was visibly shaken up following his first PLL play and the goal was waived off after officials determine his foot was in the crease. Yet, it gave the Dogs some life and Currier would return to the field not long after.
Old Whipsnakes Come to Play
The Dogs would get on the board first thanks to former Whipsnake Ryan Drenner (2 goals, 1 assist) who picked up a rebound around the crease and buried it past Jack Concannon. More former Whips would follow up with goals as Drew Snider scored on the power play and Connor Kelly scored on a signature split dodge to give the Dogs a 3-0 lead.
Ryan Brown would answer with two goals of his own before Drew Snider scored his second of the day to give the Waterdogs the 4-2 lead in the first quarter. Connor Kelly and Ryan Drenner would add two more as the former Whips extended their lead to 6-2 to start the second quarter.
Goalies Come Up Big Late in the Game
A big question entering the season was whether former Fairfield University goalie Charlie Cipriano could cement himself as the Waterdogs’ starter. Cipriano had a big day in his Dogs debut, making 16 saves on 27 shots (67 Sv%) including a handful of point blank saves late in the game. His rival between the pipes, Jack Concannon, also had a big day making 14 saves (58 Sv%) and played a big part in the Atlas securing the win.
Chris Cloutier is Clutch
The former Tar Heel has made a name for himself with his late game heroics and Sunday night was no exception as the Atlas attackmen scored his first goal of the season to pull the Bulls within one goal with 5:30 left in the game. His final goal would be the eventual game winner as he scored on a diving goal around the crease with 2:24 remaining.
The Atlas deserve a ton of credit for the comeback as Pro Lacrosse Talk’s Probability Engine had their win probability at 10% in the game’s first quarter and they didn’t reach above 50% until the go ahead goal from Cloutier in the fourth quarter.
Atlas Defense Lacks Tucker Durkin’s Presence
Tucker Durkin’s absence was felt very early on in the game as the Atlas failed to even match up with their assignments for the better part of the game. Callum Robinson looked like a liability on defense and Rubeor opted to send Kevin Unterstein with a long pole out on power play situations. However, they did tighten it up as the game progressed and deserve a lot of credit for holding the Waterdogs without a shot for the final 4:50 in the game. This unit will need to play like it did in the final five minutes and give Concannon more help if they want to go far in the postseason.
Look Out For RP3 and Eric Law
One of the more exciting tandems to come out of the game was the Rob Pannell and Eric Law connection, who each had four points in the game. Pannell’s ability to feed Law in tight spaces proved pivotal in the Bulls’ comeback victory and fans should get used to seeing this duo light it up during the rest of the PLL Championship Series.
Jake Withers Excels in His Debut
Jake Withers dominated the stripe on Sunday and he did so against arguably the best faceoff man in the game in Trevor Baptiste. Withers went 8-12 (67%) and was aided in large part thanks to the wing play from his Team Canada teammates Zach Currier and Ryland Rees.
PLL Betting Breakdown
The Waterdogs entered the game as 1.5 point underdogs and successfully covered the spread despite the loss. The over/under for the game was set at 28.5, so bettors who took the under on this game (or any game this weekend) were also happy with the 11-10 contest. In terms of future odds, the Waterdogs went into the game +1000 long shots and their odds will likely remain the same or worsen with the loss. This makes them a prime PLL bet for anyone who likes what they saw from the expansion franchise and still thinks they can win it all.
Note: Betting information gathered from DraftKings Sportsbook as of July 27 at 9am ET.
The Atlas will face the Archers on short rest on Monday at 9:30pm ET on NBCSN. It will be the first matchup between veteran Rob Pannell and his Attack Academy protégé Grant Ament.
The Waterdogs will get a day to rest before facing the Archers on Tuesday at 7pm ET on NBCSN for a brother rivalry between Zach Currier (Waterdogs LC) and Josh Currier (Archers LC).